Nothing but net

Oct 04, 2016

Scoring the winning points at a basketball gameIf the recent case of NBA superstar Kevin Durant can teach us anything, it’s that the recruitment of rare talent takes an equally rare effort. The NBA free agency period that recently unfolded was quite the spectacle. Even the most marginal of the league’s talents got huge paydays. But the biggest headline this offseason was the signing of forward Kevin Durant by the Golden State Warriors. His move to California helped crystallize the fact that good talent is hard to find, but when it is, it should be chased with reckless abandon. Plenty of teams did just that, but only one claimed the prize. Everyone put on their best presentation to persuade one of the most talented players on earth to join them. The Boston Celtics even had Tom Brady, the four-time Super Bowl QB of the New England Patriots, meet with Durant in an all-out effort to bring him to Beantown. Durant and his agent spent the July 4th weekend at a private home in the posh Hamptons, where they fielded several meetings and conference calls with a variety of teams. When the process was over, the Golden State Warriors emerged as the winner of the "Kevin Durant Sweepstakes." The Durant recruitment process is like what we see in the design industry all the time – a lot of firms going after a finite supply of great talent. Finding it is not easy and requires a concerted effort by everyone involved in the recruitment process. Firms always have to put their best foot forward and to know exactly what it wants. Here are some key takeaways from the Durant recruitment process that design firms can learn from:
  • When trying to hire, you always want to put your best people on the job. Your hiring managers should be able to represent the organization not just from a discipline and technical standpoint, but also a cultural standpoint as well. This approach will speak volumes to anyone that you're recruiting.
  • In the 11th hour, the Warriors brought in NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West to speak to Durant. According to sources involved in the process, West said a few things to Durant that made a difference. West talked about what it means to win championships and what it's like to be part of a team with great players. A good hiring manager will help a candidate understand what they're getting themselves into and why joining their firm will help the individual grow from a personal and professional perspective.
  • Every NBA team in the process had a plan for how they were going to approach Durant. Recruiting good candidates requires you to have a strong plan in place to ensure you answer any question or concerns that the candidate has so they can make an informed decision. Firms should highlight the great projects they are working on. You want to help the candidate visualize how they will fit into the grand scheme of things within your organization. A clear articulation of how the candidate can advance within the firm is also necessary.
  • Firms should also consider having some of its most talented employees come in and meet with prospective candidates. They can articulate their experience and help sell the company at the peer level. Most teams that went after Durant had some of their current players in the room to speak to him about life on the team from their perspective. This approach helps a candidate to envision what life would be like working for the firm. The Warriors went the extra distance by flying in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala – all of them 2015 NBA champs. According to Durant, this level of attention to detail in the recruitment process made the difference for him and led to him joining the Warriors.
You may not be in the market to recruit one of the best players in the world, but you can take a few things away from the process. Take stock of how your firm recruits and see if there are any modifications that could improve the candidate experience. If there are, make the adjustments. And don’t be afraid to go big. Every candidate that you recruit needs to be treated with the utmost care and should have a clear understanding of the benefits of joining your firm. If you take the stance that you are doing them a favor by meeting with and interviewing them, you run the risk of alienating your firm from someone who could be a real asset. It never hurts to put your best foot forward at all times, especially in the recruitment process. You never know, you may be interviewing the next MVP, I mean CEO, of your firm. Randy Wilburn is director of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1164 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.