An interesting question indeed. There are many recruiters, search consultants, headhunters or talent acquisition specialists (for the purpose of this article, all titles are interchangeable) whose skill and talent closely mirrors the approach he took to playing basketball.
Additionally, if you look at his career resume for his years in the NBA, as well as where he went to school, you will see the same trend that mirrors the career trajectory of a recruiter.
Let’s look at a few key elements of this fascinating basketball player and determine if this line of work would suit him.
College / Education:
Walker attended school at The University of Kentucky. As with many recruiters, he went to a school steeped in athletic tradition, and participated in one of its most cherished activities – basketball. There are many recruiters who spend their collegiate careers toiling away as stars of the intramural courts, and participate in Pan-Hellenic activities within socially identifiable groups that have a perceived level of status. This prepared him well for his professional career, as he was the center of attention and had to talk to many different people via interviews and casual conversations with fans. The grooming process would lend itself very well to a career in search.
The most obvious correlation between Antoine Walker’s career in the NBA and a recruiter is his approach to offense, primarily shooting. Walker coined a very interesting term, “Volume Shooter”, in which he described how he was able to average 20+ points a game, despite his shooting percentages being very low. This could have been a function of act first, react second mentatlity, or he could have just been a chucker. Either way, there are many recruiters out there who operate under the same premise. This is especially true within a contingency based recruiting environment. The unwritten goal is often to fire as many resumes to a hiring manager in hopes of making one stick, that your submittal to interview to hire percentages are dreadfully low. Look at Walker’s stats. He shot .414 for his career, which is low given the status and salary he commanded. This does dilute the importance of his scoring average. Many basketball experts would say that if the most marginally rated player shot the ball as often, he/she would be able to score at a similar clip. For example, from 1999-2003 Walker took just over 20 shots per game, making 8.15 of them. This barely covers the dreaded 40% threshold, a number that often separates even marginal players from those who need not wear the uniforms under their warm-ups.
As an estimate, if a recruiter were to employ a similar percentage from a submission to hire standpoint, he/she would likely receive a single placement for every 8-9 submittals. In many organizations, this would be looked at with disdain. If working on an RPO engagement, a target of 40 of submittals being hired is a target. As a contingent recruiter, 20-25 percent would be a good target. The lower number accounts for competition and other facets of the contingent world that would best be discussed in another forum.
Now here is where the interesting piece comes in. Walker was flashy. He was arrogant. He played for a big name (Boston Celtics). He worked hard. These were all factors that worked in his favor. Similarly, the “Volume Recruiter” could still thrive under these conditions if he worked for a well known firm, covered up any shortcoming with flashy talk and a controlled confidence. The work ethic of the “Volume Recruiter” is rarely questioned. However, as time passes, those around him/her get used to the results and become disenfranchised with the pattern of performance.
The latter portion of Walker’s first stint with the Celtics is yet another factor to consider. He received his NBA maximum contract in 1999. With contract figures at that level, a certain expectation of performance enters in to play. When the “Volume Recruiter” earns his big payday, the proverbial bar is raised, and expectations go up with it. Unfortunatley, with both of our test subjects, this is not always the case. In Walker’s story, we have historical data to go off of. For our hypothetical recruiter, the discussion points are steeped in theory, but likely true enough to warrant a nodding of one’s head.
Walker was expected to increase his shooting percentage, quit turning the ball over, and be a more involved teammate after getting his pay raise. Unfortunately, he stayed essentially the same until Boston became fed up with his antics. He became somewhat out of shape by NBA standards, and did not do anything to better himself as a teammate.
The Volume Recruiter often follows a similar pattern. The typical progression is the receipt of a huge payday, bonus, or promotion – followed by a complacency or propensity to keep chugging along and not ratchet up performance to prove value.
As with both of our subjects – this leads to disdain and negative feelings from either a fan base and co workers. Management is almost always quick to catch on, and must act accordingly. In the case of a player with a contract, he is simply traded or let go. A recruiter would be terminated, put on extremely difficult searches, or subliminally pushed out the door.
What follows will complete our comparison.
After his first stint with Boston ended with a trade to Dallas, Walker became something known as a journeyman. He suited up for 5 teams in 5 years. When hiring recruiters, similar patterns are easy to spot on resumes. One long tenure chalked full of accomplishments and progression – followed by a number of brief stints in which proper evaluation of one’s contribution is hard to gauge.
The intuitive thought process would lead the hiring manger / GM to see a problem child, and would only pick up such an individual should the need be so great that the warts must be overlooked.
Eventually, both of our subjects will fade in to oblivion – only showing up on their respective contingencies radars for either negative (Walker: DWI, Robber, Bankruptcy) or as an anecdote among former colleagues by the water cooler on a Monday morning.
The legacy of both Walker and the “Volume Recruiter” might be their biggest contribution to the organization. You had someone who for a while operated in an often maddening way – yet seemed to come up big when others couldn’t. They did so with panache and style. Think about Walker’s infamous “Shimmy” that would come out following a big 4th quarter shot.
Or the VR’s insistence on ringing an imaginary bell upon closing a difficult deal on the last day of the quarter. Sure, both of them might have had a really ugly road to get to what ends up being a success, but with these two, they won’t let you remember it.
Walker embodies the personality, culture and motivation of someone who is groomed to take over a role in recruiting. While the end sometimes arrives with less than positive results – its hard to overlook the good times.