How to Use Data-Driven Hiring Like the Navy SEALs

Navy SEALsFor years, the Navy SEALs have had a problem: recruiting and retaining top talent.

In the early 2000s, the Navy SEALs were asked to increase personnel by 15 percent. The task seemed impossible considering their training regimen had a dropout rate of 67 percent.

Traditional recruiting channels, such as high school and college football players, didn’t seem to be supplying top-caliber candidates, so the Navy commissioned a study to determine what backgrounds and experiences their top performers have.

The results were surprising. If a candidate had spent countless hours swimming in a pool during water polo matches or if he was an avid rock climber or mountain biker, he was more likely to be a top-performing SEAL. In addition, believe it or not, if he played chess, his odds of being a top performer tripled.

Using data to make better hiring decisions

This information completely revolutionized the way the Navy SEALs recruited and hired. No longer did they need to guess where and how to target top recruits. Additionally, they had a built-in scoring system for applicants based on their experiences.

Great companies follow the Navy SEALs’ example and study their top performers to learn what separates them from the rest. Once the experiences are identified, you can create a point system for the different experiences. This system can be built directly into a web-based talent assessment to facilitate automatic scoring.

Capt. Adam Curtis, director of Navy SEAL recruiting, compared the study results to a “dog whistle.” Recruiters were drawn to the right candidates, almost as if they were tuned to the right frequency so they alone could hear it.

What are your “dog whistle” experiences?  Can you score them?

Discover more ways to use data science hiring to improve your sales results in my 15-minute presentation at the Sales Acceleration Summit. It’s now available on demand. Click the image below to see my session on Data-Driven Hiring.

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Image credit: Mateus

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