How To Draft Candidates Like A NFL Scout

Mar 29, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Remember the Super Bowl? That was two months ago, but it was more memorable than some. It had a couple of intriguing stories: 1) the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl and, 2) the comeback story of Payton Manning and the emergence of Cam Newton.

One of the biggest underlying stories from this past Super Bowl will be the importance of the NFL draft.  For the first time in history, the Super Bowl featured the top two picks from a draft.

In 2010, both the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos finished with one of their worst seasons. Those results earned them the opportunity to select the #1 and #2 picks in the next draft.  Unfortunately, no team wants to have the worst record at the end of the season however if it happens; they must try to get better quickly.

In the 2011 draft, the Panthers choose Cam Newton as the #1 pick, and the Broncos selected Von Miller for their #2.

Amazingly, five years later both Cam and Von meet face-to-face in the Super Bowl.  This meeting was significant because both of them were major contributors to the success of their  team.

One of the keys to having a balanced team in the NFL is the ability to acquire the right talent. The role of discovering potential superstars that can help the team make it to the Super Bowl belongs to the NFL scouts.

In our industry, our version of an NFL scout is called a “sourcer.” What potential candidates can we find now or in the future that will add value to our organizations?  Sounds easy? Not really, because skills are limited and top companies are competing for the same talent pool. Identifying players – candidates – with the potential to be great contributors is what all scouts do.

Here’s how you can source like an NFL scout:

Step 1 – Do not use location as a restriction to sourcing talent.

NFL scouts are typically broken up into different groups to focus on college players based on their college ranking and location. Companies should also align sourcers based on the same philosophy, separated by location and skills. In the NFL, teams do not place limits on recruiting college talent due to location. Recruiting is primarily based on the athlete’s eligibility and the team’s need. It does not matter if a player is located in the same city as the team. If he is draft eligible and can compete at the professional level, a team will make the effort to draft him.

Step 2 – Create a “Draft Board” for your target list.

A team’s draft selection is based on the prior season’s record so the team with the worst record normally has the first pick. To anticipate all potential selection scenarios, NFL teams create a wish list of names and alternatives for posting on their “Draft Board.”

A good sourcer should also create a draft board with a wish list of talent that matches the company. Another name for this list is a “Talent Map”; the talent map is a list of names from targeted competitors broken down by the organization, groups, and candidates. The talent map should also include competitive intelligence and data on the candidate’s location, compensation, and title. This data will come in handy if the company is struggling to find talent in a particular market. A talent map can help you identify skills way beyond the reach of your preferred region.

Step 3 – Review all types of data before adding them to your list.

NFL scouts and general managers base their selections on all types of data: Player interviews, fall reports, all-star game evaluations, combine results, peer associations, and social activities.  All of this data is crucial for teams to make the right draft decision.

Sourcers should also incorporate data like references, type of companies, number of job moves, and social activity on Twitter or Facebook. Although, social media sites were created originally for personal use, now they can help you decide the cultural fit of a candidate. What if your potential draft is not a model citizen or aligned with your company’s corporate values? Should we still pursue him/her for our draft board? I know this will be hotly debated, however as a sourcer, I would not want to waste time finding a candidate and presenting someone that is not a cultural fit.

Step 4 – Always be sourcing

The job of a NFL scout is never done. After months of reviewing thousands of player reports, 18 hour days and selecting the picks on draft day, the process restarts.  Now the scout’s role is to analyze and monitor the players during training camp.  During camp, NFL teams usually discover weaknesses and realize injuries they did not anticipate.

Likewise, a sourcer’s job is never done because companies never know when they are going to lose a seasoned player or a top pick. All companies experience attrition and should be proactive in building pipelines for critical roles.  Business leaders and talent acquisition leaders need to be in communication regarding the risks to roles critical to the  company. These protective conversations are essential to providing stability and eliminating the cost of replacing an internal that left a key role.

Remember the next time you start building your pipeline, finding talent to win starts way before the draft begins.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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