This article was written as a blog post for my friends at AptoZen, the company in San Francisco combining science and art to change how companies build their teams.
I recently discovered the TV series A Young Doctor’s Notebook on NetFlix and was impressed to see Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame in a completely new role. Spoiler Alert: He plays a recently graduated doctor sent to the Russian countryside who saws off limbs and saves the anesthetic for himself. I was fascinated with Radcliffe’s transformation, and the fit was perfect. It’s hard to imagine the one-time boy actor as anything but a young wizard, but he clearly has the acting chops to pull off the role.
When a typecast actor enters the scene in a surprising new context, the viewer can’t help being thrown off guard, in a good way. It makes the role much more interesting to watch and adds dimension to the character. When the type-shift works, the casting director is hailed as genius and courageous. As a hiring manager you could be the one making those breakthrough casting decisions.
Typecasting happens because it’s easy. And it’s happening in your talent acquisition every day. Just look at the sentence at the end of your job postings, the one that reads, “Preferably with experience in…” This is where you reveal your desire for candidates who come out of your own industry. It’s the straight-line path. Plug and play. No training required. Finding the perfect fit is like buying a pair of pre-washed jeans.
While companies are touting the benefits of recruiting for racial and gender diversity, when it comes to industry experience they keep chasing the usual suspects. Hiring from the outside comes with its challenges, but it can also infuse your decision making with fresh ideas to help your company break away from the pack.
Not every candidate can successfully make the transition to a new industry, just as not every actor has the range to morph a boy hero into a dark or tragic figure. Making the shift requires agile confidence and intellectual flexibility. Some actors will forever be pigeonholed. The ambitious ones, though, are always looking for that breakout role.
It’s your job to spot those candidates who have solid skills and the ability to make logical connections between their previous environment and yours. Look for evidence of adaptability. Not just a willingness to learn, but a track record of self development. Then outline a plan for your new hire to acquire a deep understanding of your industry and be sure to immerse them in the company knowledge base.
You can help your new employee make the industry shift by curating a list of reading material and providing access to conferences, coaching, and mentors. Take a few moments to verbalize background information prior to key meetings or project briefings. Encourage the employee to share their experience and insights, then be ready to help connect the dots to the problems at hand. You should also make sure your team understands the value you see in an outside hire so they’re inspired to help you make it a success.
Think about the great performances we’d be missing out on if actors like Daniel Radcliffe, Steve Carell, Tom Hanks, or Robin Williams had never been trusted with a breakout role. By going beyond the obvious and the expected, you can be that genius casting director when making key hiring decisions.
Copyright Liz Behlke, 2016