How To Discover Quiet Talent

smilingIn a previous post we looked at how to discover talent where prejudice exists.

There were many areas of prejudice not mentioned in that post.

Today we’re going to focus on one area in particular: introversion.

It’s kind of surprising how much prejudice there is around those that are quiet. It seems that more attention is being given to introverts, but it’s hard to move beyond long held beliefs.

I found this paper that looked at how introversion is viewed in the world.

They looked at one interesting study (among others) that saw a teacher give his students a questionnaire. All the students, even the introverts, gave answers they felt would make them seem extroverted.

The reason?

Much of society values extroversion. Coming out of the shell. Spending time with others. Being the life of the party.

A couple things here before we begin.

I don’t think it’s wrong to hire extroverts. This post is about the fact that if you’re looking for more talent at your organization then looking in overlooked places offers opportunity.

And I’m probably more on the side of introversion than extroversion so I’m probably biased. So be sure to keep that in mind while reading these tips.

With all that in mind here are some ways to discover the quiet talent others overlook.

1. Dig Deeper Into Group Work

Group work can show a lot of things.

How well people work with others.

How well people can work together to achieve a common goal.

How people naturally form roles and hierarchy.

But if you’re not careful you can fall into a few traps.

One trap would be focusing too much on the group members that are most vocal. Now, I’m not saying that the most vocal in the group are not the hardest working or most valuable or anything like that.

All I’m saying is to watch for the tendency for the quiet and talented ones to fade into the background. They may not take on the credit for as much as they actually did in the project.

That’s why I say to dig a little deeper into the project.

If you’re managing a team and you break them into groups to work on special projects and a project does really well you want to do some digging to find out why they did so well.

See who worked on what. See how they allocated their time and effort. See who wasn’t afraid to get into the details of the work and who may have been a silent leader.

Another sign of quiet talent is when you’re putting together groups and those you speak with ask repeatedly for you to include someone on the team with them.

Can you include John on the team?

I’ll do this, but it would be great if John could also help. I’ve worked with him before and he’s great.

The vocal ones will make themselves heard. That’s great. They are easy for any leader to discover. Seeing the quiet ones is a little more difficult.

2. Focus On Results

There are people in the world that talk a big game. They seem to have all the answers. They tell good stories. Everything seems like they would be successful.

And in many cases it’s probably true.

But what really matters in life is the result.

Anybody can point to the good things they’ve done. They can point to their positive attributes. But it’s your job as a leader to go beyond the obvious things. You want to look at the results.

When you look at results it doesn’t really matter what the person tells you or what their reputation is. If you’re looking for results then that’s where you have to look.

And the result is probably that you’ll find some overlooked talent. Those that aren’t out in the open tooting their own horn or making a big deal of their positive qualities. They’re just going about their business and getting results.

3. Look At What People Control

Sometimes results can lead you astray, though, if you’re not looking at the right results.

Let’s look at an example from the NFL for a second.

My favorite team is the Green Bay Packers.

A few years ago they drafted a left tackle from Colorado, David Bakhtiari. The team he played on at Colorado was not very good for his tenure there. In fact, their record was awful. One of the worst in the NCAA.

Many teams probably overlooked Bakhtiari for that reason. They want winners and that makes a lot of sense.

But the Packers drafted Bakhtiari in the 4th round. They saw talent where others overlooked it. Now Bakhtiari is recognized as one of the beat at his position in the league. And he’s been to the playoffs every year of his NFL career.

So why was he overlooked for three rounds?

There could have been a number of reasons, but I like to think that people overlooked what he could control. That was his assignment each week and each play. It was his job to block. That’s it. And he did it really well and he did it against great players.

He couldn’t entirely control whether his team won or lost. Football is very much a team sport. David controlled what he could control and he did it knowing that his team would probably lose.

That’s overlooked quiet talent.

4. Identify The Readers

A common question on a personality test is whether a person would rather spend an evening at home reading alone or out at a part amongst friends and strangers.

It seems that introverts tend to like reading. Not all. And certainly extroverts can like reading too.

But studies are finding that reading is a sign of success.

It might be just a nice coincidence. Reading is obviously a great way to learn. And if you’re quiet and introverted you’re probably ingrained to like reading. So it’s a nice coincidence that by nature you’ll become smarter and possibly more successful.

A quick way to find hidden quiet talent might be to simply look for voracious readers.

5. Look For People Skills

This one may not be entirely associated with quiet folks. In fact, you may want to look at extroverts and introverts for this one.

But more studies are finding that technical skills may not be as important as previously thought.

People skills, it turns out, are incredibly important. The ability to understand how others feel and what others are thinking.

Great companies often know how to develop people. They bring people on in entry-level jobs and train them on specific technical skills.

But it’s more difficult to train people skills. So something important to look for when hiring is someone’s ability to work with people. To lead. To understand.


If you’re looking to gain an edge on the competition one way to definitely do it is to hire better people. But everybody out there knows the obvious best people. The real advantage comes when you’re able to spot talent that others overlook.

One area that’s overlooked is the quiet. Those that tend to sit in the background. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all quiet people are great talent. It just means that talent might be overlooked in this area.

So try these tips the next time you’re hiring. It could provide an advantage over the competition.

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