Hiring Lessons Learned from the NFL

It’s January 2019 and we’re currently in the thick of the NFL playoff season. For teams that do not qualify for the playoffs, that means changes in coaching staff. 2018 saw an usual 8 changes in coaching staff; an uptick from the usual 4-6. On New Year’s Eve, the Arizona Cardinals elected to fire their Head Coach, Steve Wilks. They sought to find a head coach with success coaching quarterbacks. They landed on Kliff Kingsbury.

Given the normal record of coaching changes, Kingsbury typically wouldn’t have had a chance. Kingsbury was the head coach of Texas Tech from 2013-2018. He had developed a reputation as an innovative offensive coach and was credited with developing players like Patrick Mahomes. The problem was Kingsbury didn’t win enough games and was fired from Texas Tech. Despite his record, Kingsbury was hired as the offensive coordinator of USC on December 4th, 2018.

Enter the Arizona Cardinals. The Arizona Cardinals sought permission to interview Kingsbury for their vacancy as Head Coach. Eventually, USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann allowed Kingsbury to interview. Following a successful interview, Kingsbury was hired on January 8th, 2019 as Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Kingsbury took a counteroffer and left USC after making a commitment. This dilemma has become a lightning rod topic in the sports talk world and is an issue many companies have. The question remains, how can management convince their potential employees to not take a counteroffer? Below are 3 tips.

Be Aware of Where Your Candidate is at in the Interviewing Process with Other Companies

At the beginning of the interviewing process, ask your candidate what other opportunities they’re involved with and where they’re at in the process. It’s all about timing. You don’t want to miss out on landing someone. If they are looking at other opportunities, don’t discourage them. Instead, look for opportunities to sell them on what excites them.

Talk to Your Candidate About Counteroffer

Even if your candidate doesn’t go to a different company, they may be enticed to stay at their current one. Make sure they’re aware of the risks of taking a counteroffer. Discuss how it can lead to strained relationships at their current company.

Ask Thought Provoking Questions to Gauge Your Candidate’s Interest

From the very beginning, ask what you’re candidate is looking for in a new opportunity, and make sure that aligns with what you’re offering. What we call these in the recruiting world is hot buttons. They’re typically aspects the candidate doesn’t have in their current job that they want in a future company. Sell to these hot buttons and make sure your opportunity is intriguing to the candidate.

Bottom line, don’t be USC. If you have knowledge that your candidate is in the interviewing process with another company, dig into what about that other opportunity makes them excited. If it’s someone you want at your company, don’t be afraid to sell them, close them, keep in close contact, and discuss counteroffer. This will give you a better chance of landing your next employee.


GRS is here to assist you with up to date career advice. Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

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