I recently watched the film Moneyball (I’m perpetually behind on movie-watching, but I digress), and was struck by how similar it is to recruitment.
A little bit of background for those of you who aren’t baseball fans:
Moneyball is a film starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, that is based on a book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. The premise of the both the film and the book is that the game of baseball is unfairly rigged toward wealthy teams. It is centered around the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics are a “small-market” team and do not have the same kind of money available for player salaries as “big-market” teams such as the New York Yankees. The Athletics were a decent team in the early 2000s, but continually found their best players poached during the off-season by teams who could afford to pay more. Even more, the skills and statistics that have been used to measure player performance (hence, their value) are based on outdated statistics that don’t apply as much to today’s game. The Oakland Athletics were the first baseball team to really delve deep into statistical analysis to determine more accurate predictors of offensive success. They used these statistics to find “undervalued” players that they could afford in order to build a competitive team.
There is a scene in the movie where Jonah Hill’s character points out that a lot of teams are looking to get rid of certain players, or are unwilling to hire others, because of perceived flaws (some of which are really silly). One of those flawed players was a good pitcher. He threw a lot of strikes, and not a lot of players were successful hitting against him. Yet no one wanted him because he had a weird-looking throw. Because he didn’t “look right” compared to other players.
How many times have you heard the following from your clients:
“Great engineer, but he just won’t fit in around here.” Based on what? An interview or two? How is the client evaluating fit? Is the client perhaps putting too much weight on interview skill? Are they asking weird/trick questions? What if clients sent out a list of interview questions in advance so that the candidates could prepare the right information in advance instead of just guessing? Baseball teams are made up of players from all different backgrounds. Heck, some of them even have to have a translator so they can communicate with their teammates and coaches. Yet they’re not dismissed due to “fit.”
“We’re really looking for someone from our industry.” While it’s certainly true that industry experience CAN be necessary, there are a lot of jobs where a similar industry is equally good. There’s a famous mantra, “Hire for attitude, train for skills.” Maybe a better version of that would be, “Hire for skills, train for the idiosyncrasies of your specific business.” It seems many clients have moved away from any sort of formalized training. Professional athletes are surrounded by coaches and mentors who help develop their skills and knowledge; why are so many employers unwilling to do the same thing?
“She’s a strong project manager, but weak at team-building.” There is a train of thought that candidates must focus on improving their weaknesses. Improving one’s skills should be a lifelong goal but let’s face it: we’re not all good at everything and there is a point of diminishing returns. Would it be smarter to ask people to work to their strengths and spend most of their time improving those things, and less time doing things they just aren’t good at? While many baseball teams have a “utility player” who can rotate among various positions, most players specialize at a specific position. No one expects the pitcher to also be the team’s best hitter.
How can you help your clients look at their recruitment efforts a little differently? How would results improve with a slight change in perspective?