How to Recognize Talent

By Soulaima Gourani

Every year millions of U.S dollars are wasted on “talent spotting”.  Large companies are spending energy, time and money on “talents” who are not talents at all, and overlook those who truly have a talent, merely because they do not know how to spot talent.


What Is Talent, And How Do You Spot a Talented Person?

You can spot a talent in less than 10 seconds, but only if you know what to look for. If you don’t know what to look for, you can end up spending an incredible amount of time and resources on searching, finding and finally acquiring a person who does not fit your needs.

In the world of sports, showbiz and naturally, business, the concept of talent spotting is used quite often and has become one of the most talked-about concepts in recruiting. Talent comes in many forms, but the question is whether you can immediately spot it in others when you encounter it. When we look for talent, many of us look for something recognizable, and that is where we go wrong because not all talent is recognizable, many times talent is hidden dying to be unleashed. The challenge that most people face when looking for talent is, you like what you can recognize, and you can only recognize something you’ve seen before.

Below are a few tips to help you see whether you’ve found yourself a ‘winner’ (within the first 10 minutes)


  • First, be open to nontraditional types! Please be aware that the ‘talent’ you are looking for many not always be what you expect. For example, it is easy to think that those who come from the best universities and have the best grades are your answer. But often, that is far from the truth. Sometimes it’s the ones who have seemingly failed, or dropped out or changed their careers a few times that are the real change-makers. Real talent, are often “out-of-the-box” thinkers, and not the typical “do as I’m told” types. They are creative, non-traditional or non-linear-thinkers that hate to be restricted or confined. So, if you see that they’ve changed their careers/jobs a few times, it can simply be that they are looking for a place where there are smart people who are unafraid of new ideas.


  • Does the person “light up the room” when they walk in? Do they convey an aura of personality that draws you in and captures your attention? I like to point this out because charisma & confidence is indeed a talent. It implies that they have a healthy self-esteem and tend to approach things with a “can do” attitude.  Although, mostly a talent needed in business/sales. If a person can light up a room the instant they enter it, just imagine how easy it is for them to communicate with others and close a business deal?


  • Look for the “shiny eyes effect.” Eyes will tell you about that person’s energy, drive, health, strength, passion, and personality. Passion and energy produce what has been called the “shining eyes” effect, which just means that one has a radiant sparkle in their eyes. Which can indicate that they have a passion, drive, and determination.


  • Look for the fearless leader! Do they agree with everything you say? Or do they challenge your thoughts (in a respectable way)? Someone who is ‘fearless’ is never afraid to fail and explore new avenues in order reach a little higher; this is where innovation comes from.


However to find the real talent within a person you need more than 10 seconds; to find exceptional demands unique methods and not the same old HR methods, but if you can spot them quickly you can the ability to cut through the clutter of less than dynamic prospects. 


About the author – Soulaima Gourani: Soulaima Gourani is a lecturer, corporate advisor, and author. She is the author of three books; “Ignite your career,” “Take control of your career,” and “Courage to success.” She was elected as a TED mentor in 2016 and was later that same year announced as one of the “Inspiring 50 Nordics” women in the tech sector.


CDM Media Moves into Google’s Previous Chicago Office and Seeks Rock Stars

CDM Media, a leading B2B technology marketing and media firm, producing C-level executive events globally, has moved a long way to make Chicago home and headquarters, which was previously in Hawaii.

“We chose Chicago definitely for the opportunity, said Amanda Miller, Corporate Recruiter at CDM Media, “We needed a central hub closer to our client base.”

While the company has made Chicago its home for eight years, it most recently moved further into the city, in the heart of River North at 20 W. Kinzie, a Class A Business building, into Google’s previous work space.

Miller and her fellow coworker, Bianca Medici, Corporate Recruiter at CDM Media, gave me a tour of the office to talk about work life balance, rock stars, and their work hard, play hard mantra.

CDM Media’s Open Office Divides Work and Play:

Three times the space of their old office, CDM Media is actively recruiting new employees at its Chicago office to fill the added sales desks. A global company, CDM Media has offices in New York City and Cardiff, UK, as well. At the Chicago location, there are about 50 employees.

Upon arrival, CDM Media still has vibrant colors like orange and green and open office space with glass conference rooms, like most work spaces.

The space is evenly divided between business and pleasure.

