I have always interpreted this cliché as a reference to someone who is more valuable or may have more to offer than what you might think upon first impression.
As an employer and someone who makes frequent hiring decisions, I find this possibility appealing and I always feel a real sense of accomplishment if I identify someone who I think may be a diamond in the rough. Here’s why.
First, a person who I may think is a diamond in plain view is not always as capable or as valuable as I perceive them to be. If I concentrated all my time on candidates that presented themselves perfectly and had all the right things to say, I would likely be disappointed a good percentage of the time once I saw who they really were. What may appear to be the easy decision isn’t always the best decision.
Conversely, diamonds in the rough are often unaware of their own potential. They are frequently understated and not used to attention or the spotlight. If I can correctly identify a real diamond in the rough, I am able to create an opportunity for someone who might not otherwise have gotten one simply because they were unable to display their full personality or character traits. When this happens, I am usually rewarded with a very engaged and motivated employee who is eager to discover how successful he or she can be.
This cliché is a great reminder that people are very rarely exactly who they appear to be, especially if I am basing my perception on one meeting or on an otherwise small sample size. No matter how trained or adept I think I am at reading people and making accurate assessments of them, it is an imperfect process.
Doesn’t it kind of make sense that if I am using an imperfect process in an imperfect world to identify a new employee, the imperfect candidate might just be the perfect choice?
By Scott Arney, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union.
This article is part of Arney's new series, entitled A New Use for an Old Cliché.
This installment is part of Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.