“A” Players, The Best and the Brightest and T-Shaped People! Oh, My!

First of all, my apologies to Dorothy from The Wizard of OZ in the scene where she says to the Cowardly Lion, “Lions and tigers and bears! Oh, My!” Although there may be some connection. Let me explain.

If you have been in the recruiting business long enough chances are you have had a number of well meaning decision makers say that they only wanted to see “A” players for the position you are helping them fill. The term “A” player has been around for some time but owes much of its popularity and frequent usage to Brad Smart and his ground breaking book, Topgrading.

The problem with the term, “A” player is that there is no one definition of what it means. Oh sure, there is some general agreement that any or all of the terms such as driven, aggressive, ambitious, dominate, focused, strong willed, goal oriented, outgoing, persuasive etc., would describe an “A” player. But we all know that there is a world of difference between an ”A” player programmer and an “A” player salesman.

Sourcing, screening, interviewing and selecting “A” players for your positions requires a deep understanding of what the decision maker(s) at your client company mean by the term. Once you understand the success attributes that constitute an “A” player for your client and preferably have an example or two from within the client’s company then you are well on your way to delivering what your client wants. The only question remaining is would your ‘A’ player candidate want to work for your client company?

The same holds true with the term “The Best and The Brightest” which again owes much of its popularity and still current usage to a popular book of the same name by the late David Halberstam.

In order to recruit “The Best and The Brightest” you first need to understand what your client means by the term. And just like “A” players, once you understand what the success attributes are and have real examples to compare to you can then deliver what your client wants. Then there is that question of whether The Best and The Brightest would work for your client.

So, what are T-Shaped people and should you lock your doors?

I came across the term T-Shaped People in a recent posting by Kevin Wheeler in ERE Daily. In the posting, Wheeler was referencing an article by Chris Brown, CEO of IDEO, the world famous, world leader, world everything design firm in San Francisco. Brown was talking about the types of people that IDEO recruits and hires and used the term T-Shaped People. He describes T-Shaped People this way. The vertical column of the T represents the experience, skills, education of the person. The more of each they have the taller and broader the column. The horizontal cross bar of the T represents the capacity of the individual to collaborate, learn, encourage, evangelize and support ideas, teams, individuals and opportunities within and outside the company.

As many of you know we are quickly moving into (if we aren’t there already) a brave new world (sorry Alduos) where successful companies will be utilizing cross-functional teams in order to leverage their intellectual property and take advantage of the various strengths that each employee possesses. No longer will it be sufficient for an employee to be good at sales or programming or design. Employees must have a capacity of sharing, joining in and collaborating in order to be a valuable asset to their employer.

So as a recruiter what can you do with this? Whether you are recruiting “A” players, The Best and the Brightest or T-Shaped People it all comes back to understanding what your client means by the terms. Once you understand that then you can deliver what they want.

As to the question of whether your “A” player, Best and the Brightest or T-Shaped candidates would want to work for your client I would like to leave that answer for another day and another blog.

In the meantime you can go back to recruiting lions and tigers and bears but realize that like Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas anymore.


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