Building a matching engine to pair talent with jobs is an exciting challenge. How much should we weigh proven success over clusters of indicators that predict upcoming talent?

This is one of the many questions asked when developing the initial matching engine at 123abc for the human-cloud network. To ignite the brainstorming process and let technical bios stay out of the first drafts we use storytelling. Our favorite story to discuss the assessment of talent [current vs upcoming talent] and how we should measure the success of our matching engine is the story taken from an interview with Stephen Francis.

A sports coach’s insight into talent scouting

Stephen Francis, the world's most successful sprint coach and founder of MVP Track & Field Club, has excelled in finding and developing talent that most other people have overlooked.

‘I love to work with people who are hungry for a second chance - I love to prove that people made a mistake. That other stuff bores me. I stay clear of those I call “can’t miss” athletes as a matter of principle. Instead, I look for those with the greatest development potential,” he explained in an interview.

According to Stephen Francis, one of the great misconceptions about talent identification arises from our conviction that current high performance automatically equals a great potential and that current average performance equals low potential. Current performance can certainly be a good indicator of potential but this is not always the case.

What is important to him is not performance in itself, but what caused it and the story that lies behind it. Because of this, one of the key areas Francis looks at when trying to assess talent is training history. This is based on the idea that if you know an athlete’s past, you’ll have a greater chance of evaluating the possibilities for the future. As Francis explains: ‘Imagine that you see a guy running the 100 meters in 10.2 seconds as a nineteen-year-old. Then you see another nineteen-year-old running the distance in 10.6. Everything seems to be screaming at you that you should choose the one who runs 10.2. But if you’re good, you will know that the guy who ran the distance in 10.6 may have even greater potential. Imagine, for instance, that the 10.2 guy comes from a very professional and qualified training environment, while the 10.6 guy basically trained on his own. I look very closely at athletes’ training histories. The better an athlete is without having a good training history, the greater the potential that exists.’

Looking beyond the surface to the story

Looking beyond the obvious result is a key principle when spotting talent in a business environment too. Don’t judge potential using numbers alone. Dig below the surface to learn how the numbers were achieved or what stood in the way that might have prevented them from being better. Was a manager successful more because of favorable market conditions than because they were a competent decision-maker? Did a salesperson deliver good numbers because he had an amazing product that sold itself or because he systematically worked on building a strong pipeline?

As Stephen Francis puts it: ‘It’s not about the performance – it’s about the story behind the performance.’

Understanding Potential with the Human Cloud

The Human Cloud gives you a way to examine a candidate’s whole career story - the story behind a CV. The network gives you the tools to understand and evaluate a candidate’s ability to adapt to change, their commitment to learning, and the soft skills that help them problem-solve and create.

Hire for potential to create a learning-focused and adaptive workforce that brings evolving value to your company and mission.

Learn more about the Human Cloud project and our vision for the future of work by signing up at 123abc.com >>>


At 123abc, we are passionate about building an Open Human Cloud Network for the world. We think this is the way to bring economic freedom to more people, more growth to workplaces, and equity of opportunity in the world.