When Recruitment becomes Top Sports

There is an abundance of articles, books and essays on patterns we try to find amongst successful people. I recently started in the book Tools of Titans from Tim Ferriss, which is described on the website as sharing the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. Whereas many stories in the book make sense, there is also much that just seems random behaviour associated with a successful person and therefore hardly pattern-worthy. I guess that if I ever make world-fame, you could retrospectively argue that my daily routine of starting the day by feeding the chickens is worth copying… which is of course total non-sense. Having said that, there is also lots of small nuggets in the book as long as you put it in the right realistic perspective and look at benefits close to who you are.

We humans have the need to find patterns amongst the sometimes truly random behaviours to rationalize success. Sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. I recently read a great essay in a Dutch financial magazine (fd.persoonlijk), written by Joost Galema, on what actually makes the difference between an average sports pro, and a really successful sports pro. This actually made me realize that this holds true as an analogy for the difference between an average recruiter, and a top-performing recruiter.

Let’s explore…

#1: Top recruiters / top sports pros learn from their mistakes

Playwriter Samuel Beckett once said: Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. When you are afraid to fail, you stop trying and learning. Be open to explore and try something new. Too many people in recruiting are limited by the corporate pretext. In reality, small experiments (including failure) are often much more valuable and effective than long planning cycles where, by the time you have finished implementation, you often end up with technology that is already outdated. Re-scope the project, make it small, start experimenting, fail and try again. Once you are satisfied, you start scaling.

#2: Top recruiters / top sports pros focus on the main lines

All too often we are blinded by the level of detail coming at us. We are suffering from a complete information overload that creates a hard-drive in our brain that is just full, fuller, fullest. It distracts us from what we want to achieve. All the emails, apps, messages, voicemails, and tasks in our ATS are creating a blur where we don’t see what’s important anymore. American sprinter and Olympic Gold Medallist Carl Lewis stated in interviews that he did not race with his opponents in mind, but solely focused on getting the best possible sprint from himself. This helped him ignore distraction from a lot of details. Try switching off the digital communication noise and focus on what needs to be achieved. You will enjoy it!

#3: Top recruiters / top sports pros are willing to change

Top tennis player Pete Sampras was one of the best youth players in the US when he decided with his coach to trade his killer double-handed backhand for a single backhand. They felt that this would be a better fit with the offensive style in senior tennis. It effectively meant that he spent a couple of years losing more games than he wanted. In the end, the single-handed backhand made him the best player of his time. I personally see this often in recruitment. People feel too busy and pressured to change their daily routine. They keep on calling candidates on the phone, getting stuck in voicemails and rescheduling, whereas they could already allow candidates to self-schedule (video) interviews for example. Change management capabilities of many organizations really is too weak whereas change should be a constant. Focus is too often on the people who do not want to change, and ignoring people who need change as their portion of daily professional oxygen.

#4: Top recruiters / top sports pros are not consumed by fear

Fear can be paralyzing. And Fear comes in many flavors. Fear of change. Fear of competition. Fear of failure. Champions certainly do not deny fear, but use it as an energy source. Before a match, all athletes will have fear, but winners use their fear as doping. Fear for recruiters is useful. Can I find the right candidate in time? What if I do not fill this seat? And fear is OK. Just as long as you use it to power your search, energize your meetings, and drive innovation in order to do things better, faster and more efficient.

#5: Top recruiters / top sports pros live in the moment

Athletes that are pre-occupied with the finish, the championship or victory, are often beaten. They have neglected to put their focus and energy in the moment. I see this often in interviews where the recruiter is so pre-occupied with getting a placement done within time (and budget) that they forget to put the energy in the conversation with the candidate. This is all too often because the calendar is full and too many conversations are not relevant. Using video interviews as an efficient way of pre-screening candidates will free time, ensure that invited candidates are the ones that actually have a high probability of getting hired, and therefore allowing recruiters to live in the moment with full focus on relevant talent.

Again, we have the tendency to find patterns amongst the sometimes truly random in order to rationalize success. The real truth lies with yourselves. Some of the above will apply to you and some won’t. It doesn’t matter. We are all different with unique capabilities. Just don’t be complacent. Embrace change and learn from your mistakes. The experiment is beautiful and needs to happen. We still have lots to do in recruitment!

Happy Hiring!


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