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To Recruit The Right Talent, Think Like a Scout

Andrea Belk Olson
By Andrea Belk Olson CEO, Pragmadik

This fourth of July, I enjoyed a game at our regional Single-A affiliate stadium, with sun, beer, brats, and great baseball. We also had the pleasure of sitting next to two scouts who were clocking pitches and logging the stats and performance of every player on the field. They had been following all the teams in the division and attending every game, including taking videos of key players as well as the stadium, noting attendance and atmosphere.

So what does this have to do with recruiting and retaining talent for your organization? Everything. Scouts not only know exactly what they need, but also the specific skills, talents, and potential they are looking for when they are seeking a player. While they do have a large pool of talent to choose from, they don’t simply review lists of statistics and pick out the “best shortstop” in the bunch. They look beyond the numbers, analyzing attitude and performance under pressure. In short, it’s a combination of what the “resume” says and how they actually perform on the field, over a series of multiple observations.

Scouting vs. Recruiting

It’s true that the scout won’t know if that player is going to slip into a three-month slump or get a season-ending injury, but they do know how to identify potential and provide guidance to the manager on potential coaching needs.

To truly scout talent, an organization needs to understand what strengths and weaknesses they have on their current “roster” and how this matches the company’s plans now and in the future. Companies looking to build a top-caliber team should also consider the range of definitions and the subtle differences between the terms of recruiting and scouting:

“recruiting” (verb)—to find suitable people and get them to join a company, an organization, the armed forces, etc., or to persuade (someone) to join your team;

“scouting” (verb)—to explore in order to obtain information or to find by making a search.

If these definitions don’t suggest to you a passive vs. proactive approach, contrast an army recruiting site, where individuals present themselves to join up, to professional sports teams, where scouts find and follow a prospect for years.

Organizations that wait until they have a need to fill their roster and then send out a call to those interested in joining will be at a significant disadvantage to organizations that truly scout for talent to fill current needs but also look for the potential to develop and grow as part of the future team.

For most small companies, the rush to fill a demanding and immediate requirement continually trumps the ability to scout and fill a roster both now and for the future. Here are a few ways to start shifting from recruiting to scouting:

Develop a talent plan. It should align to your business plan and key corporate milestones. Consider what you need to achieve with the type of talent you need to achieve it.

Know your current talent. Where did they come from and how did their paths unfold? What hidden skills do they have? Looking at your current talent might help you find hidden stars.

Look beyond your industry. Great talent might not just be in your backyard. Examine not only the potential candidates within your industry but actively follow those outside who have unique skills and experience which can add a needed dimension to your team.

Be a projector. Make it your business to know potential from a very early stage and be well ahead of it when someone hits their peak.

Happy scouting!

About the author: Andrea Belk Olson is a writer, consultant, coach and speaker. She is the CEO of Pragmadik, Davenport, Iowa. Contact her on LinkedIn or at

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