King's managing director in front of Sydney Kings display
min read

A Lesson in Smart Recruitment - From the NBL


Lessons all recruiters can learn from the methods used by the Sydney Kings

HR tech and Basketball - perhaps not the most likely pairing. But it’s one we’re embarking on with our sponsorship of the Sydney Kings - our local, Australian NBL club.

And there is actually some method in the madness. It stemmed from our recent RecTech18.

We were on the hunt for a keynote speaker that would inspire our attendees with a recruitment story unlike any they’d experienced or been told before.

The rest is history

We were given the opportunity to interview the Kings’ chief, Jeff Van Groningen, who was appointed Managing Director of the club in April 2016 and made his greatest hiring achievement two years later when he signed former NBA star, Andrew Bogut.  

I came away from that interview with a great story to share with our event attendees and some truly inspirational insights about Jeff’s approach to recruitment that we can all learn from.

1. Find your competitive advantage

For Jeff, competing on salary was not an option, there were clubs vying for Andrew’s attention and if he’d gone with a regular fee-based agreement, he would have lost.

Instead, he had to be smart and think quickly about what he could offer, and that was ownership. In the NBA, players can’t part-own a club and Jeff recognised this as his point of advantage.

There will always be something you can offer that others can’t - find it and use it. Ask yourself:

  • Do you really want to just compete on salary and risk hiring someone who’s there for the money alone?
  • How can you stand out from your competition? In a skill short market what point of differentiation can you offer the best talent?

2. Be human

Jeff recognised Andrew’s appreciation of a human approach. He needed to feel comfortable that he was making the right decision for him and his family.

The way Jeff communicated with Andrew throughout the recruitment process, the breadth of people from that he involved, and the future plans he shared all made the decision easier.

A human approach builds trust and with this trust you can form a relationship. With relationships comes truth. Think about your recruitment process in terms of:

  • Human interaction - Never let technology get in the way of being human, utilise it to give you back the time you need to focus on the instances that form trust, relationships and truth.
  • Communication - Get out of the interview room and take your candidate for a coffee. Talk about the world not the specifics and find out whether you are a good match to continue your story together

3. Research and build a pipeline

Sports clubs use scouts, corporations use agencies. Scouts research talent, map achievements over time, compare and shortlist. When an opportunity surfaces they already know who they are going to target and how.

For Jeff, the journey to finding Andrew didn’t start as he needed to fill the spot on the team. He is always reviewing suggestions, researching and proactively requesting information on players, and educating himself on the talent available.

Doing due diligence and understanding your pipeline is critical to building the team you want in the future, allowing you to:

  • Strike while the iron’s hot with an informed and educated approach to attracting the best talent
  • Build relationships and trust with the best talent before they are ready to hire, so that when they are they have a wealth of people willing to have the conversation.

4. Create a vision

Jeff quickly recognised that Andrew was a switched-on individual with a strong interest in the corporate world.

So Jeff focused on those interests, rather than just the playing, to gain some relevance in the conversation. He created a vision, he showed the arena, the screens, the crowd and how the environment would match.

Jeff sends new players proposals with Photoshopped images of them in the Kings’ kit. He creates a mental image of what they would actually look like as a player. You can achieve impact like this, by:

  • Getting people to see themselves in position at your company - create an authentic picture of the workforce and a vision of their future within it.
  • Understand and communicate how involved they would  be, what they could achieve and what are they are going to be a part of.

Jeff shared many more insights during our conversation - if you’re interested in hearing the full story of the Kings’ biggest recruitment success, you can check out the video below.

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