Article main image
May 12, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

As a former college athlete and lover of sports, I am always looking for ideas to integrate my passion for athletics into the professional setting. There are many similarities between recruiting college athletes and sourcing professions to fill our jobs. To support this theory, I consulted with two college coaches local to the Portland area, Stacie Matz-Gordon, Head Volleyball Coach at Lewis & Clark University and Justin Wagar, Portland State University Assistant Soccer Coach.


Do Whatever It Take To Humanize The Process

College coaches must do what is needed to stand out amongst the competition. One way to do that is to humanize the process as much as possible. This will be even more crucial as artificial intelligence begins to emerge within talent and acquisition. Matz-Gordon mentions that “If [the players] know my face, they will email me first.” Matz-Gordon does a tremendous job of doing whatever it takes to get in front of her recruits. Whether it comes through extra communication off campus, to delivering “recruiting talks” at high schools, or speaking at various volleyball conferences, she will do almost anything to get in front of her targets. We as sourcers and recruiters must take the same approach. In this chaotic, busy, noisy life, we must stand out from the crowd by any means necessary. We need to engage with our candidates to the best extent we can to elicit a positive emotional response, which will lead to positive action towards our organization and the jobs we are recruiting for now, and in the future.


Sell An Experience

While the employees of your organization will likely not be with your company for their entire career, you must get your recruits to understand the vision of the organization and its future goals. When sourcing, you must sell the work experience and values of the organization, in addition to the value your candidate will obtain and conversely, the value that they will create. Matz-Gordon executes the same strategy at Lewis & Clark. She highlights the athletic and educational experience that her recruit will receive at Lewis & Clark and why it is different from other Northwest Conference foes.


Know Your Ratios

Matz-Gordon has ratios she reverse engineers to construct her sourcing strategy. She knows that she needs to recruit 60 players, to get ten actual applications to get into Lewis & Clark, which will give her one new volleyball player. Wager takes a similar approach at Portland State when he recruits for soccer players. He only has a certain amount of scholarships to distribute to a roster of 30 athletes, and he knows the numbers that he must hit to attract the right athletes. Comparing this tactic to sourcing, it is important to know exactly what it will take for you to source one new hire. Understand the market that you are recruiting, know the job, and reverse engineer your practice to know what it will take for you to be successful.


Cast a Wide Net

Matz-Gordon leverages multiple outlets to hit these ratios that she knows she must adhere to achieve the results she needs. She gives speeches at high schools, attends volleyball camps and leverages sport-specific websites (Max Preps, NCSA, NSR, BeRecruited, etc.). In practice on the professional side, a high performing sourcer or recruiter must cast a wide net and source from a variety different locations. This could include more traditional places like LinkedIn and Indeed, social media websites (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), but also more industry-specific sites such as state nursing lists, and local tech meetups.


Leverage Social Media

Another way Matz-Gordon humanizes the sourcing and recruitment process is through leveraging social media. She highlights her players on Lewis & Clark’s volleyball social media feeds using funny photos in a “Faces of Lewis & Clark Volleyball” campaign that shows some of the unusual faces her athletes make during a match. She mentions that “recruits speak in pictures” and as more and more millennials enter our workforce (50% of our workforce by 2020 will be millennials according to a PWC study), we as sourcers/recruiters must do that as well. This is huge in this day and age because of the rise of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. There is a level of “showing and telling” in sourcing and recruiting. We need to highlight what makes us different, and in our opinion, what makes us better than the competition. Matz-Gordon hits the nail on the head when she mentions that social media “gives our recruits a window into our world.” We must do the same in recruitment.


The Fortune Is In The Follow-Up

One key that Matz-Gordon has identified as a pillar of her success is to keep an up-to-date ATS or CRM. Matz-Gordon uses a CRM to keep track of athletes that she meets, interacts with and where they are at in the recruiting process. From there, she can pull out data quickly. As a sourcer/recruiter, this is no different. Whether that comes in the form of your company’s ATS or an “external CRM” like LinkedIn or Evernote, make sure you are consistently updating notes that are far beyond the surface level. Identify pressure points, follow-up dates, and more to ensure you are staying on top of your top targets, then execute.


Do The Fundamentals Well

When Wagar starts to recruit and source the next class of standout athletes, he first takes into account “soccer knowledge or talent” when considering a recruit. This approach comes in the form of their dribble moves, heading ability, first touch, the ability to execute passes to teammates, and other soccer fundamentals. Just like Wagar’s strategy, executing fundamentals well is a cornerstone of success for a sourcer and recruiter. In practice, this would include always personalizing an email, message, or reach out to a candidate, knowing the primary attributes your hiring manager needs from a leading candidate, know the wage range that is within budget. Do the small things, and do them well.


Taking the same approach that college coaches use to identify, recruit, and close an athlete to take their team to the next level will help your sourcing and recruiting game to the next level, and drive the business results that your stakeholders need from you.


Like this post? Check out more tips from our Editor when she was a college coach and recruiter many years ago.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!