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Natural talent or hard work – which wins out when it comes to hiring?

15 Mar 2019

Do the naturally gifted succeed over the ones willing to put in the slog? Who wins out in the eyes of a hiring manager?

What matters more, that you be naturally endowed with particular gifts, or that you be willing to put in the grind to get your skills up to par? You would want to believe that it’s always the hardest workers who emerge victorious. Yet that may not necessarily be true.

Future Human

A study spearheaded by University College London found that although hard work and determination are often correlated with achievement, people are occasionally willing to give up a better-qualified candidate in order to take on a ‘naturally talented’ one. Furthermore, the study noted that this bias towards ‘naturals’ is often an unconscious one, making it difficult to correct.

It’s understandable why someone would be drawn to a naturally talented individual. There is something very attractive about what we believe to be innate ‘specialness’. Yet if we’ve learned anything from our examinations of hiring practices, our perception is often stained with illogical conditioning and other implicit biases. What we believe to be ‘natural talent’ could actually just be a rather short-sighted idea of who is more capable based on superficial markers.

For example, you may look at the tallest kid in a class and assume they have a ‘natural talent’ for basketball. Yet really, what you’re relying on is an assumption. You think that because they’re tall, they’ll find basketball easier. The ostensibly naturally talented child will be more likely to be put forward for athletic endeavours and picked for teams based on this. All the time and extra attention they’re likely to get turns that initial impression into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So really, while natural talent can win out, it probably shouldn’t. Hard work and perseverance should be rewarded. Ultimately, if you work hard enough, you should get just as far as a naturally talented person, if not further. Hiring managers and employees alike would do well to keep that in mind.

You don’t need to take my word for it either – in the immortal words of the prolific author Stephen King, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is hard work.”

For more on whether hard work beats natural talent, check out the infographic below brought to you by Davitt Corporate Partners.

Natural talent vs hard work infographic

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Davitt Corporate Partners

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Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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