Sports Officials & Professional Recruiters – Kindred Spirits?
Professional recruiters have a tough job. Recruiters are often tasked with trying to get several moving parts to work together to achieve the goal of connecting the ‘right talent with the right opportunity at the right time.’ It’s a lot like herding cats I suspect.
Sports officials also have a very difficult job. They are tasked with judging sporting events play by play and the scrutiny of their work is on display every day, every week, heck by the hour for the entire public to see and often criticize. Given all of the emotions that go along with sporting events (at all levels from Pee Wee to the Professional ranks) often reactions to officiating isn’t terribly rational. Often fans, coaches, parents, and players aren’t well versed in the rules and so aren’t particularly adept at knowing or applying them. Not to mention the nuances of rules and interpretations of those rules. The rule-book isn’t black and white–a lot of grey in there. And, yes sometimes officating feels a lot like herding cats.
Also, what’s often lost is how much preparation it takes to be a good official and the dedication and passion these folks have to be at the top of their games. The constant pressure sports officials are under is intense and can take a toll. Recruiters–ever feel intense pressure in your job?
I’ve been a football and basketball official for 14 years as an avocation – aka a ‘side hustle’. As I’ve moved up the ranks and met some amazing officials I’ve noticed several key traits that make them great. What’s more, it’s clear to me that some of these traits translate very easily to the world of professional recruiting. Could sports officials and professional recruiters be kindred spirits? Perhaps.
So, here are four traits that make sports officials great and will also make recruiters and talent managers be at their best.
The best referees/officials have amazing people skills. Officiating requires that folks have the ability to get along with all types of people and personalities. Sporting events have all kinds of small constituencies that all need to be dealt with in a professional way–including coaches, players, athletic directors, game-day personnel, and fans. If you aren’t into people you won’t go far in officiating.
Talent Managers must also have great people skills and be able to communicate effectively with a diverse group of folks. Recruiters too are often balancing diverse groups (i.e., your customers/employers, candidates, and recruiting managers). Must know your audience and what type of communication strategies will work with different people.
Calm in the Storm
Sporting events are often highly emotional for all involved–except the referees. Officials have to be that ‘calm in the storm’ and be absolutely relaxed, cool, and collected. This isn’t always easy of course, but officials have a job to do that requires intense focus and concentration–it’s critical to put the distractions aside and focus on each play. The best of the best do this very well.
Further, when that really tough play/situation arises in a game and the coaches and players are going crazy the officials job is to quiet the situation and rule to the best of their abilities. When the storm hits effective communication with your partners, in order to be sure everyone’s angle/perspective is respected and heard, is also critical.
Recruiters are often dealing with emotional situations as well as folks deal with the stress of obtaining a job. The whole process of getting a job and trying to fill a job with a good candidate is potentially stressful. The best recruiters are the ones that can be the calm in the storm and effectively lead everyone to the goal: to connect talented people with the right opportunities at the right time. Recruiters ‘grease the skids’ between talent and opportunity and make sense of chaotic situations.
Really great sports officials are incredibly prepared for each game and work many long hours in preparation for game-day ensuring that it will go as smooth as possible. As Seahawk QB Russell Wilson says, “Separation comes from preparation.” Prior to game day officials will often spend several hours watching film, going through a thorough pre-game, and studying rules and rule interpretations. This is done in the off-season as well as during the season. All of this preparation often leads to games that are officiating effectively and smoothly. Further, the more practice and preparation that officials do the more ‘natural’ the mechanics become–leading to getting a higher percentage of calls correct.
For professional recruiters there are a plethora of areas where preparation will help people be the best they can be. A few key questions could include:
- How well do you know the customer/employer and what are they looking for?
- How intimately do you know the job description and the nuances of what the hiring manager is looking for?
- How hard have you worked to learn as much as possible about the candidates you are trying to connect with opportunities?
- Are you confident your candidates will be a good cultural fit?
- Are you listening to all sides and acting accordingly?
Preparation is a key factor in recruiting.
And finally, effective referees have the ability to show empathy to all the people that they come into contact with during a sporting event. The ability to ‘put themselves in the shoes of others‘ is critical for officiating. Sports are incredibly impassioned and everyone involved has so much invested in them that to effectively manage these events requires the ability to look at the game/contest from the perspective of others. The best officials listen very well and are aware of their ‘tone’. Sometimes, the best way to ‘communicate’ with a coach that is upset is to be a good listener and acknowledge that you understand why he is upset. People need to be heard and believe their concerns are important. Further, empathy is about being self-aware and understanding how your behavior impacts others. Also, self-awareness is knowing what you can do to manage difficult situations. Clearly there are things that can escalate conflict and other strategies that help to put out the fire.
In recruiting it’s important to display empathy to all parties involved. The best recruiters have the ability to empathize with their customers and candidates and evaluate their tone to ensure they are handling situations effectively.
I think it’s safe to say sports officials and professional recruiters are kindred spirits indeed.