What Your Kids’ Basketball Coach Knows

I know of a youth basketball coach (we’ll call him Jim) who is undefeated for the past six years. But as a result of Jim’s success, other coaches often complained that Jim always ends up with the best team because of unfair politics within the league. This isn’t the case, because every coach gets an equal opportunity in selecting his players from the same pools of kids within the specific age group.

Jim ends up with the best team because he applies the two most important recruitment fundamentals, which are research and networking. These fundamentals are transferable and will assist HR departments in generating superior placement results from their internal recruitment staff.

Resumes Are Overrated

Like most internal recruiters, the coaches rely on the resume and the interview as the primary tools in selecting players for their teams. In this case, the resumes are the kids’ visual appearance of having the physicality, versatility, and athleticism needed for the sport of basketball. The interview is the kids’ try-out performance of mini drills that are collectively evaluated by all coaches.

Jim doesn’t use the resume as his primary tool in selecting his players because the resume doesn’t tell him what’s inside of the player. Specifically, the kid’s motivation, knowledge level, and desire for the game.

Jim makes it his job to know each of the kids on a personal level. This is possible for the following reasons:

  • Jim has built a solid winning reputation over the years and has developed a great relationship with officials of the league. The officials organize, maintain, and track statistics of all kids in the league. As a result, Jim knows most of the kids by their first names, he can identify the strongest players, ones who are improving, as well as the ones who are overrated.
  • Jim is very informed about the policies and procedures of the league and on occasions has informally counseled many parents on the benefits of their kids participating in a team sport. Since he speaks the language the kids understand, Jim is able to provide valuable feedback to parents to help them better understand and motivate their kids. By talking to parents on a personal level, Jim has learned the kids’ true motivation for participation, their personalities, the ones that will need special attention because of medical/mental conditions, and the ones who concurrently participate in another activity that may conflict with practice and games.
  • Jim attends every game, mostly as a scout; he knows which kids are team- players, shooters, rebounders, ball handlers, defenders, hustlers, slackers, or new to the sport.

Jim always ends up with the best team because he only selected players he knew personally. He got to know each player by outworking the other coaches and applying the basic recruiting fundamentals of researching and networking. Most important, he has heightened his perception from simply a coach to be perceived as a partner, an advisor, a mentor, a friend, and a winner. And he does it all in his spare time.

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In his day job, Jim is a “big biller” headhunter!

These days, strong recruiters like Jim are taking a back seat to the new recruiting model: online recruitment tools supported by an internal recruiting staff.

Here are four things HR must do to develop talented internal recruiting performers like Jim to maximize their investments in online recruitment tools:

  1. Convert your recruiting team from generalist to specialist functions. Bad hires are often the result of a recruiter matching job description to resumes and presenting jobs that he does not understand to candidates he doesn’t know. This recruiting approach also compromises the integrity of the specific job opportunity and tarnishes the reputation of the company to a limited candidate pool. It also wastes hiring managers’ time because it places the burden of the candidate selection process back into their hands. A specialist recruiter with a strong subject-matter expertise can quickly access a candidate’s competency, gain confidence, and generate respect and credibility with the hiring managers and candidates in that specialty. HR must recruit recruiters with specific industry knowledge or convert individuals with that specific industry knowledge into recruiters.
  2. Move recruiting from HR to sales and marketing. Prior to the Internet, recruiting and HR folks were never on the same page philosophically; one was focused on results and the other on procedures. Like sales and marketing, recruiting is one of the most challenging professions; it requires a certain type of individual with a competitive risk-taking mentality, strong self-discipline, and interpersonal skills to be successful. The typical HR personalities tend to be more cost driven, bureaucratic, and administrative. Having recruiting report to HR is certainly not a good marriage and will only guarantee mediocre recruiting performers.
  3. Change the compensation formula to a performance-driven formula. Historically, recruiting as a profession has been the highest-paying hard work and the lowest-paying easy work. To develop the skills necessary for success, new recruiters were only given a desk and a telephone and were compensated by a small draw against future commissions. Present HR compensation structures rewards average recruiters by providing a steady paycheck along with fringe benefits, multiple jobs to work, and access to an abundant supply of resumes. These structures also deprive good recruiters of two important elements that propel them to greatness: the drive to be the best and the fear of failure. To encourage and motivate individual creativity, recruiters should be paid a small base salary plus incentives and quarterly bonuses for stellar placement performances. Placement performances would include: total number of placements completed; number of high-impact placements; opportunity-hires placements, hard-to-find candidates placements; and creativity in finding new methods to recruit candidates without increasing expenses. More dollars in the recruiters’ pocket is a stronger personal motivator than saving the employer more money in agency fees.
  4. Create internal competition among your recruiting team. There are limited incentives to be the best if your recruiters are spending too much time searching the Internet for resumes and chasing hiring managers with non-stop emails! In order to encourage a recruiter to outwork his counterparts, HR must create different levels of achievement within their department, where the top recruiters are given distinctions that separate those from the average performers. For example, top recruiters are given individual offices, marginal recruiters should work in cubicles, and low performers should be shown the door. This type of recruiting environment will transform average recruiters into superstars and attract strong sales-oriented talent to the recruiting field. In addition, hiring managers and candidates are always confident and responsive when they know that they are working with the best recruiter.

The good recruiters like Jim are not born with great recruiting skills; they must be trained and challenged in an environment that encourages and rewards exemplary performers.

Ken Forrester is managing director of A.W. Forrester Co., a national search firm (954-722-7554) that specializes in employee benefits consulting, health insurance brokerage, and sales. He started his recruitment career in 1990 and is responsible for completing search assignments for senior management positions while developing and mentoring junior associates.