What Candidates and Hiring Managers Can Learn From the Olympics

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A bobsled team doing a run

I’ve never been an elite athlete, but when it is time to watch the Olympics, I’m always in awe of how these athletes prepare, compete and live their lives once the games are over.

This has not been an easy year for most of us, especially these athletes who have needed to perform on the world stage in isolation and without their family and support. This ability to do the impossible is somewhat related to what hiring managers and Talent Acquisition leaders are faced with today during this challenging talent market. I thought I would share a few clear lessons from the Olympics for us to consider navigating the world talent stage in 2022.

No matter how talented you are, you will still need to work to grow

These are the best competitors in the world. They could sit back and hope they will stay at the top of their game, but their sport and the world around them is changing. They do not expect to be given a gold medal just because they deserve it or that they worked hard. They realize that in life there are challenges and complications and sometimes things don’t always work out as they should in the timeline they set out for their career goals.

As a candidate or an athlete, what you can control is your own abilities. Your training, your skills and your desire to succeed needs to be matched to the right environment. For athletes it is the right coach or training center. For the rest of us, it is the right company. As with Olympic trials, you may not be the ‘best’ fit for this moment in time due to the competition or the dynamics of the team – but that doesn’t mean you should give up.

It is a strange time for organizations trying to hire the right people, when there are so many potential career opportunities for candidates to choose from today. We all need to understand what needs to be done. Candidates and employees need to realize their potential and what they can contribute to your organization’s success. Employers need to take a look at the long game, and think of the culture and the types of individuals who they will need to help them succeed beyond the immediate wins. Working on a transparent and relevant employer brand has never been more critical, as the ‘athletes’ of the talent market have the chance to look for the right key to their success.

Total perfection is unlikely

As a hiring manager we have been waiting for this time to hire and scale. We know what we don’t want, and we are looking for that perfect ‘10 out of 10’ candidate. However, that perfect candidate may not be in our salary range or even interested in our role.

We need to stop and think about those skills and attributes we think are most critical. Opening up the criteria allows you to have a diversity of thought about the type of person you need for your role. Can you train them? Coach them  and support them so you can help bring someone onboard who will fit your role with time and guidance? Do they really need a college degree? Can they work remotely? There is no approved scorecard  in recruiting, and only reviewing those candidates to check every box may make us miss our next gold medalist before we even give them a chance.

Unlike athletes, our fate as employees or managers isn’t restricted to a few minutes in a race. We have the ability to develop and practice and learn from the mistakes, so we can get closer to that perfect 10 to fit our own organization.

You won’t always get a trophy

My youngest daughter is a competitive athlete. It is exciting and nerve wracking to watch her play. When she has a great game, it is easy to absorb the pride and  share the credit. When it is a challenging game, it is hard not to have an instant answer or recommendation to try to fix something that usually doesn’t need fixing.

All Olympians won’t win a trophy, but they will win the experience of working towards a goal. They will have an opportunity to share their story and show their skills. They will learn from the experience of experiencing failure and sometimes disappointment. But they know this is the game. They have resilience and strength, and those same skills we all need to be able to survive and advance in today’s uncharted times. For my TA and HR leaders, it is important to let your employees share their story. That unique story of how they are helping you win needs to be authentic and clear to everyone in the business.

We may not be on network TV every day for the world to rate our work, but it sometimes feels that way. Just remember, knowing the balance between drive, perception and reality will help us all be better employees, managers and leaders.

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This article was originally published on the Talent Works blog.

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