What do onsite job interviews have to do with college football recruitment?

If you want to recruit top talent – whether that’s your next technical engineering leader or a future star quarterback – you need to master the art of “showing well.”

I live in Atlanta, Georgia, and when it comes to college football, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) reigns supreme. Each year, SEC schools vie for top high school football talent. These star athletes can generally choose from any football program in the country, so if a school wants to land top talent, it needs to pull out all the stops for the onsite visit.

SEC schools know that their history, traditions, aesthetics, student body, and educational opportunities are best experienced during a tour. They also know that most student athletes make their college decisions immediately after the tour. That’s why these schools are the masters of “showing well”. They give out team jerseys emblazoned with the athlete’s name and bring in the big game-day announcers to set the mood. The band, cheerleaders and coaches are all out in full force. Even the current student body, top administrators, and community members play a role in showing off the school.

While your business doesn’t need to go quite so far as hiring cheerleaders to greet interview candidates, you can still take a page out of the SEC playbook and up your onsite interview game. Here’s how:

  1. Help top talent feel comfortable with your business.
    The goal of SEC recruitment is simple: ensure top athletes can envision their new college life at your This same goal applies for professional recruitment. Change can be tough for anyone, whether you’re a star athlete leaving home for college or a service member preparing to transition from active duty to civilian life. If your job candidate can’t envision his or her new life with your company, you’ll face an uphill recruitment challenge. Help candidates feel at ease by:
  • Emailing an agenda in advance with a short welcome note to the candidate. Something as simple as “Hi Eric, we’re looking forward to seeing you. Here’s an agenda for your visit” will set appropriate expectations for the onsite visit and help ease pre-interview anxieties.
  • Greeting the candidate promptly upon arrival. Alert the receptionist to the candidate’s expected arrival time and try to avoid leaving the candidate waiting for an extended period in the lobby.
  • Being prepared for the unexpected. Have a back-up plan in place in case one of the interviewers must address an onsite emergency or otherwise be out of the office. This will keep the interview process moving smoothly for the job candidate.
  1. Introduce job candidates to fellow veterans.
    There’s a lot to consider when transitioning out of the military, and no one knows this better than a fellow veteran who has faced similar challenges. Introduce your job candidate to former military employees who have successfully made the transition and advanced within your organization. If possible, have one of these veterans take your candidate to lunch so they have an opportunity to speak candidly about these transition challenges and the opportunities offered by your company.
  2. Help candidates envision their future with your company.
    Military veterans, like football players, are used to being part of a bigger team. Veterans want to ensure their new company will share this same commitment to teamwork and focus on achieving long-term goals as a cohesive unit. Start by showing candidates where they’ll be working and, if possible, give them a full tour of the entire plant so they can better understand how the entire team works together. Next, discuss the function of your facility and how it ties back to the overall enterprise. Finally, share your company’s plans for future growth and describe how your candidate will play a role in this process, along with his or her individual opportunities for professional skill advancement.
  3. Get the entire team involved.
    With SEC football, the responsibility for showing well isn’t limited to the athletics department: everyone from the current student body to top administrators plays a role in showing off the campus and the city. The same goes for an onsite interview. Rather than limiting onsite interaction to an interview panel, allow each candidate to meet their new team, including managers, peers and subordinates. Introduce the candidate to people who take pride in their work and love their job– their natural enthusiasm for the position will help your candidate feel excited, too.

In today’s competitive candidate market, top technical engineering talent is in short supply. As demand for this talent increases, companies that master the art of “showing well” during their onsite interviews will gain a critical competitive advantage.

How does your company prepare for onsite interviews? I welcome your experience and perspectives in the comments section below.