A diamond in a pile of coal showsIn a world of talent shortages where employers struggle to attract and retain the talent they need, recruiters are looking for new and innovative approaches to locate talent, such as social media, employee referrals and sophisticated employer of choice strategies.

But, these approaches, while effective, can still mean some employers come up short in the race for talent. These are usually smaller employers, as they don’t have the resources to compete with larger employer super brands on a sustained basis – and there simply isn’t enough ‘on form’ talent to go round.

And one approach which I think is open to small businesses to help them compete with the big players is the ‘diamond in the rough’ hiring strategy, which is where you identify ‘atypical’ talent that may not fit all your performance and educational criteria, but when put in the right environment and role could turn into a superstar. We see this phenomenon all the time in the sporting world where seemingly mediocre performers are taken from one team and placed in another team only to make a renaissance and become a star.

This, of course, doesn’t happen by accident; there’s clearly a skill to identifying diamonds in the rough. It’s also risky as you could simply find “fool’s gold” and/or create a “dirty dozen” style organization. Thankfully, this risk means that the big corporate employers aren’t in the chase for diamonds in the rough as they simply don’t need to take the risk as they tend to have first call on “safe bets.” This is  good news because it means there is more untapped talent for you.

But, how can you spot a diamond in the rough? There are several screening approaches to help you spot diamonds in the rough.

For starters, look for signs of a great, positive, committed attitude or at least the right attitude for your business. They may not have all the right technical skills but studies show that only 11 percent of new hires fail due to lack of functional jobs skills and most fail down to not having a good attitude and social skills. So, even if the candidate doesn’t appear to have first-class functional abilities, with the right attitude and approach, he or she could turn out to be a productive employee.

Also, don’t immediately dismiss job hoppers with patchy tenures; there could be a brilliant employee underneath that who has simply not found the right environment/role in which to unleash their talents. Could your environment be it?

When interviewing job hoppers, don’t be hostile; try and diagnose the reason for the patchy tenure and see if you can create an environment where they can be fully engaged and a high performer. They could turn out to be your diamond in the rough.

Make sure that you don’t discount the shy or  introverted types or those candidates who have difficulty communicating as  this could be down to nerves or they could be the kind of effective performer who lets their work not words do the talking. These types of candidate could easily be highly productive and diamonds in the rough.

What about slightly obsessive personalities? If not properly harnessed, obsessive personalities can get themselves into all sorts of problems in organizations and can become a liability. But, if properly harnessed and allowed to focus in areas where their obsessive qualities are a strength, they can become an asset to any organization. Look out for obsessive personalities who may not yet have found their niche. Could your company be the place that they finally blossom?

I’d like to hear any other tactics and methods you might have for spotting a diamond in the rough.

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