This book is probably primarily useful to those who are either (a) in charge of a large-scale search, or (b) in charge of a very high-end search for a specific role such as a C-suite executive. However, there are plenty of small nuggets that I found thought provoking for designing interview processes as a hiring manager.
The book is short and fairly enjoyable for a book about hiring – I found many of his specific stories, especially the description of the selection process for Army Special Forces, surprisingly entertaining.
Anders’ attempts to make things personal can occasionally feel a bit like a politician’s campaign speech. Like this bit:
TFA [Teach For America] wanted people like Emily Lewis-Lamonica. I met her in the summer of 2009, after she had finished two years of TFA service as an eighth-grade history teacher…
This book is strongly focused on identifying rare talent, while almost entirely ignoring enticing them or retaining them. This is somewhat forgivable, given the title of the book. This next segment is one of the rare exceptions where Anders digs in a bit further:
For bosses like John Cameron, it’s not enough to discover talent that shouts. That much is easy. The great challenges come later, once such people are on the payroll. That is when everything hinges on an ability to make the most of such people’s wide-ranging ambitions and restless spirits. If top performers don’t feel tied into the organization that hires them, all their marvelous potential may be useless. Their careers may be marked by quarrels, betrayals, squandered opportunities, and repeated job-hopping in moments of anger.
In extreme cases, organizations decide it isn’t worth accommodating such high-intensity turmoil. No matter how brightly a star might shine before a hiring decision is made, everything can blow up once a contract is signed. If events don’t play out as planned, talent that shouts can turn impatient, selfish, or frustrated. After too many such failures, some leaders retreat. They would rather surround themselves with amiable plodders than tangle again with the unruly side of talent.
Fortunately, there’s a way around this agony. Top teaching hospitals like Hopkins are a fine place to look for clues. So are elite military units. These organizations don’t flinch at filling their ranks with ambitious personalities. That’s because they know how to get everyone pulling together toward shared goals, rather than ending up with a quarrelsome bunch of prima donnas. Step into the corporate world, and similar triumphs exist as well. None of these organizations equates talent and treachery. Instead, they are the world’s best snake charmers, if you will, figuring out how to get the most out of high achievers without being led astray.
My biggest complaint about the book is how little it focused on diversity in hiring. Aside from a few mentions, such as a Lehman Brother’s strategy to hire women as analysts rather than salespeople, diversity as a hiring goal is quite absent. When it does appear, it feels like it’s exploitative, when he could just as easily focus on the value that a diverse team offers.
On balance, the book is worth reading, although I think it falls a bit short of its promise.