The Art of the Hire


Scott RabinowitzAll companies talk about the value of talent, but one local business, the Seattle Seahawks, clearly lives and dies by the people that it hires to execute its strategy for winning. With approximately $240 million in revenue, the team has the most public recruiting and hiring process imaginable, with job offers being made on live TV and scrutinized in both local and national media.

John Schneider, the Hawks’ general manager, characterizes the team’s recruiting and talent assessment efforts as “constant and comprehensive.” If it makes the wrong hire, the choice could result in losses of tens of millions of dollars and the competitive edge. With stakes that high, you can imagine the diligence and detail that go into the recruiting process. How does the Hawks’ process compare with a similar size company?

Schneider puts great value on identifying talent effectively. The Seahawks have an 11-person team of scouts and commit huge resources to make sure they identify potential employees perfectly matched to their scheme, culture and strategy. In addition to internal resources, the team retains outside consultants including national scouting services, psychological testers and incredibly thorough background check resources to assess candidates for the team. In the most recent NFL draft, the Seahawks hired nine players.

NFL teams typically spend around 2 percent of their operating expenses on talent assessment. Teams that possess the most consistent talent grading systems in line with their strategy, such as Indianapolis and New England, have a distinct competitive advantage. According to Schneider, if you identify talent accurately and build for the future, you can save your organization millions of dollars. Ultimately, it is Schneider’s responsibility to make sure that not only have they identified the best talent for each role, but also that the right leadership team (coaches, trainers, physicians, etc.) is in place to make sure that the employees’ strengths are identified and accentuated in the most effective way possible.

Concur Technologies, a software firm also with approximately $250 million in revenue, doesn’t conduct its new hire process in the public eye, but considers recruiting great people a core value of the company. With 2009 operating expenses of $226 million, Concur spent around $1.29 million on recruiting costs, just under .6 percent of operating expenses, to bring on board 254 external applicants. This heavy recruiting was conducted by eight recruiters around the world led by a recruiting director.

To assist its efforts Concur uses outside recruiting firms as well as advertisements, recruiting tools such as applicant tracking, CRM, social media tools, background checks, pre-employment assessment tools and more. The frontline recruiters work closely with the hiring managers to ensure that goals are in line with strategy; HR leadership is responsible for overall talent management strategy.

“If we are not identifying who these people are, what they need to be successful, and whether they are growing and developing in their careers, we are failing to nurture our most important asset,” says Scott Torrey, executive vice president of operations for Concur.

Both Concur and the Seahawks allocate very different resources to recruiting. The Seahawks spend 2 percent of expenses to finding nine new players, while Concur spends .6 percent of expenses to fill more than 250 positions. The difference speaks to business models: It’s unlikely Concur’s new marketing director will suffer a season-ending injury, and the most talented Seahawk only draws a salary for part of the year. For the Seahawks a small number of their employees will have the greatest impact on their bottom line. Concur’s model reflects speed and scale over depth.

 To compete in today’s market requires a strategy that includes comprehensive and ongoing recruitment and the leadership to take advantage of your team’s strengths. Winning companies invest resources, rely on outside input and cast a wide net to build teams that will thrive today and in the future. 

Scott Rabinowitz is executive vice president and managing director, Seattle, of DHR International, a global executive search firm.

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