What I’ve Learned about Hiring from my Alma Mater

Good Hiring Lessons from college football hiring mistakes

My alma mater, Notre Dame, has made many, many hiring mistakes – including two terrible football coaches, Gerry Faust, and Tyrone Willingham.  Even the best make mistakes.University of Notre Dame

They also had a defensive coordinator who blitzed on every down – Jon Tenuta – which was easy to stop.  He blitzed so much it was said that is started when they got off the bus.

But now they have a new defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, and I was shocked by what I read when a football expert, Tim Prister, reviewed the tape and wrote “The Notre Dame defense was changing so fast and so varied that the young Michigan line didn’t know what to do.” Blitzes, moving players from side to side – no matter, but the Michigan offensive lineman didn’t know whom to block.

What’s the lesson for hiring people?  Focus on how they work and not where they worked. Experience is vastly over-rated.

I also had a personal experience with this.  I was working for a large business intelligence software company.  I was new to the industry and I learned they were struggling with GE and losing revenue every year.  So I asked if I could take it over. (I had exactly zero GE experience.) To my surprise, they said “Yes.”

I proceeded to devise and implement a very customer centric business plan.  It meant working with marketing to develop content and ensuring GE was the easiest to sell to.

It worked. At the end of 12 month, GE revenue had rocketed by 242%!  Then they screwed everything up by putting in terrible services people. I resigned.

Now they needed someone to take over GE.  So they turned to their biggest competitor and hired the man who managed GE for them. (Whom I had beaten dozens of times.)  He didn’t last even six months before they fired him.  Why? He was a traditional salesperson who lacked a plan like I devised.

Don’t focus on experience. Instead give them a scenario and ask them how they would handle it.  For example, tell them about them taking over a slumping major account and ask them how they would turn it around.  See if they are creative and passionate.

Notre Dame plays Purdue tonight on NBC and this grad will be watching.


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