Tough Time Finding Perfect Talent? Then Hire the “Best Available Athlete!”

In this historically tight labor market it can be extremely difficult for hiring organizations to find “the perfect fit” – a candidate that has all the required experience, skills and demeanor to jump into a role immediately and be insanely productive out of the gate.  Yet, many hiring managers are holding out for just that profile – the perfect applicant that’s available right now, flawlessly moves through the hiring process, takes the comp package as-is and jumps right in to the role as if they had been performing in it for 10 years.  Unfortunately this type of unrealistic hiring mentality is holding many organizations back in terms of growth, and highly qualified candidates that can help the organization are being overlooked in favor of almost mythical profiles that never step through the hiring door.  What’s our advice to companies that are stuck in the perfect fit syndrome?  Be flexible, be realistic and look to hire (with a nod to New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick) the “best available athlete.”

For the NFL uninitiated (or Patriots haters) the phrase “best available athlete” refers to a player drafting technique (often used by Belichick) in which a team will select the best overall athlete left when it’s their turn to pick on the college draft board – even if that player does not currently fill a specific current positional need.  Teams will go with the best athlete that remains on the board instead of drafting a potentially lesser player that may fill a role on the depth chart.  Why do teams employ this draft approach?  Truly elite athletes tend to be highly flexible and can learn other roles.  They can adjust and, with the proper training and support, can learn a new position quickly and make a contribution to the organization relatively quickly.  Top athletes are usually resilient, determined and self-motivated.  They enjoy and respond well to challenges, like learning new positions and helping the team in any way they can.

As the founder and president of a recruitment firm that prides itself on finding hidden gems that others can’t, I will tell you that this approach can be adapted for businesses with tough-to-fill roles in tight talent markets. In particular, companies that have multiple roles to fill would benefit from this sort of flexibility.   Here’s an example of how this can work.  Not long ago I was meeting with one of our clients, a VP of Technology, that was seeking two experienced, talented software engineers with a very specific technology skill-set.  Our client knew the market is incredibly tight for folks like this and after some discussion we agreed to find the “best athlete” that already works in the same vertical business sector but perhaps the tech stack may not align perfectly. He acknowledged they could learn the technology while still being productive in the role and that it would not take them long to get up to speed given their other related skills.  By taking this approach, we were able to present him with multiple candidates for the two open positions and he was able to bring them aboard quickly  – within a month of working with us.  Now, he could have waited 75, 90 or even 120 days or more to hold out for the perfect fit, but he understood the value of getting talented people in seats that want to learn and grow, rather than waiting several months to find the needles in the haystack while watching his projects stall out, his current staff get frustrated by a lack of help, and his lost opportunity costs rising every day.  We believe the most forward-looking technology managers are seeking talent over exact matches, and that’s how they win.  Talented, committed employees are happy to learn new skills and managers are happy to keep projects on schedule.

If you or your organization is having trouble finding the right talent to hire, please feel free to contact us to discuss your needs.  We would be happy to have a consultative conversation to review the challenges you’re facing and how Broadreach Staffing can help.