Draft Day: Hiring for Immediate Impact



After each college football season ends, football players become eligible to apply for the NFL draft, the ultimate reward for years of commitment, practice, and hard work.  Most of these athletes have spent their last 2-4 years playing college football at an extremely high level.  Every action they have taken, positive or negative, has been heavily scrutinized by their coaches, fans, and potential employers in the NFL.  Draft day finally comes and all of the information gathered at combines, private workouts, and online performance assessments allow NFL teams to make their decisions on who the best fit will be for their organization.  TV reporters and analysts use lines like “This person has great potential down the road” or “This person is going to make an immediate impact”.  Sound familiar to what companies do when hiring new employees?

Don’t we, as leaders, wish that we had all of the information that is provided to an NFL team when making a decision on hiring?  For most hiring leaders, 4-6 hours is spent interviewing an individual.  The background data we have is extremely limited (most times only a resume and social media checks) and we have to determine whether the information gathered from the candidate will make them a good fit for the specific position and for the organization as a whole.  As leaders in this day and age, we have to hire the person who we feel is going to make an immediate impact within our organization.  We don’t have the time to settle for the employee who shows “potential” because leaders must show sustained team performance year in and year out.  Just like an NFL coach, if our team is not consistently performing to meet the goals of our organization, we can be quickly looking for a job just like a NFL head coach coming off a 3 win and 13 loss season.

In addition, hiring the wrong people can have a major financial and cultural impact. Turnover costs have increased dramatically over the last several years.  In a recent article discussing workplace turnover costs, turnover costs showed the following:

  • For entry-level employees, it costs between 30% and 50% of their annual salary to replace them.*
  • For mid-level employees, it costs upwards of 150% of their annual salary to replace them.*
  • For high-level or highly specialized employees, you’re looking at 400% of their annual salary.*

* http://www.zenworkplace.com/2014/07/cost-employee-turnover/

Do you need 8 quarterbacks on your team?

The most successful teams, whether in business or in sports, have role players.  An NFL team each year will evaluate their current team and draft based on needs.  If an NFL team has a great quarterback, more than likely, they will draft for another position such as a lineman to block for them of a running back to carry the ball.  This same process holds true with hiring in business.  The most successful business teams I have seen are comprised of a diverse group of personality types and internal motivators.  Determine what each specific job will require to be successful, including past performance and ability to work with others.  Seek complementary talent and look to hire people who bring something different to your team (but do not settle for anything less than a 5 star recruit).  I have seen sales leaders not hire candidates who have the ability to be great in the present role because the individual does not show the potential to be a manager or trainer long term.  Losing sight of the position you are hiring for right now may lead to poor performance and decreased team dynamics.

What can you do to prepare?

Here are some areas to focus on to “draft” the best possible candidate for your open position:

  1. Work on your listening skills.  Leaders spend a lot of the time questioning candidates.  The information you gather is the most important part of this process.  Listening is a skill that is extremely important in sales and recruiting, yet is very rarely worked on in training.  Spend time with your leaders and trainers on a listening skills course and work to develop this extremely important but under appreciated skill.  Listening is a trait that will make someone a better leader,  a more complete sales person, a more caring spouse…pretty much any role that each of us play in our daily lives.
  2. Always have someone else join you in the interview process.  This is a great way for you to gain someone else’s point of view during the interview.  A candidate will respond to a question, and two interviewers will have differing perspectives on the response.  This is also a great way to empower current members of your team and work to develop them as future leaders.  At the end of each interview, compare notes on responses, energy levels, body expressions, and any other characteristics noted while conducting the interview.
  3. Have potential candidates spend a full day with a successful member of your team.  There is nothing worse than hiring a person and six months later looking to hire again for the same position.  This can occur because the candidate told the interviewer what they wanted to hear during the interview process (new leaders are commonly interviewing candidates without receiving any formal training).  Often times though, a new hire is not prepared to handle the day-to-day requirements of the position because they were not fully aware of what the job entailed.  Always have a potential new hire spend a day in the life of the job they are interviewing for.  Give them the ability to ask real world questions of the trainer or the current employee responsible for this “job shadowing” day.  As a result, you will insure the candidate knows exactly what the job will require.  Additionally, the candidate may let their guard down and reveal information to a potential peer that helps determine whether they are going to be a good fit or not.
  4. Don’t get too caught up in “brag books” or reference checks. I am not saying these two interviewing tactics are not important.  However, I have never seen a brag book that shows a candidate’s development areas.  In addition, I have rarely called a reference that did not have glowing things to say about the candidate (have 2-3 specific business related questions to ask the reference).  Instead, I ask each candidate for the last 2-3 annual performance reviews to gain a true measure of the past performance of the candidate and the skills or enablers they also bring to the job.

Hiring is one of the most difficult aspects of a leaders’s job.  The overall process has to be a good fit for both the candidate and the company to move forward in the process. Remember the candidate is interviewing the leader and company just as much as the interviewer is determining if the candidate will be a good fit.  And in the digital world we live and work in, your individual character and your company’s reputation are constantly being scrutinized and discussed on message boards and hiring websites.  Take the time to prepare for each interview and create a professional environment, even if you know you are not going to move them forward in the hiring process.  Making good hiring decisions and on-boarding new hires effectively will make your job as a leader much easier, decrease the stress associated with an open position, and hopefully allow you to lead a “Super Bowl” caliber team.


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