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Forget your CV; it's time to tackle the Facebook challenge.

Forget your CV; it's time to tackle the Facebook challenge

It's what many a job applicant will long have suspected: some of the world's most innovative companies are not even bothering to read candidates' CVs.

Take the example of Facebook. It believes it has found a different way of attracting brilliant people who have not found their way to Silicon Valley but are languishing in ordinary technology jobs.

The company publishes programming challenges on its website - some so hard that even existing Facebook engineers cannot solve them - and invites engineers anywhere in the world to tackle them.

Games and media company IGN Entertainment similarly posts challenges on its website to test the ability of would-be software developers. Selected applicants are then put through an experimental programme named Cod Foo, designed to teach programming skills. Other firms are increasingly using social media to recruit the right people. Some ask candidates to submit short video responses to key questions. Others scan applicants' Facebook pages, Tumblr blogs and profiles.

While not advocating total reliance on social media, in Strategic HR Review, Volume 10 Number 6, Sherrie A. Madia argues that organizations should consider adding them to their overall recruitment strategy to become more cost-effective, targeted, strategic and competitive.

In an excerpt from The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, in the 17 October 2011 edition of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, George Anders reveals that, while Google continues to read candidates' CVs, it is placing less emphasis on formal qualifications and more on trying to uncover 'some special, rare attribute that could point the way to greatness'. This could include, for example, sporting achievement or experience of running a business, tutoring or volunteering.

According to the author, there is a huge difference between the best performers and everyone else; in terms of productivity there exists a five-to-one gap. No one can afford to settle for the mediocre.

Talking to the world's best, most secretive talent scouts, George Anders found that they all share an intense belief in finding high achievers who can create big successes. This may involve knowing what shortcomings do not matter and which flaws can be overlooked.

In recruiting chief executives, for example, efficiency, problem-solving abilities and hard-nosed accountability appear to be more important than charisma and affability. In spotting talent for the US Special Forces, candidates' resilience and initiative are rated more highly than their ability to shoot a rifle. This, after all, can easily be taught.

George Anders pairs front-line observations with cutting-edge research from psychiatrists, economists, recruiters and business strategists. He shows how recruiters can hone the ability to recognize future greatness and discover tomorrow's stars.

Sometimes, though, the sheer volume of applications an organization receives can militate against choosing the best. The US federal government, for example, receives 21 million applications to fill 350,000 openings each year.

Bill Leonard in HR Magazine provides an update on the May 2010 executive memorandum directing the US Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies to reform their hiring process.

The author describes how the federal government has replaced general, subjective essays with online tests - which can be marked automatically - that assess candidates' abilities to perform job-related tasks. In ways such as this, the average time-to-hire has fallen from 135 days to 105 days.

Bill Leonard believes that the private sector can learn from the federal government's experience - while acknowledging that room for improvement exists.

Indeed it does. Many private-sector firms would not survive if they were taking more than 100 days to fill the average vacancy.