Posted by Julia Bowden, Talent Manager, Ochre House
emerging talent
Posted on January 8th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Emerging Talent: how will your organisation find its own Bilbo Baggins in 2013? (Part 1)

In the changing landscape of emerging talent who wouldn’t be interested in a magic formula for engaging a passive candidate and putting them through a development programme that transforms them into a business hero? Having recently seen the new film version of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I think the story of Bilbo Baggins may just offer some interesting inspiration for reinvigorating our approach to emerging talent in 2013.

In case you are not familiar with the The Hobbit, let me set the scene.  Bilbo Baggins, hobbit of Bag End, is living very happily – if rather unambitiously – in his community in the Shire and is very much not seeking adventure or change of any type for, “We are plain quiet folk, and I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.” [1] Next thing, Gandalf the wizard arrives unexpectedly on Bilbo’s doorstep, brings a band of unruly dwarves for dinner, and in a very short time manages to persuade both Bilbo and the sceptical leader of the band of dwarves, Thorin, that Bilbo Baggins has all the right qualities to join their company and play a vital part in their quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and its treasures from Smaug the Dragon. It is thus, using somewhat unconventional tactics, Gandalf successfully recruits an emerging talent who becomes a hero of the story!

Of course, I’m not sure how organisations might react to those responsible for emerging talent programmes modelling themselves on the wizard Gandalf the Grey, but I venture there is something in it! Therefore, it is with JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit in mind, I offer a series of three pointers to help focus your thinking about how you might reinvigorate your organisation’s approach to the emerging talent market this year. The first is a reminder to look in unfamiliar places.

Gandalf reflects a predicament that may be all too familiar to those seeking the best of the emerging talent pool when he says, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone“.[2]  Those of us looking for new talent that will thrive in our particular organisations can all too easily fall into a pattern of recruitment that lacks a certain spark of innovation and interest for the top talent out there.

One gets the impression that in this case Gandalf has exhausted all the usual and familiar sources and is now prepared to do things a bit differently, although using Gandalf’s tactic of identifying a preferred candidate and then turning up unannounced on their doorstep with thirteen of the candidate’s most rowdy potential future colleagues before demanding dinner and thrusting a contract of employment in front of them is perhaps not a recommended model for your 2013 emerging talent strategy! However, I urge you not to underestimate the importance of being creative about getting your emerging talent opportunities in front of as many of the correctly qualified candidates as possible, and this means being prepared to look in unfamiliar places.

A recent review[3] indicated that top UK employers target an average of 19 universities for graduate recruitment programmes, with most lists including the same five universities! In many ways this did not surprise me as time and budget constraints often mean that organisations too readily go back to the same handful of universities to recruit their emerging talent without re-evaluating the options by posing such questions as:

  • Is our organisation’s selection of target institutions based on an up to date knowledge of the specialities and performance of colleges and universities and their individual departments?
  • How is our organisation engaging with the recruitment of school leavers and apprentices given that emerging talent programmes should no longer be the preserve of graduates?

We all know that having the right people, in the right place, at the right time is the key to competitive advantage but, like Gandalf, we may improve our ability to attract and retain the right emerging talent by challenging accepted recruitment practice!

What’s your top tip for finding emerging talent in unfamiliar places?

[3] The Graduate Market in 2012/ High Fliers Research



  1. [...] my previous blog I looked at how the wizard Gandalf’s recruitment of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, for an adventure [...]

  2. [...] Hobbit might inspire those involved in the world of emerging talent to look in unfamiliar places (part 1) and to embrace diversity like never before (part 2). In this final part of the trilogy I am looking [...]

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