What the NFL Draft Can Teach Leaders About Hiring Top Talent
Home 9 Leader's Digest 9 What the NFL Draft Can Teach Leaders About Hiring Top Talent

by | Apr 20, 2022 | Leader's Digest

The 2022 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, beginning next Thursday, April 28, and ending April 30. The draft has quickly become a must-watch event, and fans will tune in to see if their team addresses its immediate needs or selects a potential playmaker who will impact the team’s Super Bowl dreams.

Overall, the draft is an inexact science, despite all the testing, prodding, interviewing and examination of each prospective player. Many factors play into whether a team will find a diamond in the rough (think Tom Brady as the 199th pick overall in the 2000 NFL draft) or a “bust” (think Tim Couch, who was the number one overall pick in 1999 and went 2-12 as starting QB).

Even with the glaring inconsistency of predicting which players will become immediate contributors and who will be a bust, the NFL sets the standard for evaluating and picking talent to build their rosters. What lessons can sales leaders learn here? What takeaways can be implemented into our organizations for better hiring decisions and ensuring we avoid bringing on costly busts?


The NFL Combine is notorious for subjecting players to physical and mental testing and interviews. Until 2021 the NFL administered the Wonderlic test to assess a draft prospect’s ability to think quickly and accurately. Without using some version of a personality, performance, or aptitude assessment in the hiring process, it is almost impossible to understand if a candidate is a fit for the sales role or if their personality is a good match for your company culture.

Did you know Carew offers talent management and onboarding assessments? Contact us if you would like to discuss how you can implement this into your organization’s hiring/recruiting process.


The real draw of the NFL Combine is watching elite athletes run, jump, pass, and catch (the 40-yard dash is a fan favorite and always exciting to watch). Has your organization implemented a sales drill in your interview process? If not, you may benefit from it, as it could give you real-time insight into a candidate’s selling style. Consider creating a case study. Then have the hiring manager play the customer and ask the sales candidate to sell them a product or service. If the role requires group presentations, you might have the candidate present a topic or product to a group of managers. Finally, you might have them draw up a 30, 60, or 90-dayplan for job success and walk you through it. These drills will give you insight into an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. It can also show you how they perform under pressure, which is a must-have attribute for many sales positions.

Hiring To Fill a Need

You aren’t just hiring an individual – you are hiring a team member. Every person that you bring onto your team should be able to add intrinsic value. Think about creating a profile of what your team needs. Maybe you promoted a perennial top sales professional and lost that leadership on your team. In this case, you should be looking for a candidate who brings positivity, motivation/the ability to guide others, change management capabilities, and other leadership skills to the table. Maybe your team has a shortage of administrative focus (lack of CRM data input and inconsistent reporting and follow-up). You should be hiring a team member with a proven track record of being detail-oriented—someone who can provide clear examples that wrap up with a concrete measurement of how their attention to detail translated into money, time savings, or some other value. Or, as a final example, maybe your team is lacking camaraderie. If this is true, look for a candidate who excels at building relationships and loves being a team player. Just like in the NFL, each sales team member should play a “position” and add to the team dynamic.

Whether you’re scouting a franchise quarterback (like the Bengals, my hometown team, did with Joe Burrow) or a new sales professional to join your team, even the most qualified person can turn out to be a bust. Recruiting is part measurable science, part imprecise art and gut instinct. But if leaders use assessments and drills and look for individuals who best address a need/fill a gap, they will better manage their recruiting process and hire top talent.

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