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Malcolm Gladwell on Why You Shouldn't Hire for Talent

The best-selling author explains why individuals who have failed before have a distinct advantage over the most talented job candidates.

New Yorker staff writer and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell loves debunking myths.

One idea Gladwell has written extensively about is what he calls "the talent myth," which refers to the notion that the best way to build a business is to hire the most intellectually advanced people you can find. 

"It’s an incredibly narrow definition of what you think is advantageous in your work force," Gladwell says. "IQ is totally important, but there was such a narrow focus on that particular set of capabilities that it excluded all kinds of other stuff."

For example, one of the things Gladwell points to as an advantage for people like Walmart founder Sam Walton is the fact that, prior to launching the Walmart, Walton had failed in another business. This experience allowed Walton to learn unique lessons that would help him be successful later. For this reason, failure in a job applicant's past should be viewed as a positive in many cases, according to Gladwell. 

"There’s a reasonable case you could make for that kind of criterion, but when you’re interested in talent, that's not part of the definition of talent. That's almost the anti-definition of talent," he says.

"We use failures to exclude people if we're picking just on the basis of talent. You could make an argument that failure ought to be something that includes you in the pool of potential talent."

To hear more of Gladwell's take on hiring the best people possible, watch the video below.


What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Underdogs

New Yorker staff writer and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell talks to Inc. about business lessons from his latest book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2014


Graham Winfrey is a staff writer for He previously covered alternative investments at Private Equity International magazine, prior to which he worked at Business Insider and He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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