Hut, Hut, Hire: 3 Recruitment Lessons from College Football

Hut, Hut, Hire: 3 Recruitment Lessons from College Football

College football season is here again, and with it comes excitement, heartbreak, and an examination of talent acquisition! Whether you are recruiting athletes or accountants, there are valuable lessons we can learn from the world of college football.

There are a number of reasons why some college football programs are better at recruiting than others. Some coaches have unmatched personalities that people are drawn to and can sweet talk with the best of them – see Dabo Swinney. Other programs have a history of winning that makes recruiting a cakewalk.

Then again, some programs have advantages over others that can’t be matched by success or coaching personalities. In that way, talent acquisition and college football recruiting are similar. Specifically, both value the importance of talent pipelines, support from the organization, and facilities.

1. Talent Pipelines

If you are located in states that traditionally have strong football programs, you have a distinct advantage. States such as Texas, California, Alabama and Ohio produce some of the most talented football players, many of whom have played on recent national championship teams. This doesn’t mean that programs in other areas can’t succeed; they have. But it’s much more difficult.

The same logic applies to talent acquisition. Certain areas around the U.S. tend to have better pipelines of talent than others – for example, Silicon Valley is rich in tech talent, and South Carolina is drawing big interest from manufacturers in the automotive industry. Companies open up shop where the talent is. However, one of the biggest obstacles organizations face is how to attract job seekers in regions where talent is thin. They’re left with a handful of choices:

  • Attract job seekers in areas with known talent with relocation packages, higher salary, lower cost of living, etc.
  • Open facilities in areas with a strong base of talent that the organization needs.
  • Recruit locally knowing that talent is thin and rely on training and development to get employees up to speed.

2. Support from the Organization

College football programs that receive the most support and funding from their administration win big on the recruiting trail. It’s hard to win over talent when coaches are in a two-hour delay at an airport, but if coaches can fly around on private jets instead of taking commercial airlines, they are more likely to win over a recruit. The ‘All In’ mentality that’s instilled in top college programs is what it takes to win on the recruiting trail.

One doesn’t need to be an analytics guru to figure out that the cost of a bad hire can trump the cost of finding that ‘purple squirrel.’ For talent acquisition leaders, support from the organization is key. A great organization recognizes the importance of hiring great people and puts the pieces in place for their HR teams to be able to go out and recruit the best. Whether that’s putting an emphasis toward a new content-rich career site, rolling out employee referral campaigns or starting a relationship marketing program, there needs to be an active outreach to keep job seekers interested and to automate application flow.

A great organization recognizes the importance of hiring great people and puts the pieces in place for their HR teams to be able to go out and recruit the best.

Additionally, there needs to be an emphasis on training and development programs for onboarding new hires. It’s a shame that in today’s workplace, it’s becoming rare to find a culture where everyone collaborates and works together smoothly to complete projects. The more opportunities employees have to communicate with one another and share knowledge, the more learning will take place and ultimately empower the workforce.

The late Steve Jobs famously said, ‘It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy.’ What he meant was that to build a team of the best and brightest people, Apple needed to hire people that support one another and their leaders in the accomplishment of a goal. A pirate can stay creative and act independently. They take intelligent risks, but always within the scope of the greater vision of the team.

3. Facilities

There’s no question college football recruits love fancy locker rooms with Playstation 3s, flat screens larger than what most people can afford, and a stadium that can seat 100,000+ fans. Facility upgrades and expansions have become an arms race as top college programs try to outdo one another as they recruit for the nation’s top prospects. The University of Oregon is a perfect example of a program that went all out with their facilities to draw in top prospects.

The lure for job seekers these days, Millennials in particular, is much more than a competitive salary and benefits. According to a stat by Intuit, 9 in 10 Millennials want their jobs to offer a social and fun work environment, with fewer cubicles and more brainstorms.

Part of being able to recruit talent is showcasing a work space that employees can be proud of and that makes them inspired to do great work. There’s a reason why companies like Google, Apple and Amazon unveil plans for a fancy new office every year – yes, it’s a recruiting tactic, but more importantly, it shows the value of the employer and their willingness to provide the best workplace possible for their employees. After all, they are spending nearly 90,000 hours in their lifetime in their workplace, so having some nice digs goes a long way.

By no means am I saying that the world of college football and HR operate on the same level. This is more about taking a look inside recruiting tactics that are used in college football and using them to inspire TA leaders to think differently about how they can recruit talent.

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TJ Dinsmoor
Written by TJ Dinsmoor

TJ is an Account Director at TMP Worldwide located in Boston. Before moving to account services, he worked on the media and analytics team in Chicago. Outside of work, TJ enjoys exploring his new city, mixing up his world famous Bloody Mary blend and rooting for his beloved sports teams.

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