To the left, is a sound proof conference room. The chairs swivel, and are prefect for intense meetings or starting relationships.

Past the glass doors, is the infamous kitchen and play space. It’s a wide open area with an orange couch, foosball, shuffle board and air hockey tables, and two massage chairs. There are complimentary snacks, as well as wine and beer kegs.

“We have a family feel,” Medici states, “On multiple Friday’s we have stayed until 8:30 and 9:00 pm hanging out, and then go to Siena Tavern across the street.”

Just a bit further is a separate open, oval conference room. It has the octagon shape and it feels like IBM left it there from the 90s.

On the opposite end of the office are workstations—low-rise cubicles that provide head shots of each employee—with HP monitors on top.

Conversations take over as the background noise for the day.

Adjacent to the open chairs are colorful rooms. There is one top to bottom (including the ceiling) blue room, and two orange rooms  for breakout sessions and flex conference rooms.

Towards the very end, is the CEO’s office, which also has clear paneling.

CDM Office Culture

Who is a Rock Star?

“I think that anyone can be a rock star,” said Medici, “I don’t think it’s only a Millennial.”

Medici offered that a rock star is not defined by an age bracket, but a state of mind.

“I really want someone who comes into a job and puts all that they can into it. They have self-motivation to achieve.”

We came up with a list of rock star buzz words at CDM Media:

  • work hard, play hard
  • results-driven
  • drive for your own success
  • focused
  • determined
  • sets goals

While we hear buzz words of “work hard, play hard,” and “results driven,” we are still left wondering what those attributes mean. Does it mean coming in early and working late? Does it mean adding x amount of clients?

I dug a little further and asked for a concrete example.

At CDM Media a rock star consistently reaches out to perspective clients. As a caliber, Miller and Medici said 10 pitches per week is a good aim.

While the company doesn’t provide goal setting applications, they expect you to have them. The work culture runs off of personal accountability rather than micro-managing tactics.

“I think I was raised to work my butt off,” said Medici, “At the end of the day, I want to know that I am doing a good job.”

CDM Media puts employees in the driver seat of their own success, providing opportunities for those to advance, who strive for it, as well as guidance from upper-management to direct them there.

The Perks of Being a Rock Star:

Rock stars have perks. So if you are going to call a rock star, do you have to include a massage chair?

“It’s not expected that we provide extras,” said Miller, defending the notion that rock stars don’t need perks.

But, she adds that there is pressure from another source to add perks to the job.

“A lot of times competitive pressures provide [employees] with the little things like the Facebook’s and Google’s of the world who say ‘we have the best talent,'” noted Miller.

Many companies realize that salary and location are not enough. Employees, or rock stars, seek the perks.

Crain’s Business recently had a post in the October 5th weekly edition, “Can’t bankroll a 401(k)? Try Free Yoga or Profit-Sharing,”  where author, H. Lee Murphy sheds light to the perks driven workforce. Extra vacation, on-site health classes, and profit-sharing are just a few ways that employers are gifting rock stars with extra goodies in their employee stockings.

In the article, President of Metaphrasis Language & Cultural Solutions, Elizabeth Colon, said, “It seems that a lot of the perks we offer are appreciated just as much as a raise or a 401(k) contribution. They show that we care.”

Office perks are more like the goody bag at the end of an event. You don’t know what’s in it, but you really want one.

Though the office is divided between desk space and literally, beer and games, the company culture offers structured breaks and times to collectively take a moment to relieve themselves from a rigorous work day. Because, as a rock star, you know you are hard-working.

“The CEO doesn’t have to have the games, the massage chairs,” Miller says, “It makes us feel like we are being rewarded for everything we put in.”

Work Life Balance:

“It’s not like we make you stay later than five if you get your work done,” Medici opens up about CDM Media’s work life balance.

Kyle, an employee at CDM Media, plays in a band. His band just released their first album and everyone went to his concert.

“It’s really cool how much we embrace each other’s passions,” said Medici.

CDM Media is Hiring:

CDM Media is hiring. They recently changed to customer relationship management (CRM), Salesforce from an internal, external list management (Elm), to track sales and data.

“We are a small company creating a lot of traction,” Miller informs.

CDM Media especially seek applicants with a positive outlook, effective communication, leadership, and a go-getter mentality.