A Quick Reminder: Hiring Is Hard

By Ian Jones
The NFL held its’ annual Combine event a few weeks ago, where top college football players gathered to be measured, tested, interviewed and put through a myriad of drills to gauge their strength and abilities. The combine is a multi-day event yielding mountains of data, which when combined with endless hours of game film, help NFL teams draft the players they hope will lead them to Super Bowl glory. Or for DC area Skins fans, at least a .500 record.

The NFL draft is a recruiter’s dream. The league has a near monopoly on top talent. Nobody freezing his tail off for the Saskatchewan Rough Riders is doing so voluntarily. NFL Scouts can review and analyze every single play candidates made in games on video, as many times as they want, in super slow motion. Each player’s exact height, weight, 40 yard dash, and vertical leap is not only verified at the Combine, it’s posted all over the Web.   A Left Tackle can’t pad his resume. And here’s the kicker, once a player is drafted by a team, only that team can offer him a contract.   There is literally no competition for that player’s services.

NFL General Managers have months to prepare for their selection. They have as unlimited access to prior performance, unbiased tangible physical data, and a monopoly on the player they select.   Seems impossible to screw up this hire, right? Wrong. The list of top NFL draft picks that failed is long – Tony Mandarich, Ryan Leaf, Gino Toretta, and pretty much every single player ever taken by the Jets.

And it’s not just the busts that highlight how challenging hiring can be. Take this pale, slow, barely athletic looking kid who had 198 other players selected ahead of him in the 2000 draft. As much as the Patriots should be admired for their handling of personnel over the years, if they knew that this soup sandwich was going to become the greatest QB of all time, they’d have traded the farm to take him first overall.

This post offers no solutions, but hopefully some sense of perspective to every executive, hiring manager and recruiter struggling with acquiring great talent. We don’t have the luxury of perfect information, talent monopolies, and transparent access to the entire talent pool.   We hustle, trying to differentiate our opportunities, evaluate candidates for job and culture fits, and land the best talent with only a fraction of available and semi-verifiable data. All under intensive competitive and time sensitive pressure.

So keep grinding, keep doing everything you can to reach your hiring goals. Take time to enjoy the victories, and not dwell too much on the defeats. Because even in a perfect situation, hiring is hard.

Ian Jones is always interested in discussing recruiting and hiring, but averages roughly one blog post per Presidential term.  His stories are much more entertaining over happy hour anyway, so follow Ian on Twitter and DM with the day and time.  He’ll be there.