5 Lessons Recruiters Can Learn From College Football



There’s something about the sound of a stadium full of fans cheering on their teams, the band playing in the background, that makes college football so exciting. As the season kicks off, that means fall is right around the corner, Saturdays are dedicated to watching games, and you have new hope for your favorite team to beat its opponents.

As a fan, I am particularly fascinated by how the teams become better each year. With some research and a YouTube video by Kyle Smith of Platform Sports League, I was able to find out more about the process of recruiting college athletes. Much to my surprise, I spotted many similarities between college recruiting and corporate recruiting. For example:

1. College Is Expensive — and So Is Hiring Someone

Universities invest in their players by offering scholarships. Employing someone is also an investment, albeit in the form of a paycheck and benefits instead.

These are expensive investments. As Investopedia points out, a standard benefits package usually costs around 25-40 percent of an employee’s salary. So, a $50,000/year employee really costs the company $62,500 to $70,000.

Sure, it’s a lot of money, but employers and college football teams alike know that when you get the right people, it’s a small price to pay for victory — whether in the office or on the field.

2. You Can’t Recruit in a Vacuum

Coaches recruit new players based on the current needs of the team and the strengths of the individual players. They think about the overall impact of adding a certain player to their team and make decisions accordingly.

Employers should view recruiting the same way. A candidate not only needs to proficiently do the job, but also needs to be a cultural fit. Each company has its own unique traditions and standards. Even if a person has the right skills, if they are not a good fit for the organization overall, hiring them can put a damper on employee engagement and overall productivity.

For more expert recruiting advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Recruiting Is a Team Sport

Decisions made when recruiting college football players are not made hastily. Many steps and people are involved in the process because the decision is that important. Numerous people weigh in on prospects, observing players on the field before deciding to make an offer or move on.

Companies should have similar processes. Even if you are a solopreneur, it is wise to assemble a panel of mentors, experts, and other business owners to help you with hiring decisions. Businesses that already have employees should consider forming a hiring board tasked with keeping the company culture flourishing. The board can include senior leaders, middle managers, and anyone else who might be a good fit. The important thing to remember is to set the standards high. If you don’t, you will settle for less than the best, and that never ends well. In the long run, it takes more effort to settle than it does to be patient and get the right people for your company with every hiring decision.

4. Always Have a Backup

If a player is out for a game or a season due to injury or other circumstances, there are backups who can fill in. When recruiting, you should have your own strings of candidates as well.

There is your top candidate, and then there is your second-choice candidate. Both should be promising, but neither will be ideal — because the perfect candidate simply doesn’t exist. Even the best candidates will have issues. Maybe your top candidate has all of the necessary traits and skills but has a long commute. Maybe they’re requesting higher compensation than you can afford. These reasons should not deter you from making an offer, but they also show the importance of have a second string of candidates. If your top candidate declines your offer, it’s good to have second-place candidates to fill in the gap.

5. Keep One Eye on the Present and One Eye on the Future

In addition to training the current teams, head coaches are always actively looking for new talent. There are a lot of really good players in high schools around the country, but they’re not all good fits for the team. College football coaches are very discerning when it comes to identifying up-and-coming talent that could be a match.

Your candidate search should similarly target specific people with certain skills; it should not be a generic search that simply brings in resumes. Quantity does not mean quality.

Even when there are no available positions, business owners should continually look for new team members. You never know what you might need in the future. Employee departures are often unforeseen, and you need to be ready to fill their vacant seats. New opportunities to expand the business may arise, and you’ll need people to run those new departments.

While it is important to look for future candidates, it is equally important to stay focused on your current employees. Keep them engaged and invest in their development, and your company will continue to succeed. If you take the focus off your current staff, your company will suffer — no matter how many great new candidates you identify.

So, what’s the secret to building a great team that brings your business to new levels of success? It may just be to follow the lead of college football coaches.

Jen Teague teaches startups and business owners how to minimize the headaches of bad hiring decisions. Her podcast on recruiting and hiring for small businesses and startups, #BeAHiringHero, is available on all popular podcast platforms.

Master the art of closing deals and making placements. Take our Recruiter Certification Program today. We’re SHRM certified. Learn at your own pace during this 12-week program. Access over 20 courses. Great for those who want to break into recruiting, or recruiters who want to further their career.
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