Hiring Diamonds in the Rough

I am coming in on the close of a very successful co-op period. We hired a co-op from UBC for the summer and he turned out to be fantastic. The thing that I thought was interesting about him was that he was not “top of his class” material.

He’s the guy that fights and struggles to get B’s during the school year, but has more common sense and work ethic than most people I know. Very organized, intelligent kid. I would definitely consider hiring him when he finishes school.

What this makes me wonder is the idea of hiring a diamond in the rough. How do I find more people like him in the future? The talented individuals with a keen work ethic but maybe don’t look that great on paper.

A little bit of the back story is we went into the co-op hiring process a bit late. Being that he wasn’t top of his class, he was the equivalent of the last kid picked on the playground for kick ball. But he turned out to be the kid that kicked the crap out of the ball.

Anyone else have this experience and any thoughts about how you find more of these people?

I dunno if it’s true at all, and surely not 100% even if so, but I remember a teacher I had in ID class at university said something like the following-

A students become the design managers
B students become the top designers
C students become the teachers

not intended as flame bait or anything of the sort, but just figured I’d put it out there for discussion. It was about about 10 years ago, so I may have got the details mixed up, but the gist of it was that the B students (as you’ve mentioned) are the ones to hire as they have the work ethic that keeps them striving for improvement.

personally I’m not sure if I agree with the above, but for sure I do value work ethic as much or more than skills (if you are driven, you can always improve), and when I do hire, I don’t care at all about grades, or what school you came from. It’s all about personality, character and portfolio.


PS. I was an “A” student, - and now am a designer+manager, FWIW

As a startup we have no choice. We look for rough diamonds - the polished ones join the big dinosaur companies that command much prestige in this part of the world.

In fact if everything is so perfect about the candidate we do not hire them. We seek people who can grow rapidly in the unique learning environment we provide, but with interns it is often a wasted investment due to the limited time they spend with us and in most cases their inability to avoid the lure of dinosaurs.