Recruiters And Refs

recruiting and referees fistful of talent

Let’s face it; a blown call is a blown call. Be it on the football field, basketball court or in hiring. Recruiters and refs get tainted with the one or two blown calls but seldom do we celebrate the hundreds of good calls they make.

The other day I was watching a football match (soccer for all you neophytes) and this jerkoff ref completely blew a call. I mean “might be on the take” blown call. With steam coming out of my ears… I thought of how refs are a lot like recruiters. To wit, here’s a list of 12 commonalities between these two professions:

  • Great recruiters / refs are human and have biases but keep them in check as best they can. The high wire act of neutrality. Decidedly not easy for refs or recruiters. The best ones know how to keep that shit in check.
  • Great recruiters / refs are fair-minded. Great recruiters represent the interest of both the candidate and the company. The best compliment you can ever receive as one who hires… they seemed fair. You can be harsh as long as you are fair.
  • Great recruiters / refs have great instincts and can make quick decisions. In both professions, time is a scarce resource. Of course, if we had more time, we’d prolly make “perfect” decisions. They don’t have all the time in the world and oftentimes they rely on instincts. And that’s a good thing btw.
  • Great recruiters / refs are consistent and reliable. You can count on them. You have an idea of what you are going to get and they deliver. Their reputation precedes them… inna good way. Being consistent isn’t easy but that’s one of the things that separate average from greatness.
  • Great recruiters / refs have a deep understanding of the game. They know the hustle. They know the grind. They understand the ebb and flow. They know when to speed things up and when to slow things down.
  • Great recruiters / refs have thick skin and don’t take shit personally. Your feedback isn’t really all that important to them. I mean, in general, they know when they fuck something up and when they haven’t. That said, got some harsh words for them… not to worry, they’ve heard it all. Your words don’t intimidate them.
  • Great recruiters / refs are known for their integrity. Hiring and officiating is all about trust. And trust cannot be broken. The best refs and recruiters are beacons of integrity. Untouchable… average people are weak… great refs and recruiters are never average.
  • Great recruiters / refs have a keen sense of communication. Lots of stakeholders. Everyone wants a piece of you and, in truth; part of the job is being a czar of communication. Like pimping, it ain’t easy.
  • Great recruiters / refs have common sense. Outside of the blown calls that we all make… you rarely see great refs / recruiters make stupid mistakes. Again, separate the bad apples… the truly great ones just have a gift of making good decisions… on and off the field sort of speak.
  • Great recruiters / refs are confident. For a moment, let’s separate confidence from arrogance. Great refs / recruiters own the limelight without making us vomit in our mouths. Everyone loves confidence. In fact, if you don’t love confidence, it usually means that you’re a lame ass. J/K.
  • Great recruiters / refs have a solid work ethic. One truism… not a lot of fat people in old folk’s homes. Right? Also, great refs and recruiters work hard. They take what they do seriously. Think about it for a moment… not a lot of slackasses within the ilk of great refs and/or recruiters.
  • Great recruiters / refs are motivated. It’s like they have a special gear. The great ones at least. It’s not like they need a special pep talk. They just mystically know how to game up. You don’t have to motivate them, they motivate themselves.
  • Great recruiters / refs are patient. And patience is a virtue, right? Yeah it is. They say that you could call holding on every single play in the NFL or traveling on almost every single possession in the NBA. And truth be told, a great recruiter could make a defensible case for AND against every single candidate. Thank goodness they are patient.

In the history of refereeing AND recruiting, no one has gotten every single call right. We all blow it from time to time. We aim to get more calls correct than not of course and we need the world to forgive us when we muck it all up.

Note to self, I sure wish we had instant replay in hiring. Right?

FOT Background Check

William Tincup
William is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst at KeyInterval Research. William is one of the leading thinkers on the intersection of HR and technology. William has been blogging about HR related issues since 2007. He’s a contributor to Fistful of Talent, HRTechEurope, Human Capital Institute, Human Capitalist, LinkedIn Talent Blog, and HRExaminer and also co-hosts a daily HR podcast called DriveThruHR. Tweet him @williamtincup and check him out on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email. William serves on the Board of Advisors for Hyphen, Bevy, Happie, Good.Co, Insynctive, Causecast, Work4Labs, PeopleMatter, SmartRecruiters, Blackbook HR, Talent Tech Labs, The Workforce Institute, and is a 2015 Council Member for The Candidate Experience Awards. He also serves on the Board of Directors for TDn2K. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama of Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


  1. Keith Enochs says:

    I’m a big fan of this article! Particularly because I’m both a recruiter AND part-time soccer referee. I never took a moment to look at the parallels between he two, nor had I ever heard them spoken about in the same breath.


  2. Frank Zupan says:

    And sometimes, especially in Cleveland, Recruiters / Refs get beer bottles thrown at their heads 🙂

  3. Cara Carroll says:

    Good read, thanks William!

  4. Jack Cameron says:

    Great commentary, there are many days that are totally aligned with this article.
    Thanks William for putting this out there.

  5. Jen Sudduth says:

    Great article, well said and couldn’t be more true. You have a way with words, Tincup!

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    good site.

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