Talent Scouts: Not Just for Saturdays Anymore!


In keeping with the football theme from last week’s post, not only did I marry a man who loves football, my Father also has a tremendous love of the game. My Dad played for the mighty undefeated Marcellus Mustangs in a suburb of Syracuse, NY in 1963. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about that team or how certain aspects of how that high school senior year season impacts my dad’s life. Since my dad grew up in the Syracuse area and went to SU, I love watching SU football and have heard the great stories of Jim Brown or when my Dad got to see Ernie Davis play a basketball game at his high school.
So when the movie The Express came out I was rather excited to see it.

You are probably wondering what this has to do with recruiting. I see many parallels in how a college team recruits and scouts for their talent and how businesses can and should scout for theirs.

When scouting season starts college football coaches across the country are putting together a list of key players that they would like to add to their team in order to make it better. They have already put together their hiring plan, they know where there gaps are for the next season and need to go out and recruit talent.

The first step is they research who are key players in high school at different positions that will address a current or future gap they need filled. Who can make an immediate impact to their organization in the coming year or with the proper coaching can become a star.

They also look at their competition to see who they are meeting with or who is interested in speaking with them. To be effective in step one and two the company or organization is constantly networking – talking to folks in the industry to leverage their success. Think of college football scouts and the similarities between that and IT team members from different companies at a networking event or employee referrals of talent.

Third, they start building a relationship with the high school player letting them know they are interested. Because college coaches know that the competition for the top talent in the nation is fierce, they devote a lot of time to this step. They work on their “pitch” to let that top player know why their university is better than the others. It is in this step that most businesses fail. They do not expend any time or energy on the “pitch” of their company. Many businesses just assume that this top talent would be lucky to work at their company. Businesses need to realize that the true top talent is constantly being scouted and recruited by the competition.

In order to make the best impression on this top player, the best coaches will take the time to get to know the person behind the athlete. They will learn what is important to that person other than football. What type of education are they interested in? How do they like to spend their free time? What other factors will they consider when making the decision of where they will play football in college? When I am building a relationship with a candidate I spend time learning what criteria they will use to make their career decision: is it the type of technology, size of company, industry etc…

The best coaches also know the importance of testimonials. They bring in their talent officer. In the movie The Express, Coach Schwartzwalder brought the already legendary Jim Brown to Elmira, NY to talk to Ernie Davis about his rewarding SU experience. Near the end of the film, Coach Schwartzwalder repeats the step by having the Heisman Trophy winning Davis come with him to recruit Floyd Little. SU Coach Schwartzwalder knew the importance of a good talent officer delivering a testimonial to a top talent recruit. Businesses need to pick a talent officer who can help to close that deal with a candidate on “why this business?”

In college football we see that the scouting and recruiting process is an ongoing event. It is not viewed as a one and done activity. Although attrition in business does not happen with the same 4 or 5 year clockwork that presides over college football, we know that the talent at our company WILL turn over, and turn over often. Businesses need to have the same perspective on the scouting and recruiting process as these universities. They need to leverage the networking tools at their disposal to ensure they gain intelligence on who is the top talent, and devise a strategy on how they will “pitch” their company to that talent. Maybe my husband is right, “You can learn a lot from college football!”

Photo credit Syracuse Blog

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One Response

  1. […] the main goal, and only focus on themselves. Both coaches and managers top priority should be to build a close bond with prospective employees/athletes. They develop a strong trust, and the feeling of being wanted by the organization, which in the end […]

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