Are you a College or Pro Recruiter?

Football season is almost upon us again, and the lockout has had an interested effect on the free agency period.  (This is American Football, of course.  Sorry for any confusion.)  And while I’m in a candidate experience mindset, I thought it was a good time to talk about the differences in the types of recruiters, and how their stakeholders drive their tactics.

College Recruiters

College gigs are tough.  It puts you, in theory, on a level playing field with your competition if you can’t pay the player.  (Yes, it’s a flawed assumption.  Just roll with it, OK?)  You are trying to bring in talent for your team based on:

  • Playing time
  • Location
  • Amenities
  • Academics
  • Prestige
  • Long term (meaning Pro) career opportunities

Pro Recruiter

The pros can recruit on those things.  But often, it comes down to one thing when wooing a free agent.

  • Cash

Too often, cash is king in the professional sports world.  (It is one reason I think it is so interesting that there is still so much anger towards LeBron James when he took less money to play with his friends and try for a title.  I mean, I get the anger, but that part gets glossed over.)  And there are plenty of examples where a professional player made their decisions strictly on the dollars.  They are pressured by the player’s association to do so in many cases.  It doesn’t mean the other things aren’t important, but there is a reason why people still joke about Mike Hampton signing with the Rockies and saying “the schools are better” in Denver.  The stacks of cash were higher, too.  It matters.

This came up a bit on my recent Drive Thru HR appearance.  Friend of the show William Tincup asked if I felt a candidate would choose company A over company B if company A provided a horrible candidate experience, but 20% more money.  My response was yes, maybe.  Depends on your situation.  (There’s more to it than that.  You should go listen to the whole thing.)

So which are you?

If you’ve done any time in HR or as a manager, you’ve done some recruiting.  So what’s your style?  Do you roll out the amenities and dance around the question of compensation as long as you can?  Or do you open with a strong package and then spin the “extras” around it?

There’s a time and place for each approach, I suppose.  Recruiters seem to want to talk comp after you are hooked.  It’s a bit like the car salesman that goes after the “is it just the price” angle.  If I know you love the car, and you want the car, the emotional decision is made and the logic part can be wrestled to the ground.  Likewise, if you want to join a team, and they want you on the team, the rest is just details, right?

The truth is, though, our world doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes talent goes to the highest bidder.  You’ve got to know you candidate, where they are coming from, what is important in their world, and what their hot button will be.  Just like sales.  And if your candidate is all about the Benjamins, it doesn’t matter how new the exercise center is, or the quality of food in the cafeteria, or the free coffee, or the scenic view from their new office.  Sometimes is it just about compensation.

Of course, we all know that compensation doesn’t motivate performance (once moved past the point of being a demotivator, anyway).  That’s when the college recruiter should kick in and make sure that they are aware of the new treadmill, the gourmet salads, the French roast and the 5-acre lake.  They do matter.

There is one other kind of recruiter.  High School recruiters.  For the most part, a player is going to a  school because that’s where the bus takes them.  The recruiter’s job is pretty easy.  They also mostly live with the luck of the draw for getting talent on their team.  And as long as they don’t expect to succeed at the next level with that strategy, they are OK.

Don’t be the high school recruiter trying to fill out a pro or college roster.  You will fail.  So will your team.  Use the perks, use the cash, and create a comprehensive package to get the right talent.  Otherwise, you’re left with hoping to get what you need.  And we all know that hope is not a strategy.



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