Recruiting Parallels: Life of a NBA GM

Every year one of my favorite sports days of the year is the NBA Draft mostly because I like to think like I’m a GM (usually of the Celtics).  I’ve seen the players play in college, read the scouting reports, listen to the trade rumors and know enough to make it a fun exercise in critical thinking.  And while the NBA Draft is it’s own unique event,  it is not all that much different from what recruitment marketingorganizations do on a daily basis (other than the whole closing an offer part).


Let’s look at some of the parallels between NBA GM’s and their recruiting counterparts.


Evaluation: For NBA GM’s the draft is a culmination of years of evaluation on 100′s of players from AAU ball through their college careers.  In addition, they have individual workouts to test player’s skills in their system and may even go as far as to hire a private investigator to better understand a player’s characters.  All these data points go into the decision on who to take with their 1st round pick(s).

For recruiting, there is a similar amount of data.  The resume, online presence, references, skill assessments, interviews, etc. all go into evaluating a candidate’s skills and personality.  And all this data is used by the recruiting team and hiring manager to make the decision on who to hire.

In both cases, most of this information comes from 3rd parties whether that’s scouts or past bosses or online information.

Limited Player Pool:The NBA draft is comprised of 60 picks (30 picks in each round), however, the player pool that teams select from is relatively small at around only 150 players.  Of which only probably 50-60 are heavily scouted and brought in for workouts.  Very rarely do you see a player that becomes an all-star that is outside the top 30 picks do to the amount of common data available to every team.

Many recruiting organizations face a similar problem.  For certain positions, the number of sought after qualified candidates available is also small with many organizations looking to hire talent from this pool.  The saving grace here is that while this exists it’s harder to get information on these candidates and therefore success favors the organizations that are better at evaluating and finding this talent.

Hopefully in these instances your organization has done some of the legwork ahead of time as well by having a Talent Network with these types of candidates already in house and/or understanding where these types of candidates live online with recruitment metricsfrom past job campaigns.

Determining Needs & Fit: With most NBA teams they have a few main needs.  A good player at every position (Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, Power Forward, Center), a sixth man and bench depth to give their starters rest, is the extent of what a good team possesses making it much easier to determine their overall needs.  In addition to this, teams also need to keep in mind team chemistry and culture when adding players to the roster as this can have a tremendous effect on overall team play (see this year’s Boston Celtics.)

When hiring it’s absolutely essential to understand the role that your are recruiting for and the type of person that will excel in your company culture.  Sure you know what positions you need to fill in your organization but it’s important to fill these with the right people that fit well with your organization and will embrace your culture and values.  Not every candidate can do the work and even fewer can do the work and fit well in your organization.

Current Skills vs. Potential:  The NBA Draft is a continuing dialogue of current skills vs. potential.  When picking players, NBA GM’s need to weigh not only what’s best for their team now but what’s best for the future of the organization as well.  They are hiring kids in their early 20′s and need to determine how their system and coaches can get the most out of their personal and raw athletic potential.  This is mostly where GM’s excel or fail in the NBA draft.

This is a continual battle for organizations as well.  Do you take the person with more experience or one with some experience but more area for growth?  Obviously, this all depends on the positions and demands for immediate results but is something to think about as you set up your hiring processes (and training programs.)

While sports teams have the advantage of owning the rights to any player they draft (don’t tell Eli Manning that though), there are a number of parallels that can be made between recruiting for your organization and being an NBA GM.


Through better evaluation, need identification and weighing of potential, your organization can achieve the success to win your equivalent of not 1, not 2, not 3…not 7 but potentially 8 championships.*


Happy Recruiting and Go Celtics!


*Had to throw a Lebron joke in there


You can follow me on Twitter @smashfly and/or see the original blog post here.

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