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What Can College Football Teach Us About Recruiting Truck Drivers?

Build recruiting success on your organization’s greatest strengths.
Starting with great recruiters.

For an easy example of how two decidedly different programs recruit with success, let’s consider the University of Alabama and its cross-state rival, Auburn.

Alabama: Star Quality, Brand Recognition.
It’s no secret among knowledgeable football fans that the Crimson Tide’s coaching staff is a 12-man, turbocharged recruiting machine. But to the casual fan, the face of Alabama Football today is Nick Saban. That’s star quality. The kind that, all by itself, attracts star players.

That said, it’s no coincidence that Saban has enjoyed his greatest career success at Alabama. Why? Speaking strictly in terms of Brand Identity, because it’s Alabama: the program which, with its 1926 Rose Bowl victory over Washington, put Southern football on the map. And which has claimed 13 additional national championships since then.

Simply stated, the Alabama mystique is why some of college football’s best players have always played for the Tide. Even when it posted a 4–24–2 record from 1955 to 1957 under “Ears” Whitworth, Alabama managed to recruit a Hall Of Famer by the name of Bart Starr. That’s brand power.

Auburn: It’s A Family Affair.
Truth is, Auburn may never command Alabama’s mystique on a national level. Yet for the past three years, head coach Gene Chizik has scored several notable victories in head-to-head recruiting battles with Saban. His staff has hauled-in three straight Top Ten recruiting classes by consistently focusing their pitch on the program’s greatest attraction: The Auburn Family tradition.

My daughter is a Senior at Auburn, and I can tell you from personal experience that there truly is a family atmosphere at Auburn that you won’t find at Alabama. That means a lot to some players. Including at least two of the best who’ve ever played the game—Bo Jackson and Cam Newton.

So What’s Your Company’s Single Greatest Strength?
That’s where you need to focus your core recruiting message. If  (for instance) you’re considered among the industry’s elite, say it with pride. And make sure your messaging, and the quality of your marketing materials—from your print ads to your website—genuinely reflects your brand. If you produce anything that’s less than first-rate, you’re doing your organization—and your brand—a serious disservice.

Maybe you’re more of a family-oriented company. If so, make sure your recruiting, and your messaging, reflects that attitude. Particularly in the way your recruiters deal with prospects on a personal level—from the friendly tone of their voice during phone calls to the personalized wording of follow-up messages after calls.

But no matter what your company’s strength is, hire great recruiters: The kind of professionals who live and breathe the job. Because at the end of the day, they’re the ones who convert prospects into hires.

Auburn’s disastrous 2012 season (they went 3-9 just two years after winning the national championship), should offer us all another extremely important recruiting lesson: No matter how much you need drivers, and no matter how well your closest competitors are doing, you can’t compromise on character. That’s pretty much what happened at Auburn: They recruited a lot of super-talented athletes with bad attitudes, bad habits and bad character—and it ultimately cost Chizik his job, and Auburn fans one of the worst seasons in that proud program’s history.
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