Raiding for talent
My name is Simon Pitney and I will be blogging on all things Media, mostly on Mondays. I will be drawing parallels between the sexy industry we work in and some of the things that are currently impacting my life – most notably working in the recruitment industry, the NFL and the recent birth of my daughter……….
With the upcoming NFL draft (April 26th for the first round) many teams and analysts are looking back to previous years to identify whether previous drafts were successful (and thus generated instant starters of repute) or busts (did you just give £60million to an overweight, lazy, unintelligent quarterback?).
Whilst drafting well is not a complete science there are certainly teams who seem to do a better job at securing top talent than others. My team for example, The Oakland Raiders have spent the last ten years making high profile dud decisions that have left a historically rich franchise in the doldrums. The main reason for such ineptitude is that the late Al Davis (owner and just about the baddest cowboy in the West) valued one approach to football – speed. His philosophy was to have a quarterback who could throw the length of the field to a receiver faster than lightning. That was all that mattered. As a result we drafted JaMarcus Russell – a man who could throw the ball 60 yards whilst kneeling down and then got him Darrius Heyward-Bey who ran like a drugged-to-the-eyeballs Linford Christie. So far so good – they fit his search criteria right?
Well……………..not exactly. JaMarcus Russell is now considered one of the biggest busts of all time – great arm strength sure – but was too stupid to learn the subtleties of pro football, too lazy to work on the fundamentals of his game and too damn full of his own worth to realise he was dragging the team down with him. As for Heyward-Bey – he can run sure – but a key tenet for a receiver is to CATCH the ball. Heyward-Bey has hands that are about as soft as Chuck Norris covered in a steel suit with fast setting concrete poured over the top.
The teams that seem to have success seem to have a more thorough approach than the Raiders of old (alas we have new management so the only way is up!) – they would make full use of the pre-season pro-days, the combine and team interviews to fully gauge what they were getting for their investment. They would have passed on Russell and Heyward-Bey and found longer lasting talent that may not have the fastest 40 yard dash time, or the highest vertical leap, or could bench-press the most times but that could contribute. They would have done this by being thorough in their interview processes and looking beyond the surface level information.
This inevitably got me thinking about my industry – recruitment. Do hiring managers, in general, look beyond the surface information of a CV? I spend a lot of time working with candidates who complain that they are being “pigeonholed” due to previous experiences and that they aren’t being given an opportunity to exercise their skill sets in a slightly different environment. If I am a hiring manager for a national newspaper and I only want to see people who have previously worked in press – how many potentially excellent sales people am I missing out on. By focussing on the surface information, or in Al Davis’ example, becoming blinkered to one skill set, how relevant will my sales team be within a few years time?
The other comparison with the draft is the strategy of drafting for need or drafting the best player available. Or in other words – if I really need a linebacker do I draft the best linebacker available even if he is in fact only the 20th best player in the draft, or do I simply draft the best overall player and build a team of great strength in depth – regardless of position? The analogy with sales is simple – if I need an exhibition account manager – do I hire someone who is already an exhibition account manager because they fit the “position” or “need” or should I hire the best salesperson regardless of media background – even if that person was an online account manager?
Of course I think it all comes down to the individual team or business but I do think there is scope for looking beyond the obvious surface information. After all Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history was drafted very late on – just shows what you can get with some good research/interviewing and of course training.
Its only one mans opinion but let me know your thoughts.
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