What Can Bill Belichick Teach Us About Hiring?

Image Courtesy of Barry Chin - Boston Globe Staff

Anyone who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday could see that the outcome was determined by preparation, hard work, intelligence, and tenacity. Although Malcolm Butler executed the game changing play, it took a total team effort. First, our offense needed to drive down the field with two minutes remaining and score the go-ahead touchdown. Then our 11 defensive players needed to recognize the Seahawks’ offensive formation on the goal line, anticipate the next play, and then execute defensively once they determined it to be a pass. Everyone had a assignment to do in order to to allow Malcolm’s interception. They collectively did their job and the rest is history - Bill Belichick’s fourth Super Bowl win in a decade.

Why has Bill had so much success? Well, there’s a variety of reasons; his obvious knowledge of the game of football, his father’s mentorship and various coaching jobs in the NFL. But beyond those factors, his sustained 10 year success as the Patriots Head Coach is a direct result of the type of players he selects year in and year out.  It is well documented that many of the Patriots’ current “stars” were not necessarily stars in their high school, college or even with other professional teams. Some were undrafted, and hired “on the cheap”.  The strategy here is simple- Bill Belichick identifies attributes that many other coaches don’t see or make a priority. He hires players who have core physical skills, high aptitude, strong work ethic, and intangibles such as passion, drive, team-oriented, and who have overcome adversity.

Three players on his current team who exemplify these traits are three stars of Super Bowl XLIX; Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Malcolm Butler. They each experienced variations of success before joining the Patriots, but they all overcame adversity and did not slide easily into the NFL. Tom was drafted 199th in the sixth round in 2000, Julian wasn’t even invited to the NFL combine but scooped up by the Patriots 232nd overall in the 2009 draft, and Malcolm signed with the Patriots after going undrafted in the 2014 Draft. They weren’t the best of the best or most desired players “on paper” but Coach Belichick saw their potential and made a decision to invest in their training and development. Hiring like-minded players and instilling those values in a work culture creates depth and strength of team.

Employers could learn a lot from Bill Belichick. Resumes are only a road map and don’t tell the whole story. Many companies only want to hire A+ candidates, or what they perceive to be A+ candidates, and make the mistake of rejecting resumes whose pedigree doesn’t fit their culture or image, even though they may not fully understand what their culture is. Sometimes, Hiring Managers have blinders on when it comes to assessing talent and accidentally overlook hidden gems. For example, some only target candidates who graduated from top schools and were admitted to certain prestigious organizations or clubs because they associate those things as successful. But then, they can’t understand why their team isn’t performing at a higher level when in fact, it could be because they’re passing up true “superstars”.

If Hiring Managers were to take a page out of Coach Belichick’s play book, they would ask themselves these questions:

  • What traits do most successful people I know share?

  • What do I want my team to accomplish?

  • What attributes do candidates need to have to accomplish these goals? What are some key intangibles they should have?

  • Am I willing to invest time in my employees’ training and development?

  • Will I be there to provide guidance & tools to further my employees’ success?

It all starts at the top, and once employers determine the answers to these questions, they can build a team who shares those qualities, values, goals, and commitment.

On Sunday night, Bill Belichick’s hiring philosophy was on full display.  His investment in developing his players combined with their desire to learn and work hard paid off in the biggest game of the year. As for the three who were overlooked? One is now a three time Super Bowl MVP recipient, and the other two are first-time Super Bowl champions. Now, those are successful hires, don’t you think?