Talent recruitment: what rugby can teach you about candidates

By Robert Half on 15th October 2019

The arrival of the 2019 Rugby World Cup isn’t just something to be enjoyed in recreational time — it also has a lot of valuable talent recruitment takeaways that can be used by managers when trying to identify the qualities of a good employee.

Gain clarity on how to hire the best employees by taking attributes from key rugby positions and combining them with Robert Half hiring insights, to uncover the top professional qualities to look for in a new hire.

Like the great game itself, we’ll start at the front row and move backwards…

1. The teamwork and support of a prop
Loosehead and tighthead props are responsible for supporting the hooker during the scrum and stepping in to secure the ball after another player has been tackled. When it comes to showing support for key members of the team, the props are on the front line.

When considering the skills employers look for, this same supportive, collaborative approach will be important for the years ahead. Our research into the future of work has shown that the qualities of a good employee will include soft skills like collaboration. These will be crucial once automation removes manual tasks from processes, heightening the human aspect of work.

Read more on the future of hiring

2. Decision-making skills of a hooker
The hooker is the decision-maker for the forward positions. They are tasked with securing the initial possession of the ball — it’s their quick thinking and decisive action which can determine a rugby team’s advantage.

Our research into happiness at work has shown that, like the hooker, employees are most satisfied when they’re empowered to make their own decisions. To ensure that your new hire enjoys a long tenure at your company, try to look for an individual with professional qualities which indicate they’ll flourish when put in control of their own work: decisiveness, enthusiasm and strategy.

3. Adaptable like a lock
Lock (or the ‘second row’) need to be physically powerful, highly accurate, have an excellent sense of timing and be able to adapt their approach, going from a support role to an active one at the drop of a hat. 

As far as desirable professional qualities go, adaptability skills are important in a new hire, too. When an employee shows adaptability, they are more likely to embrace challenges with open arms, become stronger team leaders and remain relevant.

4. The flexibility of flankers and number eight
Flankers are well-known for their multitasking during matches. They are relied on to switch seamlessly between supporting, tackling and handling so their flexibility on the field is prized.
Likewise, flexibility is one of the signs of a good employee. Staff will be required to work in a more agile way as technology integrates into processes, calling for quick thinking based on new data, and a willingness to develop skill sets to match role evolution.

5. The interpersonal skills of the scrumhalf
Rugby teams task the scrumhalf with connecting the forward positions with the back. They sit just behind the front row and use a blend of speed and awareness to engage the back. 

The ability to knit teams together and communicate effectively is becoming one of the most valuable qualities of a good employee. Technology is steadily changing roles, especially in finance and tech, evolving them to require more customer/client facing skills and the ability to work across different teams. 

6. The hustle of a fly-half
The fly-half is involved in almost every attack and acts on the team’s rehearsed plays to take advantage of opportunities. They are placekickers and also marshal the backline of defence. 

This level of hustle is one of the signs of a good employee — you can uncover how ‘hungry’ a potential new hire is by asking interview questions designed to probe their short and long-term career plans.  

7. Close the deal like a winger
The wing is the team’s top scorer. Relentless, hungry and energetic, they are always ready to step in and finish a play with speed and agility.

Hiring managers may do well to look for this same ambition in a potential employee as part of their talent recruitment strategy. The ability to spot a business opportunity and take it forward to completion is advantageous, and a forward-thinking attitude can help teams get ahead within fast-paced industries. 

8. An eye for opportunity like a centre
The centre is a position which needs to be as good at spotting opportunities as they are at creating them for teammates. Rugby teams rely on them to expose gaps in the defence and create scoring opportunities by drawing opposition. 

An influx of new data analysis tools and enhanced business software has given businesses the insight they need to be able to grow, so hiring managers should be on the lookout for candidates with the centre position’s eye for opportunity, good analytical skills or strong business acumen. 

9. Resilience of a full-back
The full-back holds an incredibly high-pressure position and must keep a level head at all times. They sit behind the back row and should be able to catch high balls and act fast when they have possession.

Resilience will be one of the most-in demand skills employers look for in coming years. Business is in an almost constant state of change, and to prepare, 94% of CFOs feel that resilience training for staff will be an important initiative within the next few years. Finding natural resilience within a new hire can give you a valuable asset for your team.

Talent recruitment tips for 2019

If you’re hiring for specific skill sets within your team, it’s clear from the different attributes mentioned above what makes a team work well together as a whole. It’s important to be able to see what various skills and personalities bring value to your team, whether that’s more soft skills like leadership, resilience and emotional intelligence, or specific skills tied to your industry sector such a digital or technical skills. 

Aside from the overarching qualities mentioned here, each industry and role will have its own set of in-demand abilities for the coming months. To isolate which skills employers look for within a specific context, download the Robert Half Salary Guide and get a comprehensive breakdown.

Find out how to hire the best employees and ways to identify the signs of a good employee by contacting your local Robert Half team. Alternatively, you can submit your vacancy and find your ideal candidate among our job seekers. 

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