2 Top Lessons Sourcers Can Learn From The World Of Mixed Martial Arts

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.

– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid fan of the martial arts.

My parents first enrolled me into Karate at the age of five. I loved it and stuck with it several years until I finally achieved my Black Belt. During much of my youth, I toured the U.S. competing in local, state, and national Karate tournaments. I won some, lost some, and enjoyed every bit of the experience. Training for competitions was never a chore – I craved it. Sport Karate taught me many lessons, especially about discipline and dedication.

Although I stopped competing in tournaments back in my teen years, I am still a huge fan of the sport. Today, the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) world has evolved into a highly competitive sport and is widely popularized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The level of hard work and competitiveness in the MMA environment provides excellent lessons for sourcing professionals.

1. Identify your weaknesses.

Top-level MMA fighters are constantly striving to improve their game. For example, wrestlers who enter the world of MMA know they need to work on their stand-up (or striking skills), while Boxers (Strikers) often need to work on improving their ground fighting game, etc. During competitions, fighters regularly attack their opponent’s known areas of weakness.

Recruiting is tough business and the competition for attracting the best talent has not gotten easier. Expectations to deliver are just as high now as they were 15 years ago. As a sourcer, it’s important to have an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself, what do you do well versus not so well? If you are an “expert” at Internet sourcing but shy away from cold-calling, then it’s time to work on improving your cold-calling skills. If you regularly source using LinkedIn but have no idea how to leverage Twitter, then it’s time to learn. Don’t allow your weakness to be the one area that enables competitors to edge the win over you. Identifying your weakness does not mean you need to give up what you do best. By identifying the areas that need the most improvement, you will have a better sense of where to invest your training time in order to close the gap.

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2. Diversify your skills.

There are many attributes that differentiate a good fighter from a champion fighter. One of the key differences is the ability to quickly learn and adapt to new fighting styles. Champion fighters don’t rely on one particular style or discipline to win a competition but draw from a diverse set of skills gained through intensive hours of training. It is very common for top-level MMA competitors to cross-train in multiple disciplines (e.g., Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, kick-boxing, wrestling, striking, etc.).

Recruiting is no different. To remain competitive, we need to diversify what’s in our sourcing toolbox and be able to draw from that when the time is needed. Expand your sourcing knowledge by connecting with industry professionals to help you – find someone who truly understands the world of search, social media, mobile, or whatever it is you need. This is not simply about grabbing all the shiny new tools but being open to diversifying your sourcing style to fit your needs. You don’t need to be an expert in everything but don’t be afraid to learn. Get out of your comfort zone. Today, social media, mobile, and the cloud are dominating most discussions on the web. It is altering our way of life and how we conduct business. Learn why and how this impacts you. Continuously improving your knowledge and applying what you learn is the only way to maintain that competitive edge.

Top-level mixed martial artists have an unstoppable mentality. If we draw inspiration from their mental toughness, hard work, and determination, there’s nothing we cannot achieve. Do you agree the world of MMA provides valuable lessons for recruiting professionals? What do you think?

Michael Marlatt is an Executive Recruiting Partner at Cognizant Technology Solutions. He has close to 20 years of industry experience and is deeply passionate about innovation in recruiting strategies and technologies. Michael has a diverse background, which includes sourcing, training, and entrepreneurship. He has consulted for top-tier companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Deloitte, Capgemini, as well as for start-up organizations. He previously founded and ran MREC (The Mobile Recruiting Conference). Michael's passion for emerging technologies led him to build CompareMatch, a discovery platform for searching and comparing software solutions for HR and talent acquisition.

Follow @MichaelMarlatt or email him.

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3 Comments on “2 Top Lessons Sourcers Can Learn From The World Of Mixed Martial Arts

  1. I am a sourcer and I have fought in MMA.  I have wrestled and played football since I was 5 years old.  I couldn’t agree with you more!  In MMA you are always perfecting your craft knowing that if you aren’t working your opponent is.  It is the same way in sourcing.  That is why you need to take advantage of things that can help automate your sourcing process.  This will help you engage talent even when you are not at your computer.  You can do this a number of ways.  Creating automated tweets, RSS feeds for internet sourcing, search agents on big boards, etc.  I always try to evolve my toolbox as better tools become available.  Just make sure you add the right tools to the box.  A hammer won’t get that luggnut off your wheel!  

  2. @5f86e1a28a0c6d1ffcfa076ea04143af:disqus thanks for the feedback!  That’s awesome. 

    Your comments are exactly what I am talking about. It’s easy for all of us to become complacent and all too comfortable using one or two methods for identifying talent. I believer there’s a common thread that runs through most sourcing professionals and it’s the desire to be the best at what we do.  We love the hunt, as well as everything in between.  In order to achieve excellence in our profession, we need to push the boundaries of our knowledge in a way that challenges us to improve our skills.

    If we’re not constantly improving, we’ll end up obsolete. 🙂

  3. I think this is a valuable comparison because MMA isn’t just a bunch of people who row a bunch of unaimed fists into their opponents face simply for the fun of fighting –  it is two people in a ring challenging each other to step up to the plate and present their best “fight”.

    Our natural & trained strengths become obvious displayed through which resources for sourcing we depend on most heavily & where most of our hires are coming from. Our weaknesses are clear as well though – as seen through the resources we’ve yet to tap, the potential candidates we’ve yet to market to, and the methods we’ve yet to try. The fight itself, for us, is centered around the high demand for quality candidates who help our companies innovate & provide real results upon being hired.

    I think good hires easily equate to “good fights”. Having spent many a Saturday night spectating UFC fights from home I recognize that a “good fight” usually involves a fighter who has a diverse range of skills that compliment each other to generate the most effective, impactful, & surprising hits possible to their opponent. As recruiters we need to cultivate a wide range of sourcing resources effectively & continually to find the most impactful hires in a way that keeps our clients on their toes and asking for more of the same.

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