The San Francisco 49ers football team has been in the news a lot this year, and mostly for all of the wrong reasons. This past week however, they were in the news for a more interesting reason when they announced that a player named Jarryd Hayne had made the final roster.
What’s remarkable about this story is that 99% of players in the National Football League follow the same path: they play high school football, then they go on to play football at an American university, after which they go through something called the “combine” during which they are further evaluated by the NFL teams, and finally they are drafted by those teams – with some non-drafted players signing on as free agents. Almost every player that has played in the NFL for decades has gone through this same process.
What’s unique about Jarryd Hayne? He didn’t play football at an American university. He didn’t play football at an American high school. In fact, Jarryd Hayne has never played football prior to this year. Jarryd Hayne plays a sport called rugby, where he was a star in the Australian leagues. While rugby has some similarities with American football there are also some very significant differences.
When the 49ers brought Hayne in for a tryout during the preseason, it seemed more like a publicity stunt during a time when they badly needed some good publicity. Much to most people’s surprise however, it appears that Mr. Hayne can actually play football. In fact – though time will tell – it appears that he might actually be quite good at it.
Companies trying to hire in a hot job market run into some of the same issues as professional sports teams – everyone chasing after a very limited pool of talent.
One of the things that has amazed me in this increasingly hot economy is the tunnel vision that many companies have in attempting to fill their positions. I’ve seen positions languish open for six months, even a year, while a company waited for a candidate that checked all 10 items off of their list. I sometimes wonder if we eliminate great candidates in the process.
The result of this tunnel vision is that we see companies go after the same targets repeatedly with decreasing returns. Think about it. The Audit and Compliance fields reached the equivalent of “full employment” by the beginning of 2011. We are in our fourth year of increasingly overheated market. This means that those candidates with the most in-demand profiles have been pinged multiple times per week (or even per day) for several years now. Continuing to go after the same profile can be an exercise in frustration. But those employers willing to look at little outside the box can often be rewarded.
5 ways to get more creative in your hiring:
- Opening up to people with similar relevant skills. One of the biggest pitfalls I see is companies who get fixated on a particular area of knowledge (a particular piece of software or compliance regulations, for example), at the risk of missing out on potentially great candidates. It can help to recognize that a candidate who is very well versed in SAP can quickly get up to speed in the nomenclature and nuances of Oracle Financials; or that a candidate who has been able to master the nuances of BSA/AML compliance can likely also master the nuances of lending and compliance regulations. Similarly, a candidate who knows how to audit one area of the business can likely apply those skills to other areas of the business.
- Opening up to alternate industries. It is true, certain industries have their own special idiosyncrasies and nuances, but we shouldn’t necessarily assume that someone who has only worked in financial services cannot make a transition to a technology company or vice versa. Though in considering candidates from alternate industries, we do need to be sensitive during the interview process to issues of structured vs unstructured environments, pace, and corporate culture.
- Considering a candidate with more or less experience. In a very hot market, it can become more common for candidate to want to jump up a level when making a move. You can sometimes tap into this by asking whether someone with a few less years of experience or managerial credentials might be able to grow into the role. However, in doing so, be careful that you are not first overlooking someone on your team who might also be in line for a promotion. Similarly, we sometimes tend to overlook candidates in the latter third of their career. Some of these candidates may have been Directors or VPs but who are perhaps no longer interest in commitment and stress of leading a large group. Instead, they are merely looking to leverage their skills and make a contribution.
- Geography and visa candidates. Hiring managers and directors can increase candidate flow by considering candidates from outside your geographic area, or by considering candidates who need visa sponsorship. If you are willing to go the extra mile and sponsor a Green Card, you can potentially secure the services of an outstanding candidate for several years. The extra cost and paperwork can equally be offset be getting a talented and motivated candidate.
- Considering candidate from other related fields. Another way to augment the pipeline is to consider a candidate with from an ancillary field with relevant skills. A Systems Administrator or DBA could have the potential to become a great IT auditor or security professional. Someone who deals with BSA/AML issues at the branch level may be a candidate to move into second or third lines of defense. Yes, this candidate may need some additional grooming and coaching in some areas, but that may also be offset from their depth of knowledge in other areas.
I think we sometimes underestimate the ability for people to learn. After all, at one point in time, none of us knew how to do our jobs…but we figured it out. Moreover, technology, business processes, and compliance requirements are continually changing and evolving – hiring today’s knowledge over the ability to learn could be limiting down the road. By opening up your search parameters and getting a little creative, you might be able to find your next Jarryd Hayne.