The Secret To Finding Great Talent | Tyler Cowen on Modern Wisdom with Chris Williamson

Check out the Modern Wisdom episode page and show notes

Key Takeaways

  • “There is much more talent to tap into than ever before, but in most parts of the world, we are screwing it up” – Tyler Cowen
    • “We’re rewarding homework at every stage of the process, and then we’re shocked when we get too many conformists” – Tyler Cowen
    • Credentialism, seniority requirements, bureaucratized evaluations, and conservative HR departments also contribute to the hiring problem
  • Tyler’s definition of talent: people with an energetic spark, who have new and creative ideas that will change how things are done
    • In the market of ideas and technology, the top performers are at least 10x more valuable than the average performers—making hiring of utmost importance
  • Talented candidates can look ‘beyond the immediate moment
    • “It’s very easy to optimize too locally…always try to be looking one level broader” – Tyler Cowen
    • Example: Ask them if Romeo & Juliet were really in love with each other? Or ask who was the best talent scout in Star Wars? Figure out one of the candidate’s interests and ask a question that explores their perception and thought-process rather than just knowledge.
  • Unique interview questions:
    • What tabs are currently open on your browser right now? Engaging this question will give you an idea of how they manage their ideas consumption.
    • Which conspiracy theory do you think is plausible? Regardless of the truth, it shows that the candidate is curious and capable of thinking outside the box.
    • How ambitious are you? It’s very hard to fake this answer.
    • How do you practice and improve? Very few people treat their chosen pursuit like that of an athlete or musician. Exceptional people constantly evaluate how their inputs affect their outputs, but few people do it in their professional work.

Intro

We Suck at Hiring

  • “There is much more talent to tap into than ever before, but in most parts of the world, we are screwing it up” – Tyler Cowen
    • Require too much seniority
    • Too much credentialism
    • Rigid school system that limits rebellious creativity
    • “We’re rewarding homework at every stage of the process, and then we’re shocked when we get too many conformists” – Tyler Cowen
    • Too slothful and bureaucratized when hiring
    • Human resource departments are too conservative
  • In the market of ideas and technology, the top performers are at least 10x more valuable than the average performers—making hiring of utmost importance
    • In other industries with routine labor, it’s almost impossible for an employee to deliver 10x value, let alone 2x—making hiring less important

Become a Better Interviewer

  • Rather than asking the same old canned interview questions, ask candidates what they are passionate about
    • Gauge their levels of detail and enthusiasm rather than just the mechanics
  • Best way to start an interview:
    • Be trustworthy, and share something about yourself to create a conversational environment
    • Be knowledgeable and passionate about the thing you share; it opens the door for the candidate to reciprocate
  • Unique interview questions:
    • What tabs are currently open on your browser right now? Engaging this question will give you an idea of how they manage their ideas consumption.
    • Which conspiracy theory do you think is plausible? Regardless of the truth, it shows that the candidate is curious and capable of thinking outside the box.
    • How ambitious are you? It’s very hard to fake this answer.
    • How do you practice and improve? Very few people treat their chosen pursuit like that of an athlete or musician. Exceptional people constantly evaluate how their inputs affect their outputs, but few people do it in their professional work.

Evaluating Great Talent

  • Tyler’s definition of talent: people with an energetic spark, who have new and creative ideas that will change how things are done
  • Don’t get caught up in the genetics of talent, focus on the real-life interactions in front of you
    • Exercise: Have a candidate write out an idea to evaluate how they think
    • “Engage them in the moment” – Tyler Cowen
  • Intelligence isn’t highly correlated to income—here are some factors that have a stronger correlation:
    • Energy and ambition
    • Ability to work well with others
    • Durability or the ability to stick with something
    • Ability to see the right hierarchies to climb within an organization
  • Talented candidates can look ‘beyond the immediate moment
    • “It’s very easy to optimize too locally…always try to be looking one level broader” – Tyler Cowen
    • Example: Ask them if Romeo & Juliet were really in love with each other? Or ask who was the best talent scout in Star Wars? Figure out one of the candidate’s interests and ask a question that explores perception and thought-process rather than just knowledge.

Sourcing Talent

  • You get the best talent when they are looking for you, not when you are looking for them
    • Tyler says Peter Thiel is the master of ‘sending out the bat signal’ in just the right way to attract talent
    • Altruism movement: offer people the opportunity to have an attractive and immediate group of peers
  • Tyler doesn’t look for people who are just going to do well, he looks for undervalued talent that won’t do as well without his help
    • Very talented people don’t always have an obvious route to success without your help
  • Companies tend to hire on skill and fire on attributes
    • This is the result of poor sourcing and screening procedures

Are We in a Population Dip or Collapse?

  • “But among our greatest existential threats, population collapse is unique in that it lacks a noticeable, immediate pain for us to rally against. There are no wildfires or smog-filled skies to capture the imagination of our journalists or filmmakers, thus inspiring no individual action. It is precisely because of this attention void that I believe we encounter the true Great Filter. “ – Chris Williamson quoting Mike Solana
  • Tyler is much more optimistic about the future of our population
    • France and England have returned fertility rates to replacement levels
    • New technologies will lower the costs of raising children
    • There are advantages to global trade for a country to have a sustainable population
  • “People freaked out about this in the 1920s, it turned out they were wrong. And eventually, they’ll be wrong again.” – Tyler Cowen
    • Tyler believes the short-term decline in worldly population comes from people opting for more fun lifestyles and fathers not contributing their fair share of effort
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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