Attracting the Stars is an Outdated Aim

Linnea Bywall


September 9, 2019

Every company hopes to attract and keep the best talent. Ironically, that is exactly why it is impossible. As long as talent management is thought of as a war over a few people who will always be “the best”, talent management will be a zero-sum game that can never really be won. Assuming that there are just a few talents out there is to limit oneself unnecessarily.

“Attracting the stars” is a counterproductive approach, for at least two reasons. First, the assumption that all companies need the same people is wrong. What companies need to do, instead, is to find out what their own particular requirements are. Which unique skills and characteristics make people successful in your specific organization? For example, it might seem tempting to be able to attract people from the top management consultancy firms – but what about their cultural fit in your particular setting? Could it even be that you are looking for a completely different set of skills and characteristics?

Second, the people regarded as “stars” can get that status for various reasons – only one of which is actual competence. For instance, there is research showing that people who are very socially dominant often come to be seen as more competent or “star-like” than others. Being dominant, however, does not always contribute to actual performance. In the same vein, people who crave public recognition are also more likely to be labeled as talents. More low-key personalities, or persons who haven’t had the opportunity to be in the public eye, might be just as talented.

So, what does this mean? In short, that there is a considerable number of hidden gems out there for you to find. Companies who know how to identify the right profile for their specific setting will have a unique competitive advantage in the future talent landscape. In fact, they will be much more effective than those firms that only strive to attract some kind of generic “star”.

The key to identifying these “best fit” candidates is to use high-quality assessment methods in selection. In short: Look at the data points that are most predictive of future success, and not at the bright and shiny things that sometimes dazzle recruiters. Did you know, for instance, that a strong result from a logic ability test is much more indicative of future potential than three years of experience from a top-tier company?

But if you really want to nail talent attraction, you also need to get to know your existing top performers. What characterizes those employees that consistently excel in your organization, and that also stay over time? It may not be what you think. By e.g. getting to know their personalities and skill sets, you can create your own star formula - and, somewhat paradoxically, win the “war for talent”.


Linnea Bywall

Psychologist at Alva Labs

Linnea is a licensed psychologist working organizational psychology at Alva Labs, focusing in assessments and leadership development.



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