Executive Recruiting & Triathlons: What Do They Have in Common?

It’s triathlon season, and to me, there’s no better allegory for executive recruiting. As I prep and train for two upcoming Olympic distance triathlons (2012 Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon on June 24, followed by the 2012 Aquaphor New York City Triathlon on July 8), the parallels to my day job are just striking.

Check this out:

1. There are three events in a triathlon: swimming, biking, and running. There are three stages in a executive retained search: discovery, interview, and close (also known as getting your chosen candidate over the finish line). All are charged with adrenaline, pressure, and a high degree of suspense.

2. Both triathlons and recruiting require endurance and stamina. Launching a search must feel like jumping into an uncharted ocean–particularly for an uninitiated client. Biking allows a bit of coasting–but any triathlon worth its salt incorporates at least several uphill climbs. Ditto for recruiting. Finally, running a 10K is easy on fresh feet; after swimming and cycling, not so much. The prior events increase the potential for exhaustion, and also raise the stakes: true in recruiting as well.

3. Both call for focus. Here too, the parallels strike me as uncanny. When I’m pushing through the water, I can’t help thinking about the hundreds or even thousands of resumes and profiles we slog through to identify a shortlist of potential candidates. Appealing as a candidate might be, we’ve got to keep our eye on the goal–finishing–at all times.

4. Relatedly, the discipline required for both is maddening. I’ve been hitting the pool, bike, and track starting at 6 a.m., six days a week. So too, we must keep up the pace as recruiters–searching, making contact, and moving forward. It might be easy to slack off for a day (“who’s going to notice?”), but you’ll pay for it at the end with results that are less than stellar. That’s why we like to build in milestones, and make sure the search stays on track.

Whether you’re tackling a triathlon or undertaking a search, it’s important to leverage deep seasoning and training…and then pace yourself appropriately.

Post a comment if you’re a fellow athlete, want to share your thoughts on recruiting, or just want to wish me luck!

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