OK – the title made you look. You had an emotional reaction because there are a lot of dumb @#@ athletes out there who would make horrible hires. You're right, I was just trying to manipulate you with the headline.
First up, I'm always a little taken aback by the anti-sports crowd. Lord knows the group at FOT and some of our contributors write enough about the connection between corporate talent and sports. There's even a website dedicated to an annual ebook featuring FOT writers and close friends of FOT writing about – you guessed it – the connection between talent and sports (download it here). Many readers think we should stop the madness. Some have unsubscribed as a result.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming of sports/talent metaphors to talk about something important – when does it make sense to hire a jock? When are they going to be a better hire than a non-jock?
Sports teaches a lot of things – teamwork, drive, being coachable, time management, working towards a goal that no one but you cares if you chase, being under pressure with others actively hoping you fail, to name a few. But sports at its worst can also raise up some ugly sides of the human condition – feelings of entitlement, thinking rules don't apply to you, an over-weighting of a single area of life, etc.
The key in knowing when hiring a jock is the right thing to do? Find college athletes in situations where the positives outweigh the risks. Here's my list of great times to hire a jock over a non-jock when all other things are equal:
–Hire Division 1 and Division 2 major sport athletes (football and basketball) who didn't start at the collegiate level and maintained strong grades (3.0 and above) and involvement outside of sports while being on full scholarship. Being a full scholarship athlete in a major sport is a full-time job, and if the grades are good and they still were involved in other areas of college life, odds are you are looking at a driven person who is going to fit well with
your team. They've already been humbled – they're not playing a lot, but they've maintained all the commitments and they had to do what it took to get there in the first place. Not easy – hire them if you can.
–Hire Division 1 and Division 2, minor sport athletes who had all the qualities outlined above (strong grades, involvement outside of sports) but were on partial or no scholarship. Being a minor sport athlete on partial or no scholarship at the D1 or D2 level isn't easy – usually these kids have the same time commitments as many of the major sport athletes and aren't doing it for the money, they're doing it because they love it. These kids make great team members and if they've found a career area they have similar passion for, look out! Sky is the limit.
–Hire any star at the Division 3 level in any sport who had all the non-sport qualities listed above. A dirty little secret to Division 3 is that it's all non-scholarship, and schools actively use sports participation as a general recruiting tool to drive enrollment. It's not uncommon for D3 football programs to bring in 130 kids with the promise of playing football. They're not providing athletic scholarships to any of them, probably just a 10K discount on a 35K annual tuition bill through grants and non-athletic scholarships. It would have been much easier for these kids and their families to go to a cheaper, brand name state school, but there they are – chasing the dream. There's passion and drive in these kids, so grab them when you can, they won't be available long.
So that's my cheat sheet on the best times to hire jocks. D1 and D2 full scholarship jocks with bad grades? Move on people – the stereotypes aren't always true, but the risk is high enough you shouldn't bite. Sort first for GPA above 3.0 and some involvement in non-sport activities as well, then sort by D1 and D2 non-starters, D1 and D2 minor sport athletes of all types and D3 stars.
Boom. I just gave you the formula. Haters activate in the comments, please.
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.