by Mandy Green, Selling for Coaches
I have been working with a lot of coaches lately who have experienced a string of disappointments with their recruits (such as poor performance, attitude problems and personality conflicts) because they failed to find that right personality fit for their program and team.
If you are like every other coach out there, you spend a lot of time getting to know them as an athlete, you build a personal relationship, get them to commit, and truly believe that they are going to work out to be the difference maker your program needs. Then for some reason, they don’t turn out quite like you thought they would on and or off of the competitive field.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you take the time to plan your recruiting process more carefully, you will see a huge payoff in the end in the performance and chemistry of your team. Recruiting is the lifeblood of your program, and choosing who to recruit doesn’t need to be such a gamble if you approach it strategically.
A key part of the recruiting process is developing good behavioral type questions to ask via email, over the phone, or even better, when you are face to face with them in your office. Here are 6 tips for digging deeper in an effort to find the recruits that will in fact be positive additions to your program:
1. First, know what kind of person you are looking for. Notice I said person, not athlete. A mistake I see a lot of coaches make is they recruit the athlete and don’t do much digging into what their values are, their leadership capabilities, and other character based qualities about the person. Start by making a list of your own values and character qualities. Then list what values and character you want in the people in your program.
2. Before you meet with a recruit, formulate and know the types of questions you want to ask recruits that will get you the information you need. If you don’t, you run the risk of the conversation turning into an informal conversation, and you’ll end up offering a scholarship or roster spot to someone because you like him or her, not because he or she is the best fit for your program and team.
3. To get the best information from your recruits, you want them to be comfortable with you. To do this, it is best to start off with questions that are easy to answer. This puts these 16-18 year olds you’re recruiting at ease and gives you an opportunity to develop rapport with them.
• What are the first three things you do when you get up in the morning?
• What music is on your IPod?
• What do you love about your current team?
By building trust and confidence at the beginning of the conversation through questions like these, you will be in a much better position to discover the recruit’s attitudes, beliefs and past patterns of performance.
4. After you’ve warmed-up the recruit, you can then move to behavioral questions that will tell you how well they have demonstrated the values or characteristics that you have determined are critical to your program’s development, culture, and team. The thinking behind these types of questions is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.
By getting recruits to talk about what they did in a specific situation, you get a glimpse of how they will likely react in a similar situation with your team or in competition. What’s even better, with careful questioning you can start to understand the values and motivations of the person you’re recruiting, and from this decide whether they have the positive attitude, competitiveness, leadership, or decision making abilities that you want in your program.
Typical lead-ins for any behavioral type questions you may ask include:
• Tell me about a time when…
• Give me an example of…
• Please describe a situation where you…
5. Dig deeper. A question that gets asked during almost every traditional recruiting conversation goes something like this: "What do you think are your strengths?" The recruit responds with an equally predictable answer like, "I’m very loyal teammate and I put 100% effort into my play." You can take that information at face value and form a high opinion of the recruit, or you can ask for proof of the person’s loyalty and commitment by asking a question like this: "Tell me about a time when you demonstrated loyalty. Why do you think this specific example shows loyalty?"
6. If you’re not getting useful information from a recruit, try using a negative question: "Tell me about a time when this didn’t work? What went wrong? What did you do to correct the situation? Negative questions can help you discover how well recruits learn from their mistakes, as well as how willing they are to admit mistakes and take responsibility for them.
Every conversation you have whether it is via email, phone, or face to face, is an opportunity to find concrete evidence that a recruit can do what they say, and that what they do will result in a positive outcome once they are a part of your program. When a recruit describes what they did, don’t assume it was done well. You must dig deeper than face value and confirm that what recruits say they did was actually advantageous to their team.
Getting the players who will be a good fit for your program takes preparation and practice. Be prepared to ask questions that will give you the best predictive information about how well a recruit will perform on the job once they are a part of your program. These six tips, if used properly, will bring you much success in finding the recruits that will be a positive addition to your program.
Mandy Green is the resident team development specialist for Selling for Coaches. For information on bringing Mandy to your college to work with you and your athletes, email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.