Chapter 3 of The Rare Find shows how to decode such resumes. It begins with the talent-scouting methods of David Evans, a legendary computer-science pioneer at the University of Utah. His graduate students went on to co-found world-famous companies such as Pixar Studios, Adobe and Netscape. All of those future pioneers caught Evans’s eye in spite of highly erratic paths in their teens and early twenties.
One of the biggest successes was Alan Kay, the math and bio major with the erratic transcript. (He also dabbled in anthropology, English and a side career as a jazz musician.) A decade after his time with Evans, Kay achieved enduring fame as one of the top developers of Apple’s first Macintosh computers.
Making the right decision about such job candidates comes down to three simple rules, as follows:
* Compromise on experience; don’t compromise on character. The best talent assessors look for people’s potential to rise beyond what they have done to date. At Utah, Evans wanted people whose bright minds and constant hunger to be working on the frontiers of knowledge could make them stand out in fast-growing new fields.
* Use your own career as a template. How do you know what common “requirements” aren’t really that important for later success – and what overlooked strengths may turn out to be crucial? In fields ranging from music to medicine, the key insights often can be drawn from what we have seen in our own careers.
* Rely on auditions to see why people achieve the results they do. Why tries hard? Who works well with others? Who recovers quickly from a setback? Conversely, who turns brittle under pressure? Who ultimately doesn’t care? When great assessors watch a candidate in action, they aren’t just looking for a momentary flash of brilliance. They are hunting for dozens of small clues that show how and why someone succeeds.