10 Things Every Recruiter Can Learn From Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson.  A living legend.  As a person born and raised in Austin, TX, I have heard his songs played on the radio for as long as I have been alive.  Now a lot of musicians come and go, but not Willie.  He has stood the test of time.  My grandparents, parents, and even my kids have heard him.  There is something special about Willie Nelson, and on April 29, 2013 he turned 80.

Most of Willie's companions are long gone.  Waylon Jennings and Willie were the original "Outlaws" and sang songs such as "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" that are still to this day classics.   Waylon passed in 2002.  Then there was Johnny Cash.  Who can say enough about the man in black?  Johnny, Willie, Waylon and Kris Kristopherson formed "The Highwaymen" in 1985.  Cash passed in 2003.  Kristopherson is still alive, and is 76. 

What is so special about Willie?  Why am I writing this post?  I think we all have a lot to learn a lot from Willie Nelson.  You can spin this any way you want, but today I want to talk about what recruiters can learn from the long haired self- proclaimed hippie from Austin.  Here are 10 things that make Willie Nelson stand out from the crowd. 

1)  Willie is an Original  Don't second guess this fact.  There is no one else like Willie.  You can say the same about Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash.  His style is so unique that you can recognize his songs the first time he strums the guitar.  If you are going to be a great recruiter, who are you?  What makes you an original?  Why do people gravitate to you?

2)  Willie Doesn't Give A Damn What You Think  Truthfully.  Willie wears a bandana and has long braided hair. He knows who he is and is comfortable.  As a recruiter, what do you do to find the candidate you are looking to find?  You may get a few no's, but you are going to make more fans than enemies by going the extra mile.  It is better to get on the dance floor than not to dance at all. 

3) Willie Stays Current  I don't know any other 80 year old who can play with just about anyone and make it sound good.  Did you know the Toby Keith and Willie Nelson song "Beer For Your Horses" is Willie's all time biggest single?  He still sings with the most current singers including people like Kid Rock.  As a recruiter, are you staying current?  Are you always looking for the newest trends to find candidates?

4) Willie Knows His Audience   In the 70's his audience was so different.  Outlaw music was where the hippies and the bikers met country music.  He just added Lone Star Beer and Mary Jane.  He knew he had to expand his horizons and move forward after the 70's and has really moved toward the younger audience. As a recruiter, can you relate to the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y?  You need to get to know them because they are all different.

5) Willie is Great at What He Does  Willie can play the giuitar and sing like no one else.  It is so original the way he bends the guitar strings.  His voice is so different than anyone else.  He was made to be a performer.  He was made to sing and play the guitar.  As a recruiter, can you connect with people?  Can you work with managers?  Do you understand processes?  Are you great at what you do?

6) Willie Has A Sense of Humor  Okay, Willie does have some flaws.  He has had more than one wife,  still has a few illegal vices, and did get in trouble with the IRS for not paying taxes.  He doesn't dwell, he embraces.  If you have seen the outtakes from the remake of The Dukes Of Hazzard, you know exactly what I am talking about.  As a recruiter, can you laugh about a bad day? Can you laugh about a bad experience with a candidate, or a manager?  I have a news flash for you- it will happen!

7) Willie Surrounds Himself With Winners  I said this earlier, but Waylon, Cash, Kristopherson, Julio Iglesias, and the list goes on and on.  Who will make him better than he is today?  Who are your partners in recruiting?  Who will help you find that candidate you are looking for? 

8) Willie Is The Life of the Party, Still  Yea, no comment here on Willie.  You know already.  As a recruiter, do you have a little jump in your step?  Do you stand out?  Will people relate to you?  Are you going to be that person that at the end of the day, the candidate calls because they rememeber YOU.

9) Some of Willie's Best Work is His Simplest  One of Willie's biggest hits was "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain".  It is simple;  "Georgia on My Mind" is simple.  He let his voice and guitar tell a story and didn't need a huge band to back him up.  Recruiting can be made difficult.  Processes can slow down the whole candidate experience.  Do you try to make the experience simple and easy for the candidate?

10) Willie is a Survivor  Willie has had his up's and down's. He has lost some dear friends.  He has been criticzised and hit the lowest of lows.  As a recruiter, we all have trials and tribulations, but the ones that make it, are the ones that continue to push when things get tough.

All of my posts can be viewed on Bulls Eye Recruiting.


Views: 1856

Comment by Shari Burke on May 9, 2013 at 2:03pm

He is a classic isn't he.  He stands out from the crowd as a bit different, but he mixes well too.  I have met him several times through the years.  He doesn't bowl you over, but once he starts singing, he exudes friendliness and a bit of nonchalance.  I have watched his career and maveled at how he bounces like a ball and always comes back up. He didn't know it, but he should have written, "I've Got A Lot Of Living To Do".

Comment by Will Thomson on May 9, 2013 at 2:21pm

Hey Shari, thanks for the comment.  You know, I have never met him.  I have seen him play 100 times.  My favorites were his 4th of July picnics in Luchenbach.  I am simply astounded by what he has accomplished in his career.  It seems like every time you think he is finished, he comes back with something even better.  I think he averages 2-3 albums a year. 

Comment by Chris Wessell on May 10, 2013 at 9:08am

Love this. Definitely sharing.

Comment by Will Thomson on May 10, 2013 at 11:01am

Thanks Chris!  I appreciate you sharing.  My personal website is www.wthomsonjr.com

Comment by Danny Powell on May 12, 2013 at 9:49pm


Comment by Will Thomson on May 12, 2013 at 10:18pm

Thanks Danny!  Your a Texan, you get it.  Will

Comment by Mike Chuidian on May 14, 2013 at 10:52am

I would have to compare Jay-Z to Willie Nelson on the Hip Hop front. Great post, Will!

Comment by Will Thomson on May 14, 2013 at 10:59am

Thanks Michael, I like it!  

Comment by Valentino Martinez on May 15, 2013 at 9:12pm


Another great post with recruiting tie-in & insight -- in this case, it's aligned with a living legend -- Willie Nelson.

I, along with wife, daughter & son, had the good great fortune to meet Willie Nelson and his manager prior to his show with Asleep At The Wheel for a concert on a Saturday night at the Old Glory Amphitheatre at Six Flags-St Louis, Missouri -- back in July 1994.  Willie was mingling with the crowd and signing autographs...

My daughter (Regina) asked and got Willie's autograph on a drink container lid that is held in high regard among other memorable souvenirs...BTW - as most know--Willie is notorious for his need for Weed...the resulting signature result may attest to his mellow mood prior to the performance.  It was a GREAT CONCERT.


Photo by Valentino Martinez

Comment by Will Thomson on May 16, 2013 at 11:01pm
Thanks Valentino. Willie is a God in Texas. Yes, it is true. He still has his vices. Fortunately, I have seen him more times than I can count. Whiskey river take my mind, but don't take the memory away from me. All I can say is I hope I am 80 and can still bring it!


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