Lessons from football: looking for the next great midfielder

A blog from GemCap’s Managing Director Conor Hoey on one of his passions – football – sharing some lessons in recruitment and finding talent taken from the beautiful game. Conor is the Chairman of Drogheda United Football Club.

A couple of years back, a good friend of mine interviewed for a job at a big global tech firm.  He went to a number of interviews with senior people there and they really were not interested in his technical ability or whether he could do a specific job – it was about whether he would fit. It was about his personality, his approach to work, his motivations, his people skills, his commitment… not about other things that he could learn on the job. 

There was a time, when reviewing CVs, that I would have gone straight to “educational qualifications”, then “work experience”.  Now, the first thing I look at is “interests”. This is not meant to be a slight against fine universities or their graduates; however, the top educational establishments often skew more heavily to more privileged students or those who could afford the tuition to enable the results required to gain access. Whilst not ignoring this exceptional pool of talent, as employers, we also need to find the unrealised potential in the marketplace, because too often, we take the safe option. 

Recently, we recruited a new Associate at Gemini Capital, fresh out of two good universities (yes, she had a Masters too!), but in truth what really impressed was her personality, her enthusiasm and her willingness to learn. I like to think that we would have recruited her even if she had no qualifications, but more than likely she probably would never have even got to the point of interview.  How would she have got on our radar without those qualifications?

And so, naturally, I try and link all this to football. So what skills can a footballer bring to your organisation?

Whilst out walking with my neighbour, a pilot, he explained how important situational awareness is in his job and it struck me how footballers (and indeed many sportspeople) are programmed to cope with high stress situations and how to react.  I watched Drogheda win the Irish First Division last year when it went down to the wire and they had to win the ultimate match.  They didn’t panic when it was 0-0 at half time, they kept probing, scored twice, saved a penalty and managed the game beautifully. I was the nervous wreck on the sidelines! The skills these players have honed throughout their careers would be valuable adaptable to so many industries. 

I also see many natural born leaders. I can think of a number of players at my club who have exceptional leadership and organisational skills that could be adapted to so many work situations.

So practically, what can employers do to widen the talent pool available to them?  Maybe the next time that you advertise a job, don’t just take the easy option and state “educated to degree level”.  Why not say, “degree level education preferable but we also welcome applications from individuals with other backgrounds and experiences which may make them suitable for this position”. 

And I’ve not even started on the benefits for the company 5-a-side team!

In other news...

GemCap Sustainability Committee 

  Quarterly Update by Sanchit Janda                                                                                      04 July 2024 At

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