How to increase your interviewing success rate by watching the NFL

The hiring process is an imperfect one.  People cannot be poked, prodded, and tested like parts coming off the assembly line to identify their defects in your culture.  I like to look to the NFL as the leader in trying to identify, not superstars, but players that will just make their 53 man roster.  NFL franchises spend millions of dollars and countless man hours every single season trying to identify the 7 or 8 players that they will draft.

SkillsAfter watching hours of game film, talking to former coaches and teachers of their targeted players, going through the Combine, private workouts and interviews, their General Managers are happy with hitting a 60% success rate.  While there are many facets that make their players harder to pick then replacing your IT Project Manager that just left, we can also use their process as a model to help us raise our success rate.  Here are a couple of cornerstones to their process that we can learn from.


Be consistent – Everyone goes through the same process.  Most companies will review multiple people for one open position so make sure you use the same process and criteria on every candidate.  How many times have you heard “that’s like comparing apples to oranges”.  In order to make all of your candidates “apples” you need to use the same process, the same criteria and the same people to conduct the evaluation.

Testing is important but only tells part of the picture.  It is a good idea to adopt some sort of formal testing as part of your interview process.  Whether it is personality testing or technical testing to evaluate their software development or troubleshooting skills, testing takes some of the subjectivity out of the process and inserts more objectivity.  Again, there is a reason why many NFL rookies are not drafted simply on their 40 yard dash or bench press statistics from the Combine.  It can help, however it can’t be the only data point.

Provide structure to your interview process.  Too many times companies will involve several people to conduct interviews hoping that the more opinions they have, the higher the success rate.  Often this leads to people just talking to the candidate about the job and then deciding whether “like” the person or not when their time is up.  Work with your staffing agency to make sure everyone that interviews has prepared interviews questions, uses the same questions for everyone candidate, clearly understand the role in which the person is interviewing for and is productive with their time slot.  Leave the explanation of the role and tasks to the Hiring Manager and Human Resources to outline.

Identify a success profile for your group.  There is a reason that Quarterbacks, Running Back and Offensive Lineman have completely different physical and mental traits, that is because their roles are different and those differences contribute to the overall success of the team.  Furthermore, GMs and coaches are looking for traits that have proven successful in their system.  Do the same for your company, your group or more specific for each role.  Maybe bringing in people from a particular company, an alma mater, a level of expertise has been successful, so try to duplicate that.  If you have all-stars on your team take the time to see what they think has made them successful or even attracted them to the position and replicate it.

Try the person out first.  NFL teams have a multi-month training camp and 4 preseason games to make a decision before they commit millions of dollars and a precious roster to the player.  Why not do the same?  Most staffing partners will offer the option to do a contract-to-hire so that you can see the person in action before you commit to them.  Once again, make sure the contract employee is trained on their role, knows their success criteria and identify the term in which the possible conversion would happen so they don’t get antsy.

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