The Winning Formula

Introducing Radar: the Nova way to assess talent at scale

September 28, 2021

I often get asked the following 2 questions around Nova’s assessment of talent:

  • How do you assess talent at Nova?
  • How do you define talent?

With this brief post, I am starting a series on our assessments to bring light and transparency to them. Thus, I will showcase the level of sophistication, meritocracy, and accuracy of our assessments. Hopefully, they will answer those 2 questions I often get asked.

How do you assess talent at Nova? Introducing Radar

At Nova, we pride ourselves in having developed a technology (which we call Radar, following our galactic metaphor), which enables us to assess candidates at scale. This technology enables:

  • Nova members to easily nominate potential candidates (yes, remember that Nova is by-invitation-only and that members have limited nominations)
  • Candidates to take the Nova assessment in a digital format in about 30-40 minutes (which they can complete in one sitting or each step at a different time)  
  • Our Talent Assessment Team to evaluate those candidates in less than 30 minutes, keeping a “high tech, high touch” approach in which our algorithm scores over 200 data points, yet the whole process is still being driven by a human being. In fact, all accepted candidates get a customized onboarding, and while rejected candidates get personalized feedback, both written by a trained Talent Scout. Plus, rejected candidates have the opportunity to apply again after a period of time depending on their seniority and performance in the process.

The Radar selection process

The Radar process that nominated candidates must take before getting into Nova includes 4 key parts:

  1. A background section, which tries to understand the candidate’s professional and educational experience, as well as their international experience, and their command of languages. In this stage, candidates are also asked to submit a motivational text to join the Nova Community. This takes candidates between 5 and 15 minutes.
  2. A references section, which looks for external validation on the candidate. For instance, if the candidate has a boss with a high professional profile vouching for them, that will give them more points than having a relative with a less relevant profile. This takes candidates between 1 and 3 minutes.
  3. A cognitive ability (IQ) section, where candidates have to prove their logic and numeric reasoning skills in an inference-based test. This takes candidates between 5 and 10 minutes.
  4. A video interview, which assesses candidates based on 6 of the most demanded competencies: drive, leadership, problem-solving, adaptability, self-awareness, and communication. This takes candidates between 6 and 12 minutes.

Assessing candidates with Radar

The 4-step assessment process I just described enables us to get over 200 data points which we then utilize through a proprietary scoring algorithm to give candidates a final score. Based on that score, Talent Scouts will determine whether or not the person is ready to join Nova:

  • If the score is above a certain threshold, they will get accepted. The Talent Scout will manually craft their onboarding process with specific Nova members we suggest they connect with, specific events, or opportunities that we believe might be relevant for them based on their profile and interests.
  • If the score is below a certain threshold, the candidate will get rejected. The Talent Scout will write a personalized feedback message, stressing the points that we liked about their profile and, most importantly, the areas for improvement we see.
  • Should the score be in between those 2 thresholds, a more senior Nova team member will re-assess the candidate and will make a final decision, considering diversity and equality of opportunities.

As you can see, once Radar enables us to get the right data on the candidate in an efficient way, the scoring algorithm becomes really the “secret sauce” to determine who qualifies to become a Nova member and who doesn’t.

How does Nova define talent? The Radar algorithm

This is probably the most “controversial”, yet the most important thing about Radar. First of all, I would like to clarify that there are as many definitions of talent as people on this planet, so we do not mean to be the sole owners of such a complex definition. Moreover, there are many types of talent, or intelligence, that with the data we capture we are not even close to being able to assess. For example sportive, artistic, culinary, or medical talents are completely out of scope for us in the sense that we cannot (and do not know how to) assess them. We do have some professional athletes and artists in the network, but who have entered for other reasons.

Our definition of talent is actually simple: the set of skills, behaviors, and experiences that will make the future leaders successful in most public and private jobs, including but not limited to business managers, consultants, bankers, lawyers, engineers, sales representatives, marketers, product managers, data scientists, entrepreneurs, and public servants, amongst others.

