5 Winning Recruiting Tips to Take Away from March Madness

By Jennifer Roeslmeier Mikels

March 14, 2023

March is a much-anticipated time for many. It’s a time when both sports fans and non-sports fans come together to join office pools. Confident brackets are put together with the anticipation of “I’m taking it all this year!”, until the small school you never heard of pulls off an upset against your winning team. March madness is called “March Madness” because anything can happen in the NCAA March Madness tournament!

But what defines a winning team exactly? How do some of the teams you never heard of come out to beat the favorited team? As recruiters there are a few characteristics that can be learned from the winning teams in the March Madness tournament. From strategy, to determination, to finishing in the final moments, we will take a deep dive into each of these winning recruiting tips and more to learn how you can be a winning recruiter!

1. Strategy

Recruiting Strategy

As teams prepare to play their opponent in the tournament, they study video footage, practice plays, and come up with an overall strategy to defeat the other team. Similarly, with each new job order, recruiters need to come up with a winning recruiting strategy to timely find the perfect candidate for their client. Just as players study old footage of their opponent, you can start by taking a look at similar positions you have recruited for in the past to see successful ways you have found candidates. Perhaps you already have a few candidates in the pipeline from last time that could be a good fit for this position.

Winning players also try to “visualize their game.” In their head they see themselves dribbling past opponents, scoring points, and making game winning shots. All of the best athletes, not just including college basketball players, visualize their game and science has shown this mental strategy can actually work! While recruiters can certainly visualize themselves finding a candidate their client could have never dreamed of, recruiters need to more so visualize their action plan and write it out.

Some important points to consider as you learn these winning recruiting tips and come up with a strategy and action plan for filling your job order:

  • Where will you promote the job? Will you use Indeed®, CareerBuilder®, LinkedIn®? What’s the best platform for this particular job order for finding the best candidates?
  • What kind of candidates will you target? What experience will you be looking for? What skillset will they have to have?
  • How can you use your ATS to find candidates? Often times, you may immediately resort to finding new candidates, however, your ATS may house hundreds or even thousands of candidates right in front of you! As soon as you determine the types of candidate you are looking for, you can use the search capabilities in your ATS to search specifically for those types of candidates.
  • Do you already have a pipeline of candidates from a similar job you were recruiting for in the past? As with the point above, inventing the wheel is not always necessary! Check to see if you already have a handful of qualified candidates that you vetted out for a similar position before. If so, these candidates would be a good place to start.
  • Do you plan on putting together an email campaign for this position, followed by a call? As you search your ATS for potential candidates, you can add them to a designated pipeline to make it easy to include them in an email and/or call campaign.

Recruiting Strategy

Coming up with your winning recruiting strategy and steps on how you are going to carry out that strategy is the first step in scoring the perfect placement! As Bobby Knight, former Indiana University Hoosiers head coach (1971-2000) stated, “The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.”

2. Leadership and Teamwork

All winning teams have a leader. Whether it is a particular coach on a team, a player, or even both— all successful teams have leaders that guide the team in carrying out their strategy to a victory. This also includes teamwork. Leaders aren’t ball hogs who try to do it all themselves.  They work with their team to bring home a victory!

Leadership and Teamwork

As a recruiter, you are the leader of each job order. You’re in charge of not only carrying out your strategy, but “leading” a successful winning team.  With each job order, you may not traditionally work with a team, but there may be others you can work with to help fill the position. Is there anyone in the industry you have a connection with that might know someone for the position or could help advertise it? Or maybe there is someone at your staffing agency that has filled similar positions in the past. Work with them to see if they can offer any winning recruiting tips– they may even refer you to someone for the position.  Using your connections can be extremely beneficial in recruiting. As I always like to say, “Teamwork makes the dreamwork!”

Teamwork can also come from the side of working with the client as well. In the beginning, you want to have a full understanding of the kind of candidate the client is looking for. You also will want to get any questions you have answered. After that, maintaining a good relationship throughout the process is important so they remain confident that you’re the right person to find their candidate. If it all goes well, they will want to work with you in the future!

