Why Recruiters Fail and What Leaders Can Do About It


Have you ever met an amazing recruiter? Perhaps you met one during an employment search or one who works for your organization and brings you top-flight talent. If it's the latter, hold on to him or her tightly because these people are hard to find.

As a fan of both sports and business, I often draw parallels to the similarities. In my article on employee management, I spoke about the need for making changes to the team to improve the culture and move the organization forward. There can be no sacred cows! Part of that effort includes recruiting the best talent, and it is not as easy as finding the right "resume bullets."


With recruiting, I think a great organization we should emulate is the NCAA and, specifically, college football. This is the apex of recruiting, and only through the best in class recruiting can the cream truly rise to the top. In fact, most of the best college football coaches are top-flight recruiters. If you have any interest in learning about what goes into College Football recruiting, I highly recommend Meat Market: Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting.

The realization all of us need to understand in business is simple; talent wins. Talent wins because the right team leadership, talent and culture doesn't need to be micromanaged. The best people have initiative, drive, and hold themselves accountable to much higher standards than any "manager" could.

If that's the case, then why don't more organizations take the approach of college football in recruitment? That's the real question! The recruitment of players is a core business objective for football programs. If they don't get the top talent, they lose games. If they lose too many games, the head coach is fired. It's easy to hold coaches accountable because the wins and losses are easy to measure.

In business, it's a bit harder, but the same process could be defined. In software, it could be successful sprints, product launch deadlines met, and or the lack of bugs. In hospitality, it could be measured in productivity, food cost, and customer satisfaction. In entertainment, it could be measured in production costs, ROI to marketing dollar invested, and, ultimately, the profitability of the production.


Regardless of your industry, it makes sense to figure out how to measure success first before you focus on who to recruit. I'm sure Urban Meyer knows exactly what he needs out of a running back before he hits the road to recruit for that position. Identifying how to measure success in the role you are recruiting for is paramount. How else can you be sure you have the right person?

So, now what? Do you post the job with a definition of success and wait for the responses? You might be able to do that if you are Apple or Google, but what if you are ACME Incorporated and you haven't made the top 500 places to work survey yet? If you are that company, and most are, you need to do it better! The answer is not to hire a college graduate, give them a job description, and let them off into the wild. College football coaches don't send interns or coaching assistants to evaluate talent. They have position coaches review films, watch games and identify the right persons for that position.


In business, many people sometimes rely too much on job descriptions and resume experience bullets. When that happens, you miss out on talented people with intangible qualities that could change the game for your organization. I'm not saying that experience doesn't matter, but in my experience, the right talent can learn fast and see things that might not be as obvious to the candidate who has worked his whole career in the same field.

The blend of experience and talent is something that a seasoned recruiter who might have experience in performing the job themselves can see. If you only have junior recruiters, you need a very active hiring manager to work hand in hand with them to make sure that no hidden gems get missed because they lacked a keyword or a bullet.

Recruiting is a core function in all competitive businesses. It makes sense to hire strong recruiters and managers who value the recruiting process and are willing to put the necessary time in to find those hidden gems. At the end of the day, talent wins games. If you find the right team and smart employees, you will win championships!


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