Our experience and research have enabled us to assess the following 9 parameters that we include in our algorithm:

1. Professional Experience, based on their LinkedIn and Resume

  • Not all jobs are equally complex nor they are equally demanding in terms of the talent they require. For instance, it is not equally complicated to join McKinsey or BCG in a Consulting Manager role than to join a Big4 in an entry-level role in a support function.
  • We look for candidates with great job experiences, both from a role and company perspective, as that correlates with future success and impact.
  • Thus, each professional experience will be scored according to the role and the company. Then, we will consider all experiences of the candidate and come up with a final professional experience score.

2. International Experience, based on LinkedIn and Resume

We live in a world with fewer and fewer barriers, where being able to work in an international setting with different people is becoming a must. Therefore, our algorithm favors candidates with experience in more countries for a longer period of time. We have noticed that these international experiences are a good indicator of skills such as adaptability to change or tolerance.

3. Education, based on LinkedIn, Resume, and Grades

  • Similar to the professional experience, not all educational experiences are equally relevant as not all universities are equally demanded and demanding.
  • Grades have proven to be one of the best factors that correlate with professional success, so we take them into account. There is no “minimum” grade, but having good grades is considered a positive factor since they imply perseverance, hard work, and some kind of cognitive ability.
  • The more senior a candidate is, the less important this aspect is.

4. Extracurricular activities, based on LinkedIn and Resume

The future leaders of the world need to be curious people who can understand how different topics relate to each other. Therefore, we value people who have gone over the traditional path and expanded their knowledge and experiences through extracurricular activities.

5. Sports and Music, based on LinkedIn and Resume

Professional careers in music and sports build perseverance and help with time management, which both then correlate with professional success.

6. Social Impact, based on LinkedIn and Resume

  • Although we do not have any data yet proving the impact on career development, we strongly believe that caring for the world and for other people is a great trait of the future leaders of the world.
  • Considering social impact activities as a bonus point is a choice made by the management of the company as a key trait of our community. We believe we will make the world a better place by doing so.

7. Entrepreneurial Experience, based on LinkedIn and Resume

  • Entrepreneurial skills are key to launch new ventures and also to transform corporations in a world being disrupted by technology.
  • Entrepreneurial experiences demonstrate initiative, grit, and the drive needed to really make an impact in the world, so we value them positively.

8. Cognitive Ability, based on the IQ test

Research shows that cognitive ability is one of the better predictors of job success. Critical thinking, inference, and problem-solving tests are the best ways to test the candidate’s cognitive ability.

9. The most important competences we evaluate on the Video Interview are:

  • Drive: we look for the future leaders of the world… driven people who strive for more and have a healthy ambition to make an impact in society.
  • Leadership: we look for people who have a good understanding of what good leadership looks like, and who can become role models. In our quest to find the “future leaders” of the world, this competence is of utmost importance.
  • Problem Solving: the world is becoming ever more complex, so the people who can drive it forward must understand this complexity and have great problem-solving skills. For instance, being able to have a structured approach to challenges and being able to break bigger problems into smaller ones.
  • Adaptability: the world is fast-changing and there is a bigger need for people who are able to adapt to different environments and learn fast. Adaptability is included in most research papers as one of the most important skills of the XXIst century.
  • Self-awareness: we look for exceptional individuals that are humble enough to understand their mistakes and learn and grow from them. But we also look for people who are not too modest and are aware of what they are good at, so they can maximize their potential. Self-awareness makes better leaders and is also critical for the Nova community to run smoothly cohesively.
  • Communication: one of the most important skills of the XXIst century, we look for exceptional communicators capable of both transmitting complex ideas in a simple and appealing way, but who can also bring people around them to drive change.

The way we compute all these skills and the weights we apply on each depending on the type of profile is the “secret sauce” that enables us to distinguish the best from the good.

I will give more transparency and keep answering other FAQs on our selection process in my next posts.

So if you are curious about …

  • How many people actually pass the selection process?
  • What happens when Nova grows too big?

… keep an eye on our blog!

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