EPIC! In a miraculous play, rookie Norman Powell stole the ball from Paul George and tied the game 92-92 with only 6:31 left on the clock.

Norman Powell — rookie, 46th pick in the NBA draft, outlier — saved the the most important game in Raptors’ history with a spectacular superman dunk.

Fans in Jurassic Park, bars and basements explode with joy

Even fans in the stands at the Blue Jays game down the street spontaneously cheered for the Raptors at that moment. (Flashback to Batista’s bat-flip home run in the unforgettable 7th inning Blues Jays playoff game five.

We can learn a lot from the Raptors Talent Selection Committee

Norman Powell was a long shot pick. He turned out to be the steal of the 2015 NBA draft.

The Raptors stated publicly that they wanted to improve their defense. They looked deeply into Powell’s history. They knew they were getting somebody who had to fight to get minutes to play in his first two years of college. Still, he was a great scorer and a top defender in college. Also, the Raptors realized that Powell was more game ready because of playing four years in college instead of one.

Powell was an outlier disguised as a 46th draft pick.

You can’t find outliers by searching for years of experience with a few skills

In tech hiring, a short-sighted focus on years of experience with a few key skills is the norm.

In the rush to fill tech jobs, most recruiters run a LinkedIn keyword search for candidates with the top two or three skills requirements. They contact matching candidates, do short technical interviews and invite the favorites in for face-to-face interviews.

They may uncover some competent candidates that way. But that’s not how you find the outliers.

More often than not, candidates with the potential to be game changers get passed over because they don’t have enough experience.

A better recruitment process to find the “hidden gems”

To hire game changers with the drive and skill to make innovation happen, look deeper into the candidate’s history for signs of true potential — School projects. Startups. Garage projects. Awards. Challenges overcome. Big wins, losses, lessons learned.

Rookie candidates may not have the “real work” experience required by the job description. But they have more important qualities that you can only find by looking closely into their pre-“big league”-employment history.

Find out what they actually did on projects and extracurriculars they were involved in.  What truly motivates them.

Five ways to identify outlier candidates when recruiting tech talent

  1. Key accomplishment on most recent technical project
  2. Extracurricular activities that demonstrate skills hiring leaders will appreciate
  3. Best thing candidate ever learned from a boss and why?
  4. Describe the hardest lesson learned and why?
  5. Example of when they overcame the odds and did something people said something was impossible

Dig deeper into their history to uncover their character and motivations

  • Reputation with peers – Observe programmers collaborating with other programmers – LinkedIn Search for your favourite candidates in LinkedIn Special Interest Groups, StackOverFlow and GitHub and other tech networking groups
  • Explore their resiliency – talk to them about their failures and obstacles overcome. What did they learn?
  • Extra-curricular activities at school – what motivated them as teenagers
  • Skills with other programming languages – what technical skills have they learned lately
  • Entrepreneurship – business ventures, startups, apps they’ve developed, blogs, portfolio
  • Teachability – how often do the upgrade their skills
  • Generosity – Do they contribute solutions to their community
  • Motivations – money, career, learning, community, competition
  • Hunger to be the best – big wins and achievements in other areas
  • Heroes – who inspires them

Infographic: Hiring Outliers — How To Identify, Recruit and Hire Innovative Developers with Game Changer Potential

Click the image to see the full infographic:

In conclusion

As recruiters, it can be hard to advocate for the Norman Powell’s that might not have all the things our hiring leaders are looking for. But do your research and you’ll gain their trust. You may not get a slam dunk the first time you present a Norman Powell, but you’ll gain respect for your forward thinking.

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