Hire for Innovation

T-Shaped Talent is In

What do NASA, Palantir, and IDEO have in common?


They don’t hire just to fill roles. They hire for aptitude, leadership, and passion! Easier said than done. Or is it?

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, likes to divide candidates into two categories, “T-shaped” and “I-shaped.” The vertical stroke represents depth of skill whereas the horizontal stroke represents creativity, curiosity, and empathy. In other words, T-shapes often thrive in the collaboration process because they love building on the ideas and perspectives of others.

While T-shapes’ interests span many arenas, I-shapes tend to be more focused in one discipline.


When NASA’s Director of HR Brady Pyle hires, he’s thinking about supporting a journey to Mars. He looks for “passion for exploration” and a "unique combination of effective teamwork, leadership, interpersonal, and analytical skills.”


Palantir, a Silicon Valley tech company, doesn’t stop at the best cyber and data analytics talent. They look for CS majors with interests beyond coding… say fine art, or film studies. This is yet another strategy aimed at T-shapes that are deeply skilled and bring fresh viewpoints. 

One of our own rockstar hire here at Piazza is a Cornell English grad who took advanced computer science courses. In fact, we found him on Piazza Careers by using that exact search query.

Hiring for innovation sounds lofty, until you have access to data-rich intelligence and a unique ability to directly connect with great candidates. On Piazza Careers, there is a virtual sea of data to start your search based on your vision of an ideal hire. 


Piazza Careers has an average of 700+ data points on graduating students (including courses, majors, classes TA'ed, professor endorsements, programming skills, work experience, diversity, clubs, and job interests). How is this possible?

1.8 million technical students, including 98% of CS majors at the top schools, spend three hours a night on our classroom discussion platform, Piazza Q&A.

On Piazza Careers, it’s possible to search for both T and I-shaped candidates. For example, to hire for T-shaped talent, look for ‘Top Students.’ This signifies that a student is highly engaged, collaborating with classmates, and receiving professor endorsements for correct answers to other students’ questions. For leadership traits, look for student athletes or club leaders. If you’re looking for more narrowly focused I-shaped talent, try excluding double majors and adding more role-specific qualifiers (i.e. “Show me CS majors who are experts in Java and Python, who have TA’d advanced Algorithms and been coding since high school”).

Emerging talent with elite skill sets are the innovators and leaders of tomorrow. With the STEM skills gap already upon us, it’s critical that companies set themselves up to compete now. This is not basic college recruiting or going through the motions, this is about finding truly transformational talent to stay competitive in today’s marketplace.

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