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What Caught My Eye: New Nasca Lines Hint at Hidden Talent

A series of weekly outside-the-box news stories and the lessons they hold for recruiters, by TAtech CEO Peter Weddle.

Researchers discover over 100 new ancient designs in Peru's Nazca lines | Reuters

Most of us have heard of the Nazca lines in Peru. These ancient drawings can only be seen from above – you can’t tell what you’re looking at when standing in front of them on the ground – but once you get high enough to actually “see” them, you realize they are intriguingly beautiful depictions of life on our planet.

Nobody knows why these figures were drawn. First discovered in the 1920s, they date back more than 2,000 years, to pre-Columbian times. Though called drawings, they’re actually a more original form of expression. The artists dug shallow trenches into Peru’s desert plain to reveal the different colored soil underneath and then, using only their mind’s eye, traced clear and precise images of cats, snakes, whales, birds, llamas and even humans across the terrain.

Now, almost a century after they were originally recognized and catalogued, more than one hundred more figures have been discovered. They were, as the saying goes, hidden in plain sight. The known figures cover such a vast expanse of terrain that it’s been difficult, at least until recently, to view the totality of the figures in detail. Thanks to more extensive field surveys and drone photos, however, that problem has now been solved.

Using this more accurate means of analyzing entire images, scientists have found similar figures within the much larger original drawings. These “new” depictions are unlike the original creations – they’re smaller and can be seen from the ground – but they are undoubtedly the work of the original artists. They too portray animals and humans from Peru’s ancient past. In effect, they are expressions of the same talent, but must be seen in a different way.

What Do These New Nasca Figures Signal to Recruiters?

Today’s talent market is a zero-sum game … at least if it’s seen in the traditional way. Economists (and HR/TA professionals) have long defined the market by comparing the number of posted vacancies to the number of job seekers, as detailed in the U.S. Department of Labor’s monthly JOLTS report. And according to its data, there are now many more openings – almost double, in fact – than there are people looking for work.

What does that mean? There isn’t enough talent to go around. In a zero-sum talent market, the only way to recruit new hires is by poaching them from other employers (while also protecting your own talent from poaching by competing employers). The net effect is that recruiting now resembles chess. You have to be on offense and defense simultaneously and all of the time.

As the new Nasca lines reveal, however, there is a way to solve this dilemma. Every employer has a wealth of talent hiding in plain sight. Recruiters just need to see it in a different way. For years now, recruiters have been posting jobs, receiving applications and archiving resumes in their applicant tracking system databases. Since only one person was selected for each of their openings, the vast majority of that talent has been untouched and unrecognized since their records were first created. In effect, unselected has meant unqualified and unseen.

A more careful survey of that population would quickly reveal that to be a misleading misperception. For example, there are plenty of silver medalists in the database – the runner-up for each previous vacancy – and others with skills that, for whatever reason, were unseen or discounted for those vacancies. Both of those cohorts have the potential to be credible prospects for the openings that are available today. In effect, each and every archived resume is an expression of talent, but they must be seen in a different way. And, the recruiters who can do that will free their employer from the tyranny of a zero-sum talent market.

Food for Thought,

If you’ve enjoyed this edition of “What Caught My Eye,” read some of my other posts at the TAtech Blog.

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can download his latest book – The Neonaissance – FOR FREE at And, if you don't have time to read the entire book, just download a short excerpt of his inspirational message.