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An ‘agile talent’ is mostly defined by his/her learning ability, less by diplomas or past experience

Interview with Ralf Knegtmans, author of “Agile Talent : Nine Essential Steps for Selecting Tomorrow’s Top Talent”, who is for the first time in Romania.


Workforce and recruitment is at issue nowadays more than ever, with all this rapid changes the society is experiencing at all levels (social, economic, technology) and your book “Agile Talent: Nine Essential Steps for Selecting Tomorrow’s Top Talent” is precisely tackling this issue. Why do you think it is harder than ever to select the right candidate for a job and to hire him/her? Why has this become such a challenge now?

For three reasons (in my country and for the bigger part of Europe). First, we have an ever greying labour population (a bigger group of elder employees than ever before and a relative shortage of younger employees and managers), a very tight labour market AND simultaneously Employers have to find talent that are both suited for today’s jobs and roles, but ideally speaking must be ready for tomorrow’s jobs as well. As technology advances at high speed, we all know that the requirements change rapidly and we need to find people that are ready for tomorrow’s labour market and demands.

In brief, what would be those nine steps to select an ‘agile talent’?

  1. Take the context into account
  2. Select based on ability, motivation and identity
  3. Make the selection objective and quantifiable
  4. Use a weighted feedback form
  5. Scan the candidate’s background
  6. Examine his/her learning ability
  7. Get the candidate to leave his/her comfort zone
  8. Carry out valid testing
  9. Conduct meaningful reference checks

Especially step nr.6 is crucial if you want to hire employees suited for tomorrow’s market!

What would be the job seekers’ most suitable skills and advantages to be the first choice, and to be ultimately hired?

Skills like learning ability, adaptability quotient, resilience, self-reflection, curiosity become crucial in tomorrow’s world, as for a big part it will be new challenges and based on the candidate’s previous experience.

Define a top talent. Any smart or genius guy can be suitable for any job, any position, any company? Also, define a top recruiter….

An Agile Toptalent is a person who is willing and able to learn from new experiences and then apply this quickly in situations that are often unforeseen and challenging. These top talents are able to set new frontiers and adapt easily to new situations.

Top recruiters are the ones able to identify the agile talents, not based on their diplomas and past experience, but based on who they are (personality traits), what makes them tick (primary social skills or motivations) and in particular their learning agility and possibility to adapt themselves.

Can Human Resources be considered the new ‘sales department’, to a more insightful extent?

No, I think this is not just an HR task, but the task of every manager within the company and especially top management should be able to give possible new hires a flavor of what to expect and why they should work at that specific company. If there is a certain ‘purpose’ within the company, it is easier to attract and retain talented people than when you just paying them a salary, without a higher purpose and strategy. People like to do work that has a meaning or contains a challenge, rather than just work for money and profit maximizing for the company.

You are coming to Romania for a major workforce national conference. Is your first time in Romania? What differentiates Romania from other countries on this topic (workforce, labour market, skilled workforce)? I mean, are there particular challenges on this topic ahead Romanian managers, CEOs, or are they integrated in the same big picture worldwide?

Yes, it is my first time and therefore I do not know yet about the specific situation in Romania, but I am anxious to find out more during my stay here!

How important is the state’s involvement in this picture? As, in my view, like education, social issues like the labor market and workforce must be integrated in a country project

I think that the workforce management is (for a big part at least) a matter of the free market on one hand, yet the state should do their utmost to make sure that the education system is focused on tomorrows labor market in order to make sure that the inhabitants are ready for the jobs of the future.

What are the trends in the HR field and what are the challenges ahead in the upcoming years? What are the most disturbing elements?

HR used to be a profession where things were not necessarily being measured and where a more fact-based approach was not always expected. This is about to change. Data and analytics will enter the HR arena and change the profession. As a consequence, I expect that HR will be positioned in the board more often.

About Alina Grigoras Butu