Recruitment – is it the ultimate office sport?

James Taylor [square]The success of Team GB at Rio 2016 is a real reminder of the drive and talent we have in this country, and the success that can be achieved with investment in a ‘people development’ strategy.

Team GB has backed up the record medal haul in 2012 by beating the targets set for them again in Rio and I believe that there are synergies between the recruitment industry and elite level sport.


Well, it is critical to the success of people working in recruitment, as with athletes, that they approach each and every day with the aim of being the best they can be, the best version of themselves, by focusing on their processes rather than fixating on the target outcome.

It dawned on me when watching swimmer Adam Peaty, before, during and after his gold medal and world record-breaking swim that what defines the best from the very good is their ability to OutWork, OutPlan, OutThink, OutDemand (the most of themselves) and ultimately OutDeliver under pressure. I have seen some very talented recruiters fall short of their potential over the years due to them lacking in one of those areas.

‘Winning is everything’ in recruitment ie. if you don’t have the first place candidate, you don’t fill the job and therefore you don’t get paid; it is a target and service delivery focused environment.

There are a number of transferable skills and personality traits that contribute to career success, as well as sporting glory. This is the reason I get excited when I receive the CV of a sportsperson when recruiting for an internal role at Macildowie.

Athletes are highly intrinsically motivated and it is this mindset that transfers really well into a role in recruitment. Ultimately, consultants need to be able to successfully source and place the top candidates in roles that are often fiercely contested between multiple agencies and individuals.

Like successful athletes, consultants will reap the monetary and vocational rewards based on the amount of effort they put in, and this doesn’t have to be from consistent 12-hour working days. We regular refer to the world of recruitment as a contact sport – the more people that consultants can ‘touch’ the greater their chance will be of achieving success. ‘Contact’ refers to the phone calls, face-to-face meetings, email and social media engagement with clients and candidates. The reason we call it a contact sport is that face-to-face contact with customers trumps the lot and that’s how long-term, winning relationships are built.

From an employer’s perspective, it’s paramount that consultants are given the tools to be able to achieve these performance targets and be the best version of themselves. Take British Cycling, for example. By considering the law of marginal gains in everything they do when it comes to training and competition, the nation has now topped the medal table at the last two Olympic games. Like these cyclists having the best bikes, racing suits and team around them, recruitment consultants need to have the necessary tools and support to achieve success.

These can be in various forms, whether this be cutting-edge technology, a supportive senior leadership team, who coach every hour of the working day, the use of motivational techniques, as well as ongoing training and development – and as with sport, the rewards that come with ‘winning’ need to inspire emotionally, as well as financially.

Ultimately, the best recruitment consultants need to know their marketplace intimately; they need to have the desire to be the best connected person in that market and have the courage to communicate with their customers to provide winning solutions to career and recruitment challenges.

Desire and hard work will, as with most sports, trump pure talent nearly every time and see the top performers rise through the ranks in their recruitment career.

James Taylor is managing director at UK recruitment consultancy Macildowie

Back to listing