How to Recognize Talent

By Soulaima Gourani 

Every year millions of dollars are wasted on talent spotting and talent management. Large companies spend energy, time and money on “talents” who may not necessarily have the skills needed, and may overlook those who truly do, merely because they do not know how to spot it.

You can spot talent in less than 10 seconds, but only if you know what to look for. However, if you don’t know what to look for, you can end up spending tons of time and resources on searching, finding and finally acquiring pointless talent. And, what might be considered a necessary skill today, can turn out to be useless in the future. 

In the world of sports, showbiz and business, the concept of talent spotting is used quite often. It has become one of the most talked-about concepts in recruiting, yet we find it difficult to describe what, exactly, it is. Talent comes in many forms, but the question is whether you can spot it in others when you encounter it. When we look for talent, many of us look for something recognizable, and that is where we go wrong because not all talents are recognizable, many are hidden talents dying to be unleashed. The challenge most people face when looking for talent is, they like what they can recognize, and they can only recognize something they have seen before. 

It is imperative, if you are a recruiter, manager and leader, to network and create meaningful bonds with people that you will encounter over the course of your career. Therefore, you must become an (HR) expert at how to map, maintain, and nurture people and their talents.


The Talent of the Future

So, what sorts of talents do we need in the future? Who will you need five 10 years from now?

In time, IT and robotics will take over more and more of those standard jobs that require what I call primary brain work, such as math, technical drawing, data processing, etc. The ability to think in an interdisciplinary manner, complex via complex collaborations and relations, is where we should hone our talent. You should look for individuals who have unique personality traits and depth, rather than those who score high on a standardized test.

Talent is something natural. It is something a person naturally possesses. A talent may be broad or narrow. It may be general or it may be specific. No matter what, a talent is something that a person excels at naturally. 

It is important to focus on the future when looking for talent with these five basic tips: 

  • Ask yourself what talents or skills your company will need five to 10 years from now, and then map out what you think those talents or skills look like. Remember, they may belong to someone you’ve never looked for before. 
  • Recruit through new channels and base candidates’’ skills on their values and not exams. 
  • Get rid of your biased and systematic job applications. They have no depth and are only good for hiring robots! 
  • Make sure you can tell the difference between a natural talent and a trained talent. 
  • Dare to take a wild card. There is no such thing as a sure talent. Sometimes it is good to go with your gut feeling, so when you come across someone special you don’t let her go! 


About Soulaima Gourani: 

Soulaima Gourani is a lecturer, corporate advisor and author of three books: “Ignite your career,” “Take control of your career,” and “Courage to success.” In 2012 she was named one of the Young Global Leaders by World Economic Forum and later that year appointed chairwoman of the nonprofit organization Global Dignity. In 2013 she was recognized as one of the greatest Nordic thinkers by Nordic Business Forum, and she was chosen as one of the “40 under 40” European young leaders in 2014. She was appointed as a UN Goodwill Ambassador 2015. 

Gourani was selected as a TED mentor in 2016 and later that same year was recognized as one of the “Inspiring 50 Nordic” women in the tech sector. Gourani lives in San Francisco with her husband and two kids.

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