by Richard, Management

Talent Matters

1 Comment 07 February 2011

Christina Aguilera is a talented singer, fully capable of rendering a flawless and inspiring performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, or many other songs, to the delight of all those within earshot.

Unfortunately, during the 2011 Super Bowl, she failed to deliver her best performance, butchering the tune, and forgetting words she has known since childhood. Everyone has an off day now and then. It’s better when it doesn’t happen in front of 100 million people, but hey, it happens.

There are thousands of singers in America, who, in terms of raw talent, could have outsung Ms. Aguilera, but let’s face it, talent was probably not the only, or even the primary, consideration in her selection. And that’s fine. The NFL, who does usually place a premium on talent, to the exclusion of less relevant factors, can hire whomever they like. In this case, it didn’t turn out so well, but it didn’t seem to detract much from the enjoyment of the game, especially for Packers fans.

All indications are that hiring in the US is slowly waking from a long hibernation. As employers get back into the hiring game, those who can’t afford a lot of missteps would do well to focus more on factors that predict job success, and less on criteria that miss the point.

Examples of the former:

  • Talent. Pure native talent. Are they naturally good at the job they’re expected to do?
  • Fit. Do they “fit” the organization’s culture, by virtue of temperament, nature, values, and character?
  • Behaviors. Do they tend to exhibit behaviors needed for the job under consideration.
  • In some cases, and I emphasize in some cases, experience doing the kind of work, industry and environment notwithstanding, they’ll need to do.

There are valid and defensible ways to screen for all of the above. Find them, and use them.

Examples of the latter:

  • Looks, height, weight, age, race, gender, politics, connections, and who they sleep with.
  • Credit score, unless it’s pertinent to the job, which in most cases, it isn’t.
  • Experience in your specific industry, again, unless it really matters. Hint: it often doesn’t. Employers in some fields in particular labor under the arrogant and often mistaken notion that unless the candidate has experience in their specific industry, they’ll never make it.  Banking and healthcare are good examples, but they’re not the only ones. If you’re looking for lenders and anesthesiologists, industry experience would be a must-have. Accountants and project managers, not so much. Talent, skill, and “fit” transcend industry.

Talent matters. It matters a lot. Look for it, know how to recognize it, hire it, develop it, and reward it.

Richard Hadden (twitter at is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results by creating a great place to work. He and Bill are the authors of the acclaimed business classic Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and Contented Cows MOOve Faster, and the brand new book Rebooting Leadership. Learn more about them and their work at


- who has written 105 posts on Contented Cows.

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

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