A friend of mine is a major league baseball scout.  He is a master at finding talent.  Over the years he has discovered a couple of gems that might otherwise have gone overlooked.

He would tell you that great recruiting can overcome a limited payroll.  Don’t believe me, just ask the Red Sox who are sitting at home watching the MLB playoffs.

For the next couple of weeks all the hours of hard work that has been done by the scouting departments of the remaining playoff teams might very well be the difference in who wins the World Series.  The scouts won’t be dancing on the field during the celebration holding the trophy, but rest assured the players wouldn’t be either if it were not for the scouts.

For leaders, few things are more important than being a great recruiter.  The effectiveness of your team depends on you getting this one right.

Whether you are building a baseball team, company, school, fire department, law firm, or church there are some tested strategies of scouting that you should embrace.

1. Stick to your philosophy. Define your philosophy and don’t deviate.

In our organization we prioritize the 3 C’s . . . character, chemistry, and competency.  If the person being recruited doesn’t pass any one of the 3 C’s we don’t go near them.

For us character is the foundation of everything we do.  If a person can’t be trusted, they are useless to our team.  Character involves work ethic, trustworthiness, honesty, loyalty, and even punctuality.

Chemistry takes time to discern, but it is equally important.  A friend of mine says, “Life is too short to dance with ugly women.” He doesn’t say it to offend anyone, but rather to remind himself that you better get along with the people you work with.  Multiple interviews in a variety of settings will help give you a read on chemistry.  A good scout understands that there is more to building a team than what happens on the field.  What happens in the clubhouse might be just as important.

Competency answers the “Can they get the job done” question.  Are they proven?  Are they skilled?  Are they properly trained?  Do they have the required relational or financial skills?  Competency is different for every position, but ultimately, “Talent Matters.”

If you want to build a great organization you better define your philosophy and refuse to compromise.

2.  Protect the culture of your team. Anyone who is going to join your team better bleed what you bleed or you are asking for trouble.  A cultural fit is often, though not always, easier to find inside your organization.  But whether you hire from within or go outside to find your next team member is irrelevant.  What does matter is that they share your vision and values.

A bad cultural fit can be like a cancer to your team.  You can’t ignore cancer because it will spread.  Don’t hire a weak cell.

3.  Know what you are looking for. Professional scouts have certain “tools” that they look for in a prospect.  They know that 5 tool players (hit for average, hit for power, great speed, a strong arm, and good with the glove) are a rarity.  However, you can have a great team without having any 5 toolers.  A good scout knows the need of the team and he goes and finds the right guy.

In business you better know what kind of person you need.  If you need a marketing expert, they must understand the market and know what creative looks like.  If it is a receptionist you need, find someone who is friendly and personal and who relishes the chance to be the first voice someone hears when they call your organization.

4.  Do your homework. Years ago I was considering a hire.  It was down to the last couple of candidates and I decided to call the references of one of the ladies one more time.  At the end of a couple of those calls I asked the reference if they knew of someone else who could give me an opinion of the woman being considered for the position.  Let’s just say the secondary references were not listed on her resume for a reason.

One told me she had a poor work ethic, and the other said she wasn’t always easy to get along with.  Red flashing “character & chemistry lights” started flashing in my head.  I was stunned, but thankful I had done my homework.

I can tell you that it is a lot easier to not hire someone than it is to fire them.  Do your homework.

5.  Leave no stones unturned. My scouting friend is famous for saying, “If they can play, someone will find them.”  Scouts will go anywhere to get their guy.

While pedigree is an indicator of performance, it sometimes can be misleading.  There are some great players who were once undrafted.  Just because a person has an impressive resume or a formal education doesn’t mean they can deliver.

Be diligent and don’t make assumptions.  The person you are looking for might not even be in the same line of work that you are needing done.  As long as you know what you are looking for and stick to your philosophy, it doesn’t matter where you find the person.

6.  Be willing to take a chance & look for clues. I recently hired a guy who, on paper, wasn’t ready to handle the job.  He had never been in a role as big as the one we needed filled and he was a bit younger than the other candidates under consideration.

But the guy is a leader.  In fact, what initially intrigued me about him is that he was the point guard on his college basketball team as well as the shortstop on the baseball team.  Both positions that are typically filled by solid leaders.  By the way, he is only 5’7.  Not many 5’7 guys who are multi-sport college athletes unless there is more to them than their stature.  Clue . . . LEADER!

Considering his position has nothing to do with basketball or baseball, such a hire may seem risky.  But I would argue that every hire is risky.

Knowing that I was being true to our philosophy and our organizational culture and that there were other “clues” that were present lessened the risk and gave me the confidence to take a chance.

7.  Become good at interviewing. Before we hire someone we like to interview them at least 3 times, in 3 different settings, by 3 different groups of people.  Lots of eyes and ears help us cut down on mistakes.

It is easier to talk yourself into a person who might not be the right fit than it is to fool your whole team.  Encourage your organization to embrace these strategies and they will help you protect your culture.

8.  Expect to make some mistakes. Let’s face it, there will be times when you will miss.  It is a part of hiring.  I have experienced the feeling and it is less than pleasant.

All I can say is learn from your mistakes.  They usually are the result of violating the above strategies.  I can tell you that I have gotten better at hiring through the years.  My secret is not that I have gotten smarter.  It is that I have embraced and trusted these 8 strategies.

Scouting for talent is not easy work, but it is important if you want to build a successful team.  Stick to these strategies and before long you will be surrounded by winners.



Are there other strategies you would add to the list?