Your Draft Picks


How do you know when you’ve found that perfect candidate? It’s a great question. I’ve written before about processes that can help reduce your risks in hiring someone new, and getting the qualities of personality and skill you’re looking for. But, like any road you go down, you can drive and drive past all of the signs in search of something better. More personality. More extraversion. More experience. Greener grass is always the next and next stop, another one to interview, another mile down the road. When do you stop and say, “this is the one”?

I have recruited executives for hundreds of companies, including North American and international companies and organizations. Big and small, I have seen some of the same tendencies when it comes to recruiting new team members: “we want to see them right away and we want to see more candidates.” In these situations, I’m reminded of the adage we all know well, and probably have experienced somewhere: “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”. It’s commonsense enough, but it’s not followed by a lot of companies looking for talent. I have seen companies pass on gem candidates in the hope that the next one and the next one will be better than the last. And so it goes, down the endless road to nowhere. As a recruiter, we always bring our top long-list of candidates forward, they are our superstars. I’ve had situations where organizations believe that seeing volume is better than quality. In these cases what happens, months later, after a long process and rounds and rounds of candidates, they ask: “can we see the first person we interviewed again?” Well, the first candidate is long gone, already moved on, working for someone else, perhaps even a competitor, while we go in search of “better”, somewhere. Invariably, better almost never comes.

When we’re recruiting for companies at executive and professional levels, I like to think of it like we are in the draft. Anyone who loves sports knows the importance of the draft. The draft is built to take the best players first, and so on down the line. Sometimes, rarely, there is a player who is great but drafted in late rounds. But this is the rare exception. Most of the best are drafted in the top 10. The same goes with your recruiting efforts. Your recruiter should always bring the best forward first. When they do, passing on the top recruits in pursuit of something better in later rounds is completely illogical. No one would let you or me build a competitive sports franchise this way. We would be fired for being insane. So, how is it any different as you look to bring the best to your team and franchise? In the draft, decisions are made quickly before the best players are scooped up by other teams. In recruiting, I often see the opposite of what happens in the professional draft: slow decision making, passing on the top candidates, while requesting more interviews with new candidates who come later. As things go, talent slips through their fingers as they wait for a miraculously undrafted or under-drafted candidate to appear, like some unicorn. Fairytales might work this way, with wishful thinking, but real recruiting doesn’t work this way. Not only are you at risk of losing the best candidates when the “greener grass syndrome” sets in, your company becomes paralyzed by indecision, and those candidates you might have gotten are gone. You might have even done a lot of damage to your company’s reputation by creating an endless loop of recruiting that goes nowhere for no one. The top draft picks will move on to something else, and take their memory of your processes and attitudes with them. It might even be harder for you to attract candidates once you’ve passed on the top ranked players. No one wants to play on a bad or poorly performing team, after all.

Building teams isn’t easy, as countless coaches will tell you, and it’s the most serious business you undertake as a business. There is a reason why the professional drafters in the NFL, MLB, MBA, NHL, and Premier League soccer move swiftly on top prospects: they are ranked for a reason, they are valuable, and they are taken first. Professional teams want the best players to help them to the championship. Recruiting top talent to your organization is no different: act swiftly once you decide on a candidate that you think meets your needs; don’t wait for something better to come along, because it rarely does; and don’t ignore the top draft picks put in front of you; you might find them playing against you later, to your loss and detriment as a business. Don’t settle, choose the best players you can, while you can. Don’t pass on great prospects with the hope that there will be something better down the road. As the adage goes, you could be left with nothing at all, starting all over again, in your search for the best.

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