4 Recruiting Lessons from the Cleveland Cavaliers

Recruiting is a matter of resourcefulness. The more resourceful you can be, the more successful you are. When you are working at a company that has enough money to buy the greatest tools, apps, and extensions, it would seem that they have all the resources they need to be successful. But, every once in a while,  you find these tiny, feisty underfunded start-ups, which are still able to attract the elusive “talent.”  So how do they do it? That last question was rhetorical, as there are always reasons why someone succeeds when the world is against them (I should know, I live in Cleveland!). Are they in a talent-rich industry? Do they have a great culture? How big is their community of employees? These groups recruit to win.

Recruiters everywhere understand that there are those candidates that get it, that understand the business in a revolutionary way and those who just talk the talk. Candidates in leadership are notorious for talking the talk but not walking the walk and sometimes it is hard to differentiate between the two. That is where the recruiting team steps in. I believe that even a “blind squirrel can find a nut” every once in a while. But how do you set yourself, and your recruiting team for finding those “nuts” (joke intended) consistently? For that, I turn to the group that put Cleveland on its shoulders and brought us to a new place in the eyes of the world. Here are the lessons that I learned from the Cleveland Cavaliers as it relates to recruiting.

1. Remove Obstacles

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a failure of a past. The Cavs were irrelevant for most of their existence (save a great team in the 80’s (damn you MJ) and our current incarnation). What the Cavs organization discovered that was a real game-changer, happened with the acquisition of the team by Dan Gilbert and Associates. Leadership almost always starts at the top. What Dan did was open up the path for others to succeed. He removed barriers to success. He led his team by helping them perform their jobs the way they were hired to do it.Your recruiting team needs to gain a seat at the executive table so that your leadership will back you like Dan Gilbert did for the Cavs.

How will you get that kind of endorsement from your leadership team? Clear communication is the single most important part of recruiting. I am fairly confident that you could pitch your leaders that the cliché that employees are your best assets. Do you have a careers page? Why not invest in getting the best employees? Do your research and make sure that your chiefs understand the reason for a robust and well-funded recruiting department.

2. Gain Credibility

When was the last time you checked Glassdoor to see how your company is doing? With the obstacles out of the way, the Cavaliers worked on becoming a team with some credibility. The Cavs were bad enough (and fortunate enough) to be in a position to draft, arguably the best player on the court right now, LeBron James. With that kind of talent, it brought credibility to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and therefore, they were able to attract more talent, through free-agency and trade.

The credibility certainly did not happen overnight but did come from great, consistent play from LeBron over time. Think about it. The Cavs had a stench around them for many years. LeBron (and the credibility he brought to the organization) cleaned up their odor. Likewise, your organization might have a stench on it as well (have you searched your companies reviews on-line, or asked the people that turn down interview or job offers why?).

The problem is, most companies do not evaluate what their employees think about them. Think about it. The Cavs had a stench around them for many years. But they knew it. They had to have LeBron James, and the credibility he brought to the organization, to clean up their reputation. Likewise, your organization might have a stench on it as well (have you searched your companies reviews on-line, or asked the people that turn down interview or job offers why?). Credibility has to be earned.

Show the world that you are different from your current image. Publicize your positive changes. Broadcast that wonderful team-building event you did, or the remodeled break room, or whatever changes you are making to help people to want to work at your company. Just remember to be like LeBron, steady and consistent in your message.

3. Inspire and Motivate

Even with all of the success that the Cavs had going for them, they lacked the organizational cohesion that supports winning. That organizational cohesion did not present itself until Tyronn Lue took over as coach in the middle of the 2016 season. He challenged his team like nobody before him. It was half-time of Game 7 of the NBA Championships, and Coach Lue’s team was losing by 7 to the best shooting team in the NBA. He challenged his team and his credibility (the last two people to challenge LeBron in Cleveland were out of work). His problem was different, though. He got into the head of his team. Instead of losing his credibility (and job), Ty Lue inspired his team to new heights.

Recruiting beats you down from time to time. How are your recruiter’s employee engagement levels? I don’t know about you, but every once and a while, I need inspiring. You can get beat down in the minutiae of the job sometimes. It is a thrilling time when you get a new requisition. But when that requisition gets stale, when you have exhausted all of your usual channels, and you feel like you can’t recruit to win, then what? Inspiration and motivation are the keys to the Cleveland Cavaliers (and let’s not underplay the Lake Erie Monsters setting the stage for the Cavs by winning the Calder Cup either!) bringing the city of Cleveland its first championship since 1964. If your employees are not engaged, look into something like TinyPulse or CultureAmp.

But, really it isn’t about tools. You must have that leader or method in place to inspire and succeed. For me personally, I take a time out and listen to music. That generally clears my head and pumps me up to push forward and work harder to find that next person. Find that motivation or inspiration that works for you or your team, and aspire to greatness.

4. The Celebration Parade

The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t just win a championship; they brought a city from being the butt of many jokes to being a vibrant, respected part of the country. Cleveland is now recognized as a community of hard-working people rising from the stench and blossoming into a beautiful place.

That is what a great recruiting department can do as well. It isn’t just about putting people in the seats. It is about pushing your company to success!  To rise above the stench and achieve greatness. You have to ask yourself, am I the one to achieve this? Is my department the one that will push our company to new heights? Of course, you are. And now you are equipped with a winning plan to get it done. So, like Coach Lue motivating his team to come back from a 3-1 playoff deficit to win the NBA Championship, I need you to pick yourself up, stop making excuses to why you can’t, get on the phone, get creative, and most importantly, FILL THOSE OPEN POSITIONS WITH WINNERS AND RECRUIT TO WIN!


About our Author:
Andrew Mahl is a Corporate Talent Acquisition Specialist for Saber Healthcare Group, which has 12,000 employees and over 100 facilities in 6 states. His ability for finding top talent and looking for the best solution to problems has led his executives to have him take charge in the creation of many policies and projects, including implementing Saber Healthcare Groups first ATS. Prior to his time at Saber, he earned is Bachelors of Business Administration from Tiffin University. He is also a huge basketball fan. Click here to connect with him on Twitter or here to connect with him on LinkedIn.




Just add your e-mail!