What would happen if NFL scouts followed in the footsteps of many US companies and tried to save money by using a computer program to determine which college athletes they should recruit? Would their teams be successful? If this was the case, Jerry Rice and Walter Payton might have ended up as insurance salesman instead of a record breaking running back and wide receiver! A computer program sifts through the information it’s given and looks only for specific keywords. For instance, you would be able to search for people in the SEC or Big 12 Conference, but you just can’t search for “unique passing style that will stump our competition.”
An athlete like Jerry Rice, from Mississippi Valley State (a 1-AA program), would never have been drafted if scouts hadn’t seen him play in person. Even then, only 2 teams were serious about drafting him in the first round of the 1985 draft. However, the 49ers were impressed by his record-breaking season and saw even further potential in Rice. And boy, were they right. Jerry Rice went on to be a 13-time pro-bowler, currently has 4 NFL records, and is widely regarded as the best receiver in NFL history.
Walter Payton was the top running back in Mississippi in high school, and yet was still looked over by every single big college. In his time at Jackson State, he rushed for 65 touchdowns in one year. Again, because the NFL didn’t limit their search, the Chicago Bears drafted him as the 4th pick in the first round in 1975. He went on to be the all-time rushing leader until Emmett Smith broke the record, and he only missed one game in his 13 year career. He is in the Hall of Fame and regarded as one of the best running backs in the NFL.
So, if the NFL doesn’t rely on a computer to recruit their best team players, why should you? By relying on a computer to scan resumes and determine who’s qualified and who’s not, you are missing out on the most important qualities in hiring: passion, emotional intelligence, culture fit, and motivation. When you empower your Scouts (ahem, third party recruiters) to find those diamonds in the rough, you could see a huge payout. In order to recruit the Jerry Rice’s and Walter Payton’s of the world, you must give them a chance to show you what they’ve got by moving beyond the resume and having a conversation.