There was no way to measure his heart his heart,” his father said.

That quote was from the father of New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady — the quarterback who will probably go down in NFL history as one of the very best.

A week ago I was intrigued with a documentary on ESPN titled The Brady 6. I somewhat knew that this story would touch on Brady being drafted at Number 199 in the 2000 pro football draft, and in the 6th round no less. He was completely overlooked by all the teams. Nobody wanted him.

Assessment as part of the HR toolkit

Why? Because based on all the assessments that were done, the consensus was that Brady would not be good enough to make it.

The NFL recruiting process is an amalgam of assessments. They track players closely, sometimes from high school. The glare heats up as players follow their college career. When, and if, they declare to turn pro, they are invited to what is called the NFL combine. More than 300 top prospects normally attend this three-day mini-camp. The question is, do NFL teams choose strength or brains?

There were six quarterbacks drafted ahead of  Tom Brady back in 2000 (that’s why the ESPN documentary is called The Brady 6). All six drafted before Brady were highly rated according to the assessments. They were, in some cases, called a “can’t miss.” The scouts were saying that these players would be starters in years to come and bring value to their team.

Well, it did not work out that way. Most of these six prodigies that were drafted ahead of Tom Brady are no longer in football. They all basically washed out, or are backups today, at best. How could that happen?
I have always been intrigued by the NFL and the similarities to Human Resources, especially when it comes to recruiting.

Gauging talent

As NFL teams sort through this vast array of talent, how do they make the decision to draft these players? A word that is always used is” intangibles.” In other words, all the assessments may say one thing, but there is always this gut feeling that pro football talent scouts use that tells them something else. It’s the “heart” of a football player that Tom Brady’s father talked about. How is that measured?

As we scout the world for talent for our respective organizations, we are (or should) always be on the lookout for talent, and not only when we have an open requisition. True scouts are always on the hunt.

Some companies are very connected to colleges and professors who serve as kind of a lookout.

I would always instruct our recruiting team, when a doing campus visit, to get to know the students, but more importantly, to get to know their professors. That could be the key. They are interacting every day with these potential recruits and will know more about them than any recruiter will every find out. They should be key in your college recruitment process.

Deputizes them as your talent scouts.

Solving the talent conundrum

But this goes back to how to engage talent. I had a discussion once with a senior level HR executive that had just chosen an assessment tool to use in their hiring process. One of the comments were that “ this is going to be a game changer for our organization.” I politely disagreed with that statement. While these assessments are part of our tool kit, they will not and should not be looked on as a panacea.

Human interaction should always drive the fact-finding mission. The face-to-face interview will always be the most important segment in the recruiting process. The problem is that the interviewers in a lot of cases were not properly trained in the nuances of interviewing. In a lot of companies, it is trial by error.

The HR coordinator in a lot of cases becomes the junior recruiter. The junior recruiter becomes your recruiter. Were they properly trained during this career trajectory?

The importance of recruiting

Remember, your recruiting staff is the gate keeper to the organization. They will determine through your process who gets in, who moves forward, and who gets access.

They are the first contact and the face of the organization embedded into your talent management strategy. They represent the brand. Talent management strategy does not begin at onboarding, but with the FIRST contact from your recruiting staff.

That is quite a role and responsibility for the previous mentioned career track.

Identifying the "A" Players
 As companies regroup and the hiring process heats up, all organizations will be in the hunt for talent. What will differentiate your talent scouts from the pack? The recruiting process is multi-faceted, but human interaction will always be the key. Metrics derived from assessments can be used but they should not drive the decision.

Review your steps:


  1. Resume review; 
  2. Phone screen; 
  3. Face-to-face interview; 
  4. Speed of the process; 
  5. Communication; and, 
  6. Follow through.

Each one of your steps should drive your brand engagement. Leave nothing to chance.

Don’t let the next Tom Brady slip through your recruitment process and become star players across town.

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