Tips for Finding Great Talent

 In 8. Guest Bloggers, Employees, Uncategorized
By Willis Getchell

WebThe scenario isn’t unusual. We’ve all done it. We’ve all been a terrible judge of someone’s talent and had it impact our business.

A great example is a coach or scout in the National Football League (NFL) tasked with choosing the first round draft pick who ends up being a dud. All the hype and great expectations are for naught if the draft pick can’t perform at the professional level. Remember famous first round NFL draft busts like JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf?

Now, you’re not an NFL scout, but it’s likely that you’ve felt the disappointment of misjudging another’s talent when hiring.

As humans, we are continually evaluating other people — at work and at play, in our community, at work and in our homes. Unfortunately, we aren’t as skilled at sizing up people as we believe we are. Even people who make a living based on this ability miss the mark, i.e., JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf.

Whether you are looking for a business partner, hiring a sous chef or simply evaluating yourself in light of a possible career change, here are a few principles used by NFL professionals that may assist you.

Beware of your biases

When we extend our positive impression of a person to many aspects of their character and personality, it’s known as the “halo effect.”

In the football world, Michael Lombardi notes the negative effects that ripple when a team decision maker “falls in love” with a particular player and closes down to any other ideas. As you consider a decision about another person, be sure to pause and consider any ways you may have pre-judged him or her, then find a way to test your existing presumptions.

Cast a wider net

Many business leaders and entrepreneurs who are in a rush to fill a key position will quickly zero in on a single candidate out of desperation. It’s often clear they have already made a choice and the decision to hire is merely a validation process for a specific candidate. This approach may work on occasion, but you’re more likely to land a high quality performer by following a more objective way to choose between them.

When looking to upgrade or fill a position, the most successful NFL teams don’t limit the possibilities to just one player. Instead they leave no stone unturned to generate a list of options, looking at the college draft pool, the free agent market and their own practice squad. Then they make the wisest choice based on a clear set of criteria.

Get info you can trust

The first step in counteracting any biases is to gather information from objective and reliable sources. When I have been in the position to interview, evaluate and hire team members, I’ve striven to make sure the data is collected from many sources, using well validated assessments, interviews with former employers, work histories, etc.

NFL executives function in much the same way, depending on a diverse set of sources about a player’s capabilities and history. The NFL Combine, for instance, is designed to define a player’s measurables, which include factors such as speed, size agility, even intelligence and aptitude.

Strive for a fit

A great fit trumps talent every time. Everyone can be a star at something. The real question is how that “something” aligns with the need of your team or organization. Decision makers in the NFL are always weighing a player’s talents against the current and future needs of the team. Questions asked include, “Where are our gaps as a team?” and “What puzzle pieces are missing?”

When evaluating candidates for your organization, ask these questions: How will this person’s strengths compliment those of my current team members? What reasons are there for a likely fit?

Consider the past

Legendary NFL coach and talent evaluator Bill Walsh had a saying: “Never take a one-year wonder and look forward; take the one-year wonder and look back.” Through his experience, he had become skeptical of so called high-potential players who had not shown a consistent level of productivity during their college careers. The same is true of the workplace and personal lives, giving birth to the truism: past performance predicts future behavior. If you’re not sure of what to expect from a potential business partner or team member going forward, carefully examine his or her track record and think through the implications for the future.

Willis Getchell is a Certified Executive Chef with experience running his own restaurant and managing corporate and resort settings. He now shares his 30-plus years of well-seasoned experience as a Lead Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale. He is a recognized leader in his profession, receiving numerous honors, including the Institute’s 2006 Award of Excellence and the Valley of the Sun Chef’s Association Chef-of-the-Year award. He writes regularly for’s monthly member newsletter.

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