The Rare Find

Summary Written by Jon Mertz
"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

The Big Idea

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

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.

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Insight #2

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.

Read the book

Get The Rare Find on Amazon.

George Anders

“I’ve been writing about dreamers, idealists and rascals since 1981. Look for my journalistic work these days at and Forbes magazine. Other writing homes over the years have included The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg View and Fast Company magazine. I’ve also launched a travel blog, written four books and spun out several hundred bedtime stories for our kids.

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