How do you recognize talent? It took me many years to find one common denominator for all rockstar consultants.

by JERRY SILFWER aka Doctor Spin
Expert in corporate communications and online persuasion

How do you recognize a rockstar consultant?

Having worked on the agency side for a long time, it has become clear to me that one “rockstar consultant” easily outweighs three or four average consultants. They make clients happier, they attract business (and other “rockstars”), and they put their mark on the agency as a whole.

  • What’s their secret?
  • How do you become one?
  • How do you hire them?

After years and years of recruiting and coaching trial and error, I’ve finally arrived at an answer.

Here goes:

The Diversity of Extraordinary Talent

In my career, I’ve worked alongside many PR professionals that could be characterized as “rockstar consultants.”

Some have been amazing account managers. Others strategic masterminds. Others creative geniuses. Others have been leaders, some inspiring, some actionable.

Some can light up a room with their charisma; some you won’t even notice until you see the quality of their work. Some are extroverts; some are introverts. Some are team players; some are individualists.

Still, there’s just something about them all:

  • You badly want them on your team.
  • They always find a way to blow your mind.
  • They make things look easy out-of-the-box.
  • Others push themselves around them.
  • They can’t help creating controversy and drama.
  • Mysteriously, they tend always to come out on top.
  • You can see it in that their eyes, that they “get it”.

There’s just something about them. But what is it?

The Trademark of a Rockstar Consultant

My good friend Richard Yams, Head of Content at Burson-Marsteller, writes:

“A previous place I worked for had a founder who said that he preferred to hire consultants that had good self-confidence and low self-esteem.”

Personally, I agree that many successful consultants have a strong inner drive that sometimes stems from dark places. But these people are also the ones who often seek alternative occupations later in their careers.

Instead, here’s the common denominator for every prominent talent I’ve ever worked with:

Rockstar consultants don’t need authority to tell them exactly how to succeed.

These individuals seem to have things already figured out – and they turn every task into an opportunity:

  • If you want them to take over a small client, they turn that client into a big one.
  • If they’re asked to do something, they look for innovative ways to get record results.
  • In feedback talks, they give you feedback on how you can help them succeed.

Ask yourself: Are you waiting for authority to tell you what to do or how to succeed? Are you waiting for authority to give you permission? Are you waiting for someone to give you a chance?

How to Spot Rockstar Consultants in Interviews

So, how do you determine if the candidate in front of is a rockstar consultant — or if he or she has rockstar potential?

Here’s what I do:

Prior to the interview, I give them a task. For instance, I could ask them to prepare and present a case study or maybe suggest some creative PR ideas. Then, I look at how they tackle this specific task:

1. Most candidates will focus on the task at hand and do their best to execute it as flawless as possible. Basically, they’re striving to get an A+ on the assignment. They want to hear the recruiter say, “wow, that’s the best way to do what we asked you to do.”

2. A few candidates will instead turn the assignment into an opportunity to change the rules to their benefit. They might say that the task was wrong; that ‘creative PR ideas’ wasn’t what this fictitious client needed — and instead present an innovative strategy.

Obviously, I would go for the second group of candidates. I would look for candidates who improves not only the outcome but the contextual framework, too.

Because that’s what rockstar consultants do.

How do you recognize talent? Please share in the comment section.


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Jerry Silfwer is the author of Doctor Spin, a PR blog that's been around for 15+ years. Via his agency Spin Factory, Jerry is advising brands on how to adapt to a 'digital first' world. In 2016, Cision Scandinavia named him "PR Influencer of the Year". Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, news anchor and television host, and their three-year-old son, Jack.


Guy Farmer

Great article. I might add that perhaps one of the characteristics of a transcendent consultant is that they help people find the answers inside them. I like the idea of creating some discomfort as well.

Jerry Silfwer

@Guy Farmer Thanks Guy, I appreciate you stopping by. Have a great Sunday!


Inspiring for a young mind, thanks!

Jerry Silfwer

PontusSilfwer Thanks, bro!


I like what your former colleague said, though I think I still only have the void and not the rest. Makes it look better anyway :)

Jerry Silfwer

uponacloud I’m sure that’s not true! :) Thanks for dropping a comment, appreciate it!


A previous place I did work for had a founder who said he preferred
to hire consultants that had good self-confidence and bad self-esteem.

His thinking was that bad self-esteem would make the
consultant always strive for delivering more to the client, in order to feel
loved and valuable. Good self-confidence on the other hand would help the
consultant to sell in his/her work properly to clients.
It was cynical thinking but I think he had a point. It also
makes me wonder why they hired me :)
/ Richard

Jerry Silfwer

RichardYams Quite cynical, but I can see that truth in that. When starting out in the business, I remember how much I felt I needed to prove myself. And still to this day I feel the same. It’s not quite rational, but it does seem to generate results.
So excellent advice Richard and thanks for sharing!

Per Frykman

Nice article – thanks – like the word Rockstar. I’ve had the great privilege of working with the reputation of some of them and what I see is that it all boils down to the expectations that they – and their reputation creates.


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