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I popped two quick questions into google today.  The first: What is Talent?

Simple enough, right?

Google being it’s helpful self first provided me with the definition:




  1. Natural aptitude or skill.
  2. A person or people possessing such aptitude or skill: “the talent in their Toledo clubhouse”.

It seems fairly straight forward and a definition we can all probably agree on.  And, when you break it down to aptitude (the natural ability to do something) or skills (the ability to do something well, or a particular ability) it seems that each and everyone one of us falls into the category of ‘talent.’

Pretty easy, right?  But, when it comes to talking about talent within our organizations, especially when we’re seeking ‘top talent,’ definitions tend to become a bit fuzzy.

When I then googled the phrase “What is Top Talent,” I especially appreciated the result from Quora: The term Top Talent has been used liberally around organizations (big and small) without specific meaning or definition — just an innuendo without borders. Everyone is good at something even if it is nothing, so, what is Top Talent?

Top Talent: an innuendo without borders…that’s what it often feels like when we’re searching for it, sourcing it, or recruiting it.  With all the articles out there trying to tell us how to find it, where to find it, how to observe it and lure it out of its nature habitat, we rarely see it clearly defined.  What is it that we’re searching for?

The reason it’s so hard to find is often we prescribe to a set list of nearly impossible to meet qualifications, or for some lazier folks, waiting for a gut feeling reaction to a candidate, or we continue to listen to what everyone else is looking for when we really need to start listening to our organization’s own internal needs and push out a lot of the chatter.

When we stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, the process of finding top talent can become very simple.  The hardest part is in defining it.  It’s different for every company, within every department, and on every team in each role.

When is the last time you threw out your job description and started from scratch to discover who your top talent really is and who you want to attract?  When did you break it down to the basic skills and aptitudes a candidate should posses (not all these things that everyone else is requiring for the same role or the ‘it would be great to have because the former person holding the role did.’)

Too often we actually repel top talent because we put too many barriers between them and our definitions of them.  And, then we fall prey to a mindset that top talent is too scarce or non-existent and it is easier to make excuses than to create a solution.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to find top talent; simple and easy are two different things.  We overcomplicate the process and it becomes much more difficult to secure top talent when we’re really not sure what we’re looking for.  But, when you take the time to clearly identify and outline each necessary piece of what should make up your top talent definition, the process of identifying where to start your search for them can become much easier.

So, now I ask, “How do you define top talent?  And, where do you start your search for top talent based on your definition?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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