One more take based on the recently concluded NFL Draft, that annual and remarkable spectacle of talent assessment, evaluation, and management that plays out live, and on TV each spring.
This year, my alma mater, the University of South Carolina was represented exceedingly well at the draft, with 2 players selected in the draft's first round, and a total of 6 players selected overall. For South Carolina, this was by far the most players it has ever had selected in a single year at the draft, and also serves as a kind of reward and validation of the last college football season that saw the Gamecocks finish with a school-best 11 victories, punctuated with a fantastic win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
For schools that play at the highest levels of college football, the number of their players that are selected in the NFL draft has several implications. At the surface, it is a measurement of the quality of last season's squad, the more players selected by NFL talent evaluators, the better. But second, and for the colleges perhaps more important for the long term, having players selected for the NFL draft serves as a powerful recruiting tool. For many of the very best and in demand high school players that have plenty of options in where to play their college ball, the track record and history of a school for preparing and placing players in the NFL is an important and powerful factor in the decision process. Put simply, if a school has a history of success in preparing players for the NFL, (Alabama, Ohio State, Miami, LSU, etc.), the more likely it is that top high school talent that sees the NFL as their goal will choose those schools. And a virtuous circle is formed - the school sends players to the NFL, more top prospects that have the NFL as a career aspiration take notice and attend the school, they in turn progress to the NFL, they help the school have success on the field, and on and on.
In college football recruiting the 'stories' are easy to see. Players move from the school to the NFL in a highly public manner. But inside organizations, these kind of success stories are often harder to envision and describe to candidates and prospects. While in the recruiting process, the organization typically talks to the fantastic opportunities that await candidates should they choose to join, it can be difficult for the candidate to appreciate or even accept these stories as more than another part of a recruiter's sales pitch. In that light, I think there are three kinds of success stories that HR or Recruiting ought to be able to articulate to these top players, the ones that have lots of other options for their next career move.
One - Come here, and here's what incredible opportunities are possible if you decide to make a long-term career here. Take a look at Joe Bloggs, he came in at about your same age, at a similar job, and now he is the head dude in charge of XYZ Division. In fact, I'd like you to meet Joe, let's set up a lunch for you two to talk.
Two - Come here, and build the skills that you can take anywhere you'd like to go in your career. Do you know, (insert name of the most famous company alumni you have), he/she spent three years here back in the 90s and now they run their own company. In fact, we still work with him/her from time to time and I am sure we can arrange a call if you'd like to learn more about how working here really set them up for their future success.
Three - Come here, and build the skills that you can take anywhere you'd like to go in your career, leave if you think you need to, but come know that we will welcome you back somewhere down the line. Here's where you tell the story of a high-profile re-bound hire that illustrates the possibility and flexibility that makes choosing your company more attractive to the candidate. The sports world is certainly full of these kinds of tales, of players that left a team only to return later in their careers.
Bottom line, when selling your opportunity, whether it is to a top athlete deciding on a college, or a top technical developer, both who have plenty of options, being able to paint a compelling and realistic picture of all the possible career scenarios, and how your organization can best help the candidate make the most of them, offers your side the best opportunity to land the talent you need.
And don't forget, being open and accepting of what the candidate might want to do after he or she leaves your organization might be just as important as what they can or want to do inside your organization.