March Madness…Let the Games Begin

Mar 17, 2011

I was going to write about recruiting for retention, but then I got sidetracked. The NCAA tournament starts today, and I have done my research for my basketball pool at the office. Last year, I entered two brackets; a first in Goodman history mind you. (I always like to be a trailblazer, you know). I went with Obama’s picks as one of my brackets as I figured he has a lot of professional help on his side so why not take advantage of all that statistical information our tax dollars pay for. Then I selected my own. I tied with myself in the end so I was equally skilled in picking my own bracket as I was with Obama’s!

I would hope President Obama spends as much time working on creating jobs as he does his basketball picks, but alas, creating jobs is my full time focus, which got me thinking about how much recruiting is like basketball.

Walter Bond, a former NBA player and fellow member of the NSA, makes a point that there are only a certain number of people that play for the NBA each year. Each team in the NBA starts the season with the 12-man active roster and a 3-man inactive list, giving a total of about 450 players. I wanted to take that idea to the next level and see how many people play division one NCAA basketball each year. Wikipedia tells us there are 346 schools in Division I, which gives us approximately 4,152 – 5,190 players.

I liken these statistics to our jobs in the recruiting industry. As direct hire recruiters, we are looking for the best of the best. The cream of the crop. The stars that, God willing, just might make it to the pros if they’re good enough and don’t get hurt along the way. It’s up to us to move this process along expediently.

One of my current co-workers, Mike Mardesich, used to play college basketball for the University of Maryland. Since to many people college basketball is a true religion I feel this makes him one step closer to godliness. (At least at my house this time of year.) I sat down with him to discuss his experience of being a sought-after college athlete. In talking with Mike, I learned that there are a lot of parallels between basketball and recruiting:

  • As with college basketball, recruiting starts early.
    • Mike’s process started his junior year of high school. As one of the top 100 players in the country, he had hundreds of schools recruiting him, including Harvard. He chose Maryland because the ACC was where he wanted to play.
    • Many of my best clients today are candidates I helped find jobs early on in their careers.
  • Non-competes are common in both careers.
    • If a player chooses the wrong school and they want to leave, they must sit out a year at the new school before they can play. It is a big penalty. Coaches and employers can find a new player/employee. Choose wisely…
  • Recruiting and basketball take finesse.
    • Depending on the level, both basketball and recruiting get more intense as there is more at stake for all sides.
    • Learning to negotiate the finer points of someone’s offer or particulars in a complex contract takes time and expertise. So does learning and understanding game strategy.
  • On or off the court, you are still representing the team.
    • Unless you are a known talent, you won’t get recruited. Become known as a thought leader in your industry and your clients will recruit you to help them.
  • You have to practice to compete.
    • I read an article recently that stated at any given time, someone, somewhere, doing the same thing you do, is currently practicing their art and getting better. If you don’t regularly hone your skills and obtain additional education to become the best, when you meet them head to head, you’ll lose.
    • Whether you are a player or a recruiter, you get better when you are playing with/against higher competition. One way to ensure you are one step ahead of your competition is to ensure you are honing your skills and obtaining continuing professional education (such as the programs offered at the Fordyce Forum).
  • You have to be comfortable and build trust to be successful.
    • High performance teams have a level of trust amongst the players and with the coach. This trust is what led my co-worker to choose to play for Maryland instead of the countless other offers, including Harvard’s.
    • If your candidates and clients can’t trust you, you have no hope of being successful, whether you work on your own or in a team. And if you do work in teams or partnerships, you need to build trust amongst your teammates by performing the way you would want them to perform — at your best at all times.
  • Success is measured by both team achievement and individual stats.
    • Find a good team if you are not a sole practitioner. High scorers on bad teams are not remembered or celebrated.

The athletes who are privileged to play in the Tournament in the coming weeks may only get the opportunity to take a few shots at the Big Dance if they are lucky. Don’t waste any chances at greatness — the clock is ticking on your career as a professional recruiter. Make every shot count.

March is the time for basketball players to shine, so as recruiters let’s share the spotlight and meet the opposition head on. The future stars of tomorrow are moving up the ranks today.  Establish trust-based relationships now so that when you need to call on them they’ll choose you as the person they want to work with.

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