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Talent Talk: Hiring Strategies Your Company Can Learn from Super Bowl Teams

Image: Vectorfusionart/Adobe Stock American football player
Take a page out of the playbooks of the NFL’s winningest teams to get ahead of your competitors.

Living in the Tampa Bay area, I am happy to see our football team going to the Super Bowl. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am what you would call a bandwagon or fair-weather fan, but I am enjoying the moment along with the lifelong diehard fans. It also occurs to me that there are some lessons to be learned for companies that want to get ahead of their competitors. The Buccaneers were not always a Super Bowl team.

First and foremost, do what it takes to hire the best. The goal of Super Bowl teams is to have the best athletes at each position. There are 32 teams trying to win the Super Bowl every year, and each one of them did everything they could to identify the best linemen, running backs, and defenders for their team. In the corporate world, we are often content with making a list of qualifications, then finding someone who matches most of that list. It’s even more important in business than in the NFL, because in business the top performers have many options, not just the team that drafts them. The most expensive mistake you can make as a business leader is to miss out on a rock star because he or she needed 10 to 15% more in pay than what someone arbitrarily decided was the maximum.

Second, emphasize past performance over credentials. If you were the coach on an NFL team, would you rather have someone who went to the best school for quarterbacks, a person who had been a quarterback for 10 years, or Tom Brady? Pretty easy answer, right? Then why do we not insist on drilling down on accomplishments, both with prospective candidates and current employees? Consider having a part of the interview process mimic what the job will entail. That will tell you more than a resume with perfect grammar and spacing. Average performers will have an array of excuses why that doesn’t make sense, but the top performers will relish the opportunity to show off a little and will appreciate that your company does that, because it means you hire the best. Top performers want to work with other top performers.

Third, consider what the true metrics are for success in any position. Many job descriptions haven’t changed since before the internet existed. Having excellent communication skills, working both independently and as part of a team, and being able to lift 25 pounds might need to be on the description, but those requirements do not address the keys to be successful in that role. I can sit or stand for long periods of time, but I would not be a particularly good wide receiver. Read your job descriptions and ask this question: Could someone meet everything on here, and still not be a top performer? For example, I have seen sales manager job descriptions that fail to mention that a key requirement of the job is to sell something.

I will leave you with a bonus thought. Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, famously said that the team with the best players wins. The two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl include the best quarterback in the game right now (MVP of last year’s winning Super Bowl team) and the greatest quarterback of all time. Do what it takes to hire the best.


About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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