The book: The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, by George Anders; Portfolio.
The big idea: When hiring, companies should stop looking for people who will work out right now and start looking for people who may someday blow their socks off. Unfortunately, the sock blowers aren't always obvious.
The backstory: Anders, a business journalist, pursues the subject of hiring with the skills of a reporter. He travels to several places where job candidates are auditioned, including a classroom in California in which Teach for America applicants confront recruiters pretending to be problem students.
Hire power: Your most important hire may be the person who does the hiring. Anders spends as much time on the backgrounds and approaches of great talent scouts as he does the talent itself.
If you read nothing else: Chapter Three, "Decoding the Jagged Résumé," makes a strong case that superstars in the making often lack the experience and qualifications that snag employers' attention. Chapter Six, "Talent That Whispers," describes Facebook's strategy for ferreting out unconventional, self-taught programmers.
Food for thought: Could entrepreneurs apply the same skills they use for picking new products to picking unproven talent? Both tasks seem to require the ability to move fast—before all the evidence is in—and trust personal insights. —Leigh Buchanan