What if you Could Hire Like the Navy Seals Recruit?

By: Joseph Skursky

Why are the Navy SEALS such an Elite group of soldiers? Could it be that they only recruit the best people so it's easier to create the ultimate warrior?

That would just be too easy an answer, right? In fact it's the rigorous recruiting process from application to graduation that allows only the best to become Navy SEALS.

What special processes do they use to "hire" the best of the best, how can they do it so consistently, and what can you learn from it?

The training is designed to screen out the weak. It might sound a bit Darwinian, but especially in this game, only the strong survive.

If we applied a similar system as many companies use in hiring to the training process of the Navy SEALS, the outcome might be something like this:
1. The new SEALS recruits would be "sold" by incredibly convincing top brass to enter the program and some would even receive a bonus just for signing.
2. Many would get in just because they're nice guys and somebody in the training group "likes" them. A few others would get in because they're related to someone on the inside or someone pulled strings for them.
3. Trainers would shorten the training and make it easier because they just want to get their new SEALS into action.
4. Those who cleared the newly lowered bar would infiltrate the existing ranks and begin to influence the strong ones, eventually weakening the entire team.
5. The Navy would have an over-inflated confidence in their elite team's ability to perform the immensely difficult operations they do now. They would take on objectives beyond their capacity to achieve.

The end result would be a group that is no longer regarded as an elite force, who are significantly easier to beat, thereby weakening the security of our nation. Why? Because the recruits who should have been screen out were allowed to advance for reasons other than their talent and ability to perform, period.

The recruiting process was compromised.

Fortunately it doesn't happen too often, but I have worked with companies that protest when I kick out their weak candidates. And they strongly protest when I inform them that their 'special favorites' will eventually cost them dearly.

These types of companies have lost perspective on what the hiring game is really about - winning in business by gaining a decided advantage from top talent. Unfortunately, they succumb to their own ego, feelings, and lost objectivity...these cloud judgment.

Hiring managers think they're being "nice guys," winning over the best talent they can find. In the end, they are setting themselves up as easy prey for their competitors to overtake.

How would you compare your own hiring practices with those of the Navy SEALS:
Are you truly creating an elite force or are you working with a rag-tag bunch of misfits?
Does your team operate as one unit, in sync with directives from your chain of command, or do they each perform their "own thing?"
Do you routinely screen out or screen in?
Is the recruiting process clear to you as you do it, or is it the-next-best-thing to a gamble every time?

Based on what you've read here, what can you learn from the Navy SEALS for your own company's hiring practices? More importantly, how are you going to improve?

Human Resources
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