Hiring the right candidate is the key to success of any organization, may it be a small business or a multi-billion dollar organization like the National Basketball Association.

Exploration for the right talent is a colossal task in itself, not only the process of sourcing candidates, medical and psychometric assessment, short listing, and interviewing candidates, but also the resources that the company puts in, including time and money. The money is worth a good hire, as bad hires can cost a lot more. Replacing a bad hire may cost more than the position’s annual salary. That is the reason why companies focus on evaluating candidates and weed out the bad ones. However, what’s more difficult is picking the best candidate from a handful of promising ones. Stating in Steve Jobs’ words, hiring the right talent is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.

Whether you are a basketball fan or not, the way NBA teams identify their hires and then assess and recruit them, provides a great advice for hiring managers who wants to build a great team by hiring the right candidates from the pool.

Here are some hiring lessons from NBA teams on hiring ambitious, charismatic and dynamic players:

Defining The Job Before Defining The Person

For any basketball player, the formula of success is obvious, they should be able to jump higher, pass and shoot better, and run faster. The job description doesn’t describe the desired candidate as someone who must have 10 years of experience in playing basketball, or score 13 points per game, should have attended a Division I school, and have a higher Emotional Quotient. Even if some of the players may fulfill all the “so-called” criteria, it doesn’t imply that he will be a pro basketball player.

Hiring managers should focus on performance-based recruitment, instead of making a checklist consisting of years of experience and required skills. Instead of focusing on skills itself, they should be more bothered about how the skills are applied on the job. For instance, a great photographer knows about the right lights and angles while capturing the photos and similarly the best developers know how to use off-the-shelf tools to create robust software.

NBA teams understand what they need and so they hire different type of players to play in different positions and don’t hire similarly skilled candidates. They need a big man at the center for rebounding and defense while they also need a point guard who could quarterback the floor. So they cannot hire all the big guys, as each hire has a great impact on the job description of next hire.

More often than not, hiring managers focus on a narrow set of skills, as a result, the team will lack diversity. A team needs all sorts of people; some of them have to be good at organizing, and some need to be an idea machine while others should be good at turning ideas into reality.

Considering Performance-Qualified First And Cultural Fit Second

Many players are invited for a pre-draft workout before the selection process of NBA teams starts. All the players were put through the paces to check if they are capable of reaching the minimum performance standards. Those who were able to complete the challenge were then teamed with other players to play a series of 3-on-3 games to test their on-the-job skills. Few of these players are then shortlisted to meet the coaches so that they can better understand their character and personality.

Before hiring a person just because he/she is a cultural fit, it is important to know that he/she would be able to do the actual work while placed in the actual work environment. But how would you know that in an interview? You can get some insights about the candidate’s problem solving skills and major accomplishments, which might be helpful in knowing if he/she would be capable of facing the challenges at the job. These performance based questions might also provide an answer to if the candidate will be a great cultural fit.

Recruiting Skills Matter

The NBA draft is considered as a market of active candidates while free agency is a pool of passive talent. Candidates in the NBA draft only have one choice, on the other hand, free agents usually earn the same amount on any team that is interested in drafting them, but they have a choice to pick the team that’s best fit for them.

The team that would be able to provide the player with better opportunities will obviously recruit the key talent. Everyone is a part of this recruiting, including management, coaches, and some key players.

The best talent will always be discriminating, the ones who have to pick between multiple options are not comparing your offer with no other job; in fact they are comparing your job with every other competitive and comparable option. Passive candidates often go under the recruiters’ radar when the passive candidate pool has the best talent. Hiring the best among active and passive candidates require extraordinary recruiting skills and managers who can understand an employee’s requirement.

Considering Recruitment As An Investment

The most different thing about the NBA teams’ recruitment process is that they spend a lot of time with each prospective player off the court in social sessions, meetings, and having meals together. Also, former coaches of the players were invited so as to better understand player’s personality, learning ability, work ethic, and leadership qualities.

Hiring the best talent is an investment in the company’s success and not a transaction, which can be delegated. Knowing the importance of a right candidate, companies should not hesitate in investing as much time as required to make the right decision. Many hiring managers never spare enough time to do it right because they didn’t do it right the first time.

These hiring lessons can be implemented whether you want to hire a star NBA player or just an elite candidate to improve your team performance. It is about understanding the vacant position and then finding the right person to fill it up.

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