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What companies can learn from the NFL Draft to develop a pool of great job candidates


With the NFL trades getting exciting and the draft a few months away, fans and fantasy footballers can now start strategizing how their team’s upcoming picks will help win them the 🏆. Lots of time and money are spent picking who will join the team to help build the future dynasty. A company, like a team, is built of superstars, great positional players, and veteran leaders, each playing their part harmoniously to achieve team success. Not even Google & Facebook are made of 100% superstars.

As a startup founder, hiring manager or HR person, you should be watching closely to learn some valuable lessons in building your own teams. Players taken in the first and second rounds are the prizes 🏅. They are expected to make the starting lineup next season and make a significant impact from game 1. The hope for players drafted later is to have found unpolished 💎💎. Meaning what?!? The coaches try fixing their faults, teach best practices and fine-tune core skills, slowly developing them into better players. If successful at this mission, a coach can develop a pool of talent ready to make an impact. So how does this translate to company hiring?!?!

The past two weeks a couple of people I’ve been helping with a job search received that dreaded ‘We’re moving forward with other candidates’ 💩 mail. It’s 2020, and I’m baffled how any company continues to send these completely useless mails.

The global market size for learning & development is $340B+. Companies are spending a boatload 🛥️ of 💰 developing their employees. If they aren’t spending similar or more on engaging/rewarding their employees, their L&D spend will only help another company who will later poach that employee. (I’m quite passionate about employee happiness, so you can read some of my two cents here & here).

It’s time companies start building a farm system of future talent.

How can you start building your farm system? For you non-Americans, a farm system is a minor league where future players are developed.

Step 1

Please please please stop sending those ‘We went with a different candidate mails.’ Duh! This isn’t an offer letter, so obviously I’m not the right one. It’s cold, impersonal and provides no value.

Step 2

Take the time to review every resume vs having a bot 🤖do it. Some of the best companies do still do this.

Step 3

Provide actionable feedback to every applicant. Hopefully, every applicant tracking system today uses some sort of skill/experience scoring system. Like what you see via LinkedIn job posts.

Telling an applicant they didn’t get the job because they were missing the highlighted skills or experience goes a looooooong way. It should also clarify the importance of those missing skills to the role.

This step will allow you to start developing a future great hire. Let’s say you have an engineering applicant with the years of experience and industry knowledge you’re looking for. However, they don’t have experience leading projects or with DevOps systems. They obviously aren’t right for you today. Now just imagine if you told this candidate if they took online DevOps courses and lead 2–3 projects they would be the perfect candidate. That applicant now has actionable intelligence to help them develop their skills and training needed to further their career. In one year from now when hiring for this role again, that applicant is now your perfect match. Why? Because you provided clarity on what they need to get the interview and job. You’ve also treated them with respect to tell them something meaningful.

I’m not in HR but would estimate reviewing the application score and replying with a personalized mail with those insights would take maybe 5 minutes (?) With 5 minutes of work, you’ve paved the path for a “not a good fit” candidate to become the “perfect fit candidate. For the company that should be a huge win as 5 minutes of investment returns better quality future candidates (because it’s always about quality vs quantity). To the applicant, it’s a huge win! They receive clear insight into what will help them land that job in the future. Alternatively, they better understand what’s needed to potentially land a similar job elsewhere.

Step 4

Create & maintain a list of almost perfect candidates that check off most of the boxes. Set up regular check-in emails to keep the relationship warm.

Step 5

When a new position opens reach out to these people first. They are pre-qualified leads. If they’ve taken your feedback, they now hopefully check off all the boxes needed for at least an interview. You also have an active relationship with them. You can likely find your hire from this pool of candidates. No need to post the new job to get a flood of resumes, or spend the money on external recruiters.

So it’s 2021. Let’s make hiring great again!

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