How to Find Your Own “Gold Medallist” Recruit

As we approach the 2014 Sochi Games, I can’t help but think about the amount of time, excruciating pain, and the pure commitment of athletes that culminates into being selected to represent their country at the Olympic Games.  Having played sports all my life, I am always inspired and hold in the highest regard those people, in whatever genre, who are at the top of their profession – athletes for me have a special place.

For those loyal followers who don’t know me, I’m a career human resources (HR) guy.  I have over 20 “rings” around my “trunk”, some of which account for each year spent reviewing and screening candidate applications, participating on selection boards, advising senior managers on what they could do to catch that next great person, and de-briefing disappointed candidates as to how they could do better at the next interview.

Much has been written predicting the fierce competition for talent, about the importance of retaining “top employees” and the need to boost sagging employee engagement, especially in this fiscal environment of operational budget freezes, reviews and downsizing. Expected to do more with less, to maintain services to Canadians, to show value for money while ensuring employee productivity goes up, has created a new entry at these Games: the burgeoning nation of “Confused Managers”, whose national flag is coloured black and blue.

Having just passed the 4 km mark of my leisurely 5 km jog on this glorious crisp and snowy Canadian winter’s eve, I reflect on the athlete in me and the qualities and traits which a typical athlete or active person possesses. I quickly come to the conclusion that, wouldn’t these people make fantastic employees? Let me spend a moment outlining the traits of athletes or those who are athletic (and I count myself in the latter as I dropped my ‘pro’ status many moons ago).

Athletic people are generally healthy (fewer absences), self-driven and highly-motivated (they will “play” in rain or shine). organized and resourceful (planning meals, workout schedules, music playlists), highly competitive with an inner drive to succeed, goal-oriented, generally great on teams (but not always – think of single-sports), problem-solvers and adaptable (can adapt to changing “game” scenarios/conditions), and social (as sports brings people together in a fun and team-oriented environment).

So now think about your “team” back at the office. Who wouldn’t want people working with them who have most or all these qualities? But where do I find them? Do I start advertising to local sports club and the NHL alumni association? In fact, these high-quality people are right in front of us, they have been for years, and we just didn’t bother to give it a second thought.  Many of them listed “sports” on their CV perhaps to identify achievements, hobbies or leadership skills.

In speaking with young aspiring professionals, be they already employed or still engaged in studies, I always encourage them to identify any sports in which they’ve been involved –  hockey, baseball, soccer, volleyball, swimming, tennis, etc. – all of which demand the same traits and qualities which I listed above.

Yeah, that’s nice that little Billy was on the university debating team and was captain of the varsity chess club…I’m sure he has a room full of medals and trophies.  What’s really important, and where employers could really gain a competitive advantage, is to spend a few minutes when they come across “MBA-educated” AND “10 years of competitive sports” on an individual’s CV and delve a little deeper to find out more. What kind of sport? Individual or team? For how long were they involved? What kind of achievements did they have? What did they learn most about their failures? What were their toughest challenges and greatest moments?

I bet if you took this approach, you just might find your own “gold medallist.”

Go Canada!


David LeBlancDavid M. LeBlanc works with individuals and organizations in the areas of strategic planning and developing current and future leaders. David contributes his time to the Telfer School of Management and the Sprott School of Business by guiding MBA students and grads in making a successful leap to the work world. David also acts as a career mentor to internationally educated professionals in Ottawa. You can connect with David at and on LinkedIn at


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