Jeremy Lin, the brand new star of the NY Knicks, seems to have come out of nowhere.  It’s an exciting story, a scrub, undrafted, cut by two previous teams and riding the pines on the Knicks, finally gets a chance to start only because the two superstars are injured.  In his first six games he leads the team to six victories and sets scoring records that are unmatched by any rookie in the history of the NBA, even the legendary Michael Jordan.

But we all know overnight successes don’t exist.  Kobe Bryant, in a post game interview after Lin outscored him, acknowledged as much, “Players don’t usually come out of nowhere.  If you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning. But no one ever noticed.”

So why did the entire basketball world not notice Lin?

Because they were focused on only the obvious.  Asian American (they don’t become NBA players), played at Harvard (if he was any good he would have gone to Duke or Kentucky).  And assumed he was only be an “A” player as a practice and mop up player.  And ignored him until they couldn’t any longer.

The most common hiring mistake non-topgraders make is hiring people in the same way.  They focus on attributes and impressions.  They don’t get into what candidates know or what candidates have done.  And in doing so, they overlook many potential “A” players under their noses.

Are you looking at the game film of your candidates.  Making them tell you in great detail how they succeeded.  Comparing that to the needs of your team.  Or are you evaluating people on first impressions, stereotypical attributes, and who they know?

Get to what they know and even more importantly, get to what they have done.

If the NBA recruiting experts had done the same with Lin, he would have been drafted higher, been a starter sooner, and contributed to victory faster.  Exactly what you want when you are hiring a new team member, right?