They may not realize it, but many coaches are busy analyzing the wrong thing when they assess what’s working and what’s not in their recruiting efforts.
In fact, they’re repeating a mistake that the Allies were making during World War II.
Back then, when fighter pilots landed their aircraft back at their base after engaging the enemy in battle in the skies, they began to track where bullet holes appeared on their planes. Their commanders quickly began a process of tracking where the planes had received fire, and began to reinforce those areas with extra protection for future battles in an effort to reduce the number of lost planes.
But then a young Jewish mathematician, Abraham Wald, pointed out to the commanders that there might be another important way to look at that data which was being collected.
Perhaps, Wald suggested, the reason why the planes were not showing bullet hole damage in certain areas of the structure was because the ones that did have damage to those areas weren’t returning. In other words, the data that would completely change the way they were looking at the situation wasn’t there to assess in the first place. Wald’s theory proved to be correct, and the military began reinforcing the areas that were showing no damage on the returning planes.
The lesson for coaches: Don’t just seek out and listen to information that is being told to you, listen for what is not being said, too. Missing data may be more valuable than the data you receive.
For example, most coaches (and admissions departments, too) ask for feedback from prospects who visit campus regarding their experience on the visit. And not surprisingly, most of the feedback is positive – “we had a great time”, “you were all fantastic hosts” and “I learned a lot about the university.” The coach and admissions department that hears that feedback believes that because of it, they’re putting together the right kind of visit and don’t make any adjustments to it. We know that because in the work we do with clients and when we conduct recruiting workshops on campuses, we see that campus visits really haven’t changed much over the last 30 years or so. And we’re not just talking about campus visits: It could be analyzing information from a recruit when it comes to where you rank compared to their other choices, whether or not distance from home is a factor, or other recruiting-specific information coaches typically gather from a prospect.
The problem is, coaches are getting incorrect feedback from their data source. Translation: Kids, and their parents, are lying to you (or at least not telling you the whole truth) and you’re believing it, and assuming you’re not taking fire to that part of your recruiting approach. And by the way, we give out incorrect data to others all the time in our daily lives! If you go to a restaurant and get mediocre service, and the side dish was cold, and they never brought out your glass of wine you ordered with dinner, you’re probably sitting there a little ticked off and disappointed in the experience. And yet when the server comes by and asks how everything was, you respond with “fine”. It’s inaccurate, the restaurant never adjusts their approach to fix the errors, and you cross that restaurant off your list for future visits.
Bad data has potentially catastrophic results.
Want to avoid bad data in recruiting? Here are three ideas you can put to work immediately, regardless of where you are in the process with a recruit, what your division level is, or what the topic might be:
- Assume that your prospect is trending away from you and your program. Even if you’re 99% certain they aren’t, just taking the approach that they are will change your perspective and the type of questions you ask. It’s an overall attitude adjustment that’s going to serve you well – not in front of the prospect, but behind the scenes with you and your staff as you analyze the process.
- Ask ‘negative’ questions. In the spirit of point number one, don’t ask your prospect what they’re looking for in their college coach…instead, ask what kind of coach would be wrong for them. Instead of assuming the campus visit they just had with you last weekend went great (because they told you it went great), ask them “even if it’s not a big thing, what are one or two things you wished was different about our campus that would make it an even better fit for you?” You’ll be surprised what you learn when you give your recruit permission to complain and be negative a little bit. And, by hearing their feedback, you’ll be able to strategically design your next step in the process.
- Be aware of common drop off points. For example, if the data you’re seeing shows you that after a campus visit, most prospects that don’t end up committing to your program tend to drop communication with you two weeks later, it would make sense to take point number one to heart and plan an aggressive post-visit follow-up campaign within the next 14 days to confirm interest, or redirect a negative impression back towards your direction positively. Don’t sit and hope and pray and wait, take action by being proactive communicators. Ask a negative question, listen to their response, and adjust your approach.
Of course, this strategy isn’t limited to those three points or the specific areas we used as examples. The point is, don’t rely on surface information only from prospects who loved your program and are now competing for you. Broaden your information gathering, and get creative in analyzing what’s going right – and what isn’t – with the incoming data you have in front of you.
More creative, proven recruiting strategies will be outlined for our audience of college coaches from around the country who are attending this summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. Some fantastic coaches, speakers, authors and experts are getting ready to share their secrets and proven ideas – and we want you there! Click here for all the information, and to save your seat.