It takes commitment, perseverance, and resilience. It takes a willingness to work alone, honing their craft, while friends socialize, play video games, post on Facebook, and contemplate the lint between their toes as they put on a clean pair of socks and prepare to go out for the night. It takes an insatiable hunger to beat their competition.
These are the traits of The Athlete. And they’re the reason why corporate recruiters like myself get excited when I’m filling a position and learn that the candidate has participated in athletics on some level. Because, from what I’ve found, the characteristics of good athletes are similar to the ones found in top recruiters.
With my background in sports (Rockport High soccer and basketball, then college soccer at Framington State), I admit I may be a little biased. But the simple fact remains that recruiting and sales are competitive environments, so you want someone with that very mentality to come in and strive to be the best performer in the group.
In a study conducted by the University of North Carolina-Greensboro a few years ago, they analyzed the psychological characteristics of 10 U.S. Olympic Champions who participated in the Games between 1976 and 1998.
Through a series of confidential interviews with the athletes, their parents, their guardians, and, when applicable, their significant others, the researchers sought to determine how the athletes developed the psychological traits that they did over time. They also administered a battery of tests to further identify the athletes’ psychological characteristics.
The team found that all of the athletes are:
Highly Motivated and Committed – They share the ability to develop and find multiple pathways to triumph.
Optimistic and Positive – Their outlooks leaned “half full versus half empty,” allowing them to remain positive when faced with difficulties and rebound more quickly when failures occurred. They also did not let self-doubt stand in the way of their ultimate ability to be successful.
Perfectionists – They set high standards and were organized.
Focused – They have the ability to concentrate on key performance-related factors while effectively blocking out distractions. One athlete said, “It’s almost like where you get so focused time stands still.”
Able to Handle Stress and Cope with Adversity – They deal with routine setbacks and anxiety associated with elite levels of competition.
Some of the athlete subjects in the study participated in team sports, while others were individual competitors. In my career, though, that differentiation doesn’t matter. The traits taken from participating in both are transferable in the staffing industry, and it’s more important that they were involved in that competitive environment.
Athletes of any ilk are usually superior recruiters. In staffing you get pulled in so many different directions, and you need to remain focused and have good time management skills.
To date, considering all the former athletes my colleagues and I have helped place, we’re extremely pleased with both their retention and performance.
But it’s entirely possible that we’re wrong on this, and have only had anecdotal success. What do you other staffers out there think?