Monday 23 March 2015

Opinion: Beyond certificates to talent spotting

We’re looking for talent
It was interesting to juxtapose two separate, but somewhat related issues in my mind.
This was a tweet that I retweeted earlier today, “Applications for @spectator summer internships now open. Don't send a CV: we're looking for talent, not certificates:”
Reading through the article announcing the internships you get the drift that certificates do not necessarily confirm the presence of talent, ideas, or useful opinion that will make mentors suggest the intern is going places.
We don’t mind where or whether you went to university; Frank Johnson was a superb editor of this magazine and he had no formal education to speak of. What matters is flair, imagination and enthusiasm. Skills that you can’t really learn in any classroom.”
A different resourcing scheme
Frank Johnson was one time the Deputy Editor of the Sunday Telegraph before he became the Editor of The Spectator for 4 years, he died in 2006.
Consequently, a definition of talent taken in the context of the tweet and the narrative is that flair, imagination and enthusiasm show amazing and recognisable talent, and talent cannot be taught.
The Spectator, which has been published since 1828 and has had the likes of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London as Editor appears to have cultivated the habit of seeking talent in unusual places making for a diverse and eclectic workforce.
The article makes bold statements about how they recruit, people who have come through a work experience programme and finally suggests how you can make them interested in you, by showing, doing and demonstrating in writing, analysis, suggestions and ideas.
This is quite refreshing and it means the path to access within establishment domains does not have to follow the course of landed gentry, public school and Oxbridge. There are many ways to skin a cat.
Climbing and clambering to cheat
Now, contrast this with the picture of parents standing precariously on window ledges in the attempt to help their wards cheat their way through to passing examinations glowingly so they can gain access to superior education and probably better the lives of themselves and their communities. [BBC News]
This embarrassing episode in the Indian state of Bihar which has a history of being one of the great learning centres of ancient India, has one of the largest service-oriented economies as one of the fastest economically growing states in India.
It is therefore no surprise that parents will want their wards to tap into this growth economy and bring the rewards home, first by hard work and then guaranteed by cheating the system to the point where their wards like doping cyclists can win the awards and access to greater opportunity.
Driven by corrupt purpose
The drive here is not in the search for talent, but in the acquisition of certificates, the more acquired the more it is probable that the person will find their way into some cushy job. Having earned it through concerted community corruption, it should be expected that the community will expect returns in corrupting acquisitions and malfeasance.
This malady of certificate presentation for opportunity creates the market for certificate forgeries and the purchase of certificates from diploma mills. There are too many examples of senior politicians and business people in Nigeria, who have been found not to have the certificates, the standard of education, positions or responsibilities they purport to have attained.
Much as the system appears to drive this illicit activity for long-term gain, it presents an embarrassing problem for India. What India cannot afford with its talent pool going to the ends of the earth is the impression that their qualification are not what they are worth on paper.
Dishonesty is not a virtue
Then another unqualifiable issue comes to the fore, if a person is found to be dishonest, is it possible to overlook that for the innate talent the person might possess?
We obviously have to have better ways of measuring ability beyond academic achievement, the ability to think differently and uniquely in such original ways that could change the world in ways we never thought possible.
I like that The Spectator model, we are not interested in what school did or did not go to, what letters you have after your name or how well your CV is put together, show us what you can do and demonstrate to us the way you think. Precious stones can be found in the most unusual places.
Now, look at the picture below and consider whether it demonstrates talent or something else.

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