The Rare Find

"People with great reputations for attracting and developing talent regard the search for brilliance as their calling. They see themselves as discoverers, protectors, and builders of an entire discipline… They are cultivating a garden, not running a toll booth."

- The Rare Find, page 246

Finding the right talent for any position in any organization is a challenge. You probably have read about (or worked for) organizations that have tried personality tests, quantitative assessments, out-of-the-blue interview questions, and many other attempts to solve the problem of finding the right person to take on the open job responsibilities. Finding and keeping the right people are two of the vital strategic difference makers for any organization.

When I read about The Rare Find, it sounded intriguing. Maybe in it there was something new to finally solve the hiring riddle. Although The Rare Find is very valuable, it does not necessarily spell out a new detailed formula to find the right talent. It does something much more important.

The Rare Find tells stories about people and organizations and how they come together to find the right characters to help develop and further the plot. After all, everyone has a story to their career, so what better way to explore insights into hiring the right people than to use stories?

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Read Between the Lines

"The process of getting to know candidates is defined far more by questions involving ‘why’ and ‘how’ – and less about ‘what’ or ‘when.’ The payoff: the mysteries of motivation, fit, and potential become much clearer."
- The Rare Find, page 63

Resumes outline accomplishments achieved and job responsibilities undertaken. Some may stand out more because of what has been done or which organizations they are coming from. However, these lines of text may not tell the complete story of the person and, without a little more attention to the resume, great talent may be overlooked.

There is a wonderful term highlighted in The Rare Findjagged resumes. It refers to people who have excelled in different roles, even though their resumes did not have all the right credentials. What they did have is what Warren Buffet calls “extraordinary temperament… an ability to stay calm in a crisis; the patience to do nothing at times; the willingness to absorb new information; the confidence to stick with a plan” (page 63).

It takes extra effort to really understand what a person may bring in terms of talent to an organization. Some approaches that come through in the stories are:

  • Read resumes from the bottom up to gain insights into a person’s story and character traits.
  • Explore those elements that may show resiliency or determination.
  • Study yourself and determine why you have been successful. Look for similar traits in others.
  • Examine the capacity of a person to learn and grow.

As Mr. Anders points out, finding the right people may require looking beyond just experience and involve diving in deeper to determine character. It’s not about finding people who are “smart.” In fact, having the right character attributes are more important, and may be the difference maker, in hiring the right talent.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Out of the Normal Paths

"Is there a long tail of talent? Absolutely."
- The Rare Find, page 128

As mentioned, there are many stories in The Rare Find, which make it very valuable. One of the stories is about Facebook and their challenge of hiring many talented people as a very young company. One of their approaches was to publish programming puzzles for engineers to solve. The thought was if someone could solve the puzzle creatively and correctly, then this would be a person to interview and, potentially, hire. Since the puzzles were widely available through the Internet, Facebook was able to tap new, unfound sources of talent.

The story unfolds from there, but it highlights how taking a different approach can tap talent where you would not normally look. Many companies look in the normal places – large corporations and well-known universities. There is not only more intense competition to hire talent from those sources, but by focusing on them exclusively, you may miss new sources that can be even richer in what they can bring in.

There is a challenge with this approach. Looking in unusual places or at out-of-the-ordinary resumes leads hiring managers to think about what can go wrong rather than what can go right. To make it work, a mind shift needs to happen. If you are willing to remove the barriers from where you “should” look and make changes, like with the Facebook puzzles, new sources of talent may flow and your organization and team may benefit tremendously from the new talent found.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Discard Formulas

"How did individual insight become so endangered? Why do so many people think it’s safer to rely on formulas that miss the best candidates?"
- The Rare Find, page 88

When you read through the formulas organizations have in hiring people, it sounds more like how you would “pick out a lawn mower.” In the rigid formulas, what is missed is the ability to determine a person’s “motivation, drive, or potential.” Competency can be measured, to a certain degree, but other attributes need to be assessed through other methods. Think about it this way – we learn more about a person and their capabilities through an essay than through a multiple choice test.


In many ways, The Rare Find is an unconventional read. The book adheres to its own advice of being a little different in exploring how to find and hire the right people. The Rare to Find does not follow an “11 chapter approach” that spells out a new principle in each set of pages. Instead, it tells the stories of individuals who have hired successfully, people who have achieved brilliantly, and organizations that have taken a different approach in finding talent to fuel their mission.

This is a book that will benefit organizations and individuals who need to hire good talent while inspiring people who may not fit the usual formula of the hired.

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Jon Mertz

ABOUT Jon Mertz

Jon is a blogger who explores how life choices really define who we are. We dance on life’s edge with the choices we make, each taking us in intended and unintended directions...
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