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Revisiting the Premier League Lessons for Recruiters

By May 18, 20172 Comments

All good things must come to an end and as sure as night follows day there will always be the last weekend of the English Premier League year after year. Even as an Arsenal fan, contemplating one of the most frustrating, disappointing and vitriolic seasons I can remember, I’ll still be sad to see the back of this season’s edition of football’s biggest and most expensive soap opera.  This weekend is that weekend, so I thought I’d hijack the blog once again and blend in some football reflections with some spurious and tenuous links to recruitment, and revisit my blog post from the start of the season 5 Premier League Lessons for Recruiters.

Back in August we were faced with the mildly terrifying prospect of Gary Lineker presenting Match of the Day in his underpants, following a promise he had tweeted that he would do so if Leicester won the league. To be fair to him he did it, following several weeks of intense sit-up routines. Although they look more like 30’s era football shorts if you ask me:


The lesson for recruitment managers was to follow through on promises and incentives set, no matter how implausibly high the goal. From what I’ve heard out there in agency land, with various stories of Pacific Island trips and more, it seems some goals are being kicked right now, and promises are being followed through on. Surprisingly it is the in-house recruitment market where I’ve heard the most stories of recruiters being told one thing and experiencing another.  In-house recruitment managers and HR managers should take heed, especially when enticing driven-but-flighty recruiters from the agency side. If you promise a recruiter they will still get to work in an agency-like environment, enjoy a voice in the HR team, be respected by the SLT and have an open remit to innovate and develop proactive recruitment processes, then in the current climate you really need to follow through on that. It sounds to me like many are not.

I also wondered if West Ham’s move to a new stadium would be good for them or not, given the lack of atmosphere and soul. Following a shambolic season and one of the worst home records in the league, it looks like they will finish with one of their lowest points tallies in a long time. Fans even resorted to fighting amongst themselves so starved of entertainment they were (although fighting is a regular past-time of many Irons fans anyway).


Since August I’ve seen at least five of our recruitment clients move offices, with mixed results.  The times where employees are involved and invested in the process, given a voice and opinions heard about layouts and fit-outs, have generally been a real success. The times where overseas operations have directed and coordinated moves, often as cost-cutting exercises, have not worked out so well. We currently have a candidate weighing up two similar offers and the office environment is likely to prove the decisive factor.

One thing I got wrong was the return of Pogba to Manchester United and how recruiters should learn from this and try harder to identify the potential of their trainee recruiters, and exercise some more patience to let them develop their talent with your firm rather than a competitors. Despite his world record price tag, Pogba hasn’t come close to hitting the heights of previous seasons, so maybe United were right to let him go after all (although it also makes the huge transfer fee to bring him back look even more preposterous). There’s little doubt the agencies out there are exercising less and less patience with their nascent trainees’ talents. However, they should also think twice before enticing back one they let go in the past, just because they worked out better elsewhere. Some things never change.


Nike did their usual trick of hyping up a new football, something that will no doubt be awaiting us once again in the coming months. Maybe this time they can add some flashing lights sewn into the seams to help visibility. I likened it to the shiny new HR Tech tools constantly foisted upon us with little enduring value to how we work and operate. For once though, an actual game-changer could be on the horizon, with the slightly ominous news of Google registering the domain name Time will tell how this will impact (or even disrupt) our industry but I suspect that, like happened with the onset of emails, and then online job boards, recruiters will learn how to utilise this to their advantage rather than it being something to totally replace them.

My final lesson is one that hasn’t been heeded, but one that needs to be repeated. Arsenal’s lack of decisiveness in the transfer market and inability to sign a proven striker has, as I feared, come back to haunt them. Barring a calamitous final game from Liverpool, and as much as I hope they will slip up against the already-relegated Middlesborough, it looks likely that Arsenal will finish outside the top four for the first time in over 20 years.


In New Zealand’s recruitment market we still seem to be experiencing painfully gun-shy behaviour from clients on both the agency and in-house sides. In a buoyant economy, with unemployment at 4.9% and everyone crying out for recruiters, now is the time to learn from Arsenal’s mistakes and get bold. If you have the chance to make a hire, take it. Otherwise you might find yourselves playing constant catch-up with the your braver competitors out there.

What recruitment lessons have you learned from the premier league this season?

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Tony Guidoboni says:

    Stability starts from the top and filters down from Management through all levels. We have seen from Arsenal this year the constant reluctance of Management to confirm their position and give information on the future. This in turn has a negative impact on supporters who could be seen as clients and also players / employee’s. Star employee’s who could be vital are anxious and looking for direction and guidance and if this is not forthcoming from Senior Management don’t be surprised if their heads get turned from competitors. It also could affect day to day performance of employee’s who may well get demotivated and drop performance levels. By the time things do get sorted it could be too late and you could be well behind your competition who have access to markets you have now missed out on. Written by a Portsmouth supporter, Probably not the best club to look at for recruitment lessons!

    • Jonathan Rice says:

      Thanks for that Tony. I’m an Arsenal fan myself and sadly agree with everything you have to say!