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Your Hiring Batting Average – The NFL Draft Standard

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, May 4, 2017

nfl1.gifThe following blog was written on May 8th 2014 shortly after the NFL Draft.  I’ve decided to reprint it with some new ideas and include an offer from Topgrading to help you improve your Hiring Batting Average.

In the continuing battle for revenue, better execution, productivity, and profits in our businesses, we continue to lose sight of the most important ingredient Jim Collins identified in Good to Great.

People: First Who Than What.

We can laugh at the NFL teams for doing exhaustive research, combines, personal interviews and still failing to succeed at selecting starters let alone all-stars in the NFL at better than 25%.  How’s your hiring batting average?  Do you have a measurement tracking the effectiveness of your hiring process and the people who you hire?  Do you make the hiring person (HR) responsible for meeting a certain standard of A players, or even promotable employees?

Why Not?

What’s the first question you need to determine about the people you consider hiring?

Would you be willing to spend three to ten years getting physically beaten up for four to six months of the year?  In the NFL lineman collide in the trenches at the force of a head-on car collision up to 60 times a game.  NFL Draft 1-year.pngWhen NFL teams decide to draft a college football player, one of the first questions they need to ask is whether the young man is willing to put up with the rigors of the game.  Do they love the game enough to endure the punishment it dispenses?

How good is your hiring record?  If you don’t know your stats I suggest you start now to quantify them. 


Because you naturally will believe you’re better than what you are. 

From an article entitled Overall NFL Draft Success Rate two quotes:

“I think you have to divide it into top 12 and bottom 20. If you’re in the top 12, it ought to be in the .640 range. That’s about 4.5 guys on average per year out of the seven. You measure that at the end of three years and what you are measuring is whether or not those guys become winning players, guys that contribute to wins. Bottom 20 is .571, that’s four out of seven…"- Bill Polian, former GM of the Colts

"If you look historically, teams get 2.3 (32.8% of the 7 picks) starters per draft and as a team, I think you need to strive to get 3 starters per draft (42.8% of the 7 picks), or I should say players worthy of starting."- Mike Reinfeldt, former GM of the Titans

The author of the article, Sidney Mussburger, suggests the actual numbers are much lower than these estimates by two former GM’s. (Is this the reason we use the word former?)

Setting a low bar for success (player starts minimum of 8 games per year in their first five years) the rate of success of all players drafted from 1991 – 2004 is 21.5%.   

Players taken in the first round met the standard 73.8%, 7th round-picks only 5.9%.  The brutal facts: only 1.5 players out of 7 (1 per round of draft) actually make the grade. College football players go through the NFL combine, Pro Days, interviews from NFL Teams, the infamous Wonderlic Test, invitations to visit NFL team sites and countless hours reviewing their game tapes.  The latter is all about seeing how they perform in their actual work environment.  It’s an exhaustive approach that yields mixed to poor results. 

21.5% NFL Hiring Success Rate

Do you consider that low?

Ted Williams Plate Hiring Batting Average.jpgWhat’s your success hiring rate?  Is it lower or higher than the NFL’s?  Do you even know?  If People are the most important thing for building your business, why don’t you know this?

IF hiring the Right People is most important to building your organization (as Jim Collins states) wouldn’t it make sense that your hiring batting average would be the most important metric for your business?

So what’s your hiring batting average?

Arguably few businesses explore potential candidates to the degree that NFL teams does.  Due to poor interviewing tactics it’s not difficult to understand why 82% of management hiring decisions fail. (Gallup’s Why Great Managers are so Rare) Are you anywhere close to being as copious as an NFL team about your hires, particularly your management hires?

IF the NFL fails this frequently, after endless hours of research, doesn’t it make sense to invest time in a hiring method that approaches this exhaustive approach to find the right people?  We discussed Gazelles and Positioning Systems recommended method for hiring several times in the blog: Why Aren’t You Committed to Topgrading? It approaches the comprehensive path NFL teams follow.  Start there. 

Core Purpose & Values

We recommend  you evaluate your people both on performance as well as on their adherence to your Core Values and PurposeGE Performance Matrix.jpgIt something we call the performance matrix talent review which we ask our clients to do on a quarterly basis.  John Welsh at GE popularize this method of evaluation based on his desire to have “A” players at GE. (See chart)

One of my customers, Dudley Fleck developed a superb excel spreadsheet combining Core Values with his leadership teams trimester dashboard/objectives. It graphically displays the individual's efforts as an A, B, B/C or C player.  You can see a view of it below.  Each month they update their progress on performance, and grade on meeting the company's Core Values every 4 months. Flecks A-B-BC-C Performance Matrix.jpg

Here’s the question I’d recommend you ask to discover whether your candidates are a good fit for your organization: Ask every candidate a question to determine if they enthusiastically agree with your Core Purpose or Mission?  Ask your candidate questions to determine if they enthusiastically agree with your Core Values.  Your mission is to discover whether the candidate is a good fit for your culture.  As we noted in Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch – Above the Line. Urban Meyer and this blog emphasize the critical nature of selecting the right people, “A great culture can make even a mediocre strategy successful, but a weak culture will undermine even the best strategy.” 

If your candidate doesn’t fit with your culture (Core Purpose/Mission or Core Values), why would you hire them?

How can you know whether a candidate is a good fit for your business if you are unclear about what your businesses purpose and Values are? 

Just a reminder from Jim Collins, Good to Great - People are the first and most important ingredient to building a winning team.

If you’re business requires help selecting the Right People, discovering and developing your Core Purpose, Core Values and a 3-5 Year Plan for your future, please contact


Shortening the time to determine the right candidates, following a structured interview process to ensure candidates can fill the required accountabilities for the position is challenging. Topgrading is providing their tool SnapShot through Positioning Systems to help you dramatically reduce the time you invest reviewing resumes and hiring.  SnapShot not only disqualifies candidates it provides the structure for the entire interview process. Learn how One Topgrading Snapshot Saves $20 Million. 

Contact today for a free two-month trial of SnapShot.


Speaking with a former customer this past week I determined four leadership capabilities necessary to achieve success. Next blog I’ll share those four capabilities with you.

Topics: People, People Decisions, hiring decisions, The Right People, Performance Matrix, Your Hiring Batting Average

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Doug Wick, President

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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