Hiring the right talent for your organization is not an easy task.

It's a challenge every founder and CEO struggles with--because finding the right people takes more than just reading through a handful of resumes and cover letters. This is a topic I speak on frequently, this idea that a person's true value is rarely well communicated through their CV, and we are slowly moving into an age where an individual's personal projects (and personal brand) are often a more accurate representation of their talents than where they went to college or how many clubs they were involved in.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with the CEO of The Absolut Company, Anna Malmhake, about how to find and hire the right talent, and she passed along a few poignant words of wisdom.

1. Hire more "diagonal thinkers."

According to Malmhake, "diagonal thinkers" are individuals who are capable of fluctuating between being highly creative in the morning, to being structured project leaders in the afternoon.

"Diagonal thinkers are rare," said Malmhake. "The change you will find one from a formal standpoint of browsing resumes is slim. Disregard the fact that they might be missing a required Master's degree, or they might lack a certain experience you thought might be useful. If they have done astonishing feats of diagonal thinking in the past, they will do them again."

In one of Malmhake's videos, The AFK CEO, she goes on to explain that "diagonal thinkers" can actually help act as glue between the creative types and the structured business types within a large organization.

2. When you find a "diagonal thinker," don't lose them.

"More importantly than finding a  'diagonal thinker' in the first place, once you find him or her, don't lose them. Be aware that they might ruffle feathers in your organization. They will look for ways to innovate and find better, faster, smarter ways of doing things.  Most people don't like colleagues who rock the boat, so you might have to protect your diagonal thinkers a little bit extra," said Malmhake.

This is the brutally honest advice most company leaders don't want to hear. They say they want to innovate, be more creative, push the boundaries of their industry and "stand out." But when it comes to employing (and protecting) the people most likely to do that, they struggle. And they struggle because these individuals tend to upset the status quo.

So, deliberately build your organization to encourage and nurture these "diagonal thinkers."

3. Don't get stuck on demographic details.

"A great diagonal thinker can be very young or very close to retirement," said Malmhake. "One of the best diagonal thinkers I have had the pleasure of working with was in his 60s."

This is a fascinating point about hiring, considering most organizations still struggling to evolve and find their footing in the ever-digital world believe that younger equals better. They deliberately seek out young, Millennial or even Gen-Z employees because they believe they're the demographics most likely to be forward-thinking and understanding of where technology is headed.

But to Malmhake's point, this is a flawed bias. The real skill set organizations seek has much more to do with "diagonal thinking," and seeing across departments and disciplines, rather than trying to get a head start on what's popular or trending.

Another way of thinking about "diagonal thinkers" might be the view these individuals as "intrapreneurs." They have a high amount of ownership over their work, they can come up with creative solutions to company problems, and they are organized enough to implement their own solutions--and see them through to successful completion.

These are the kinds of people you want on your team. And when you find them, do whatever you have to do to keep them.

Published on: Jan 15, 2018
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