3. Communication

CommunicationOn and off-court communication is key for a winning team. Off-court, the team needs to clearly communicate the game plan so all players know their roles for the coming plays. On-court communication is just as important in communicating what you are seeing on the court, what play you are running, and more.

Effective communication is extremely important for recruiters as well. When you are presenting candidates to your clients, you need to find the best way to present the candidate and “sell” them so your client knows why they should consider this person for the position. Similarly, when talking to candidates, you need to present the job in a way that gets them interested in the position so they want to learn more. Both of these initial communications are critical in starting off the conversation right. You need to be prepared by knowing what to say, how to say it, and the best format for presenting it (phone call, video call, screen share, email, etc.)

When communicating regularly with candidates, you also need to find out what the best mode of communication is for them. Is it email, text, or phone call? Once you start an initial conversation with a candidate that is interested, find out what the best way is to get a hold of them. That will make both your life and their life easier. A slow response time can often be avoided, as long as you are communicating in the best way for them to give a timely response.

Communication Video InterviewingVideo interviewing is also a form of communication that  became popular during the pandemic. Some recruiters may still not feel comfortable doing a video interview, however, it’s just as if you are conducting an in-person interview. The only difference is the interview is being done virtually. Recruiters want to have their regular interview questions prepared, dress professionally, and have the right background/lighting. Before the candidate gets on the interview, ensure your sound and visual is working.  You also may want to provide specific instructions to the interviewee on how to join the video interview and connect to audio/visual. Even if it seems straightforward, sending instructions ahead of time can help ensure it runs smoothly with no technical difficulties. The first interview with the candidate is like your “first impression.” While they may be nervous about having a good first impression with you, you also want to have a good first impression with them. If the interview doesn’t go smoothly or seems unprofessional, they may not be interested in working with you going forward.

Effective communication throughout the whole recruiting process is essential in getting you closer to winning your perfect recruit!

4. Determination


Never giving up is a trait all winning NCAA teams have. No matter how many points they are down, they are determined to keep fighting because the game is never over until the end. Anything can happen and we have certainly experienced this while watching March Madness! Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, once said, “The moment you give up, is the moment you let someone else win.”

The same can be applied to recruiting. You may not find the perfect candidate initially and go through ups and downs, but you need to stay positive and keep looking. It’s easy to get discouraged if we fail, but staying determined to find the right candidate will help you be successful in the long run.

If you do start to get discouraged, take a step back and see what might not be working and how you can resolve it. Are you having trouble finding the right candidate? Are they missing something from their skill set that the client wants?  Do you get close to filling the job order, but the candidate doesn’t accept the offer? Analyze what’s going on and ways you can come up with a solution to take over the game!

5. Finishing in the Final Moments

Finishing in the Final MomentsSimilar to the above, we’ve all watched games when teams have been down by 20 points and made a miraculous comeback to be tied in the final moments! Or perhaps it’s a nail biter game all the way down to the final seconds! March Madness is known for “buzzer beater wins.” Anxiety rushes through us as we sit on the edge of our couches hoping our team is the one that pulls off of the victory! How can teams “finish” though in the final seconds? Sometimes it may be out of a team’s control, but there are also ways to prepare for these moments when you are “tied at 88 with 5 seconds left!” One way is by practicing for buzzer beater moments and having a game plan when they happen.

For recruiters, the “buzzer beater win” is when the candidate shows up on the first day! You found the perfect candidate, offer was accepted, and they arrive at work on their first day. Hooray!!!



But as recruiters, you often know that even if a candidate accepts the offer, it doesn’t mean you won or that they will show up on the first day! Why does this happen? What causes a candidate to “ghost” you? It could be a number of reasons, but one way to help prevent it is by testing ways to prevent it.  Check out our article, “Ghosted by Your Candidate? Become a Ghostbuster” for winning recruiting tips and best practices to avoid being ghosted. Once you discover best practices and test methods to eliminate ghosting, you will be able to finish more of those buzzer beater shots for the win!

The teams in March Madness are relentless and all have a drive to be the NCAA March Madness Tournament Champion! As you can see, there is a lot we can learn from these teams about strategy, leadership and teamwork, communication, determination, and finishing in the final seconds. So, go out there, bring this recruiting playbook with you, and be a winning recruiting champion!

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