It’s that time of year again when everyone pulls out their brackets and ranks teams against each other.

Taken into consideration are school rankings, competitiveness of schedule, past victories, etc. The same care and effort you take in building your bracket should be used when hiring, and similar elements should be evaluated. Here are a few analogies:

Teams are cut from the tournament because of their record. When screening applicants, hold the same philosophy. Have one or two deal breakers or non-negotiables that the candidate must have — this may include a degree, minimum GPA or experience using a specific software.

The Underdog

In basketball, as with most sports, there is typically an underdog. This is someone who looks like they have no shot, but they have the drive, patience, determination, or some other X factor that gives them the edge. The same is true of candidates.

Perhaps a candidate doesn’t have the exact necessary experience for the role. Maybe they were in a totally different career, like engineering or computer science, but the analytical skills they have, or the soft skills they obtained, are their X factor. Ask yourself if that candidate with an art history major could be a good fit for the sales position. Could their creativity be exactly what the sales team needs? Find out what drives them, how is their ability to self-evaluate, their sense of right and wrong, and their willingness to challenge the status quo. These things may be their X factor. Their resumes are indicators of what they can help the company accomplish in the future.

The Final Four

Sometimes selecting the Final Four in your bracket is easy, and sometimes it’s tough. Usually if you’re lucky enough to get all four teams right, you’re left arguing with anyone who will listen that your selection will win it all. Hopefully you are equally passionate about the final candidates in play. To help determine who is right, consider if the candidate asked intelligent questions, shared relevant industry news, showed stats and explained how they’d help advance the company?  Did they seem like a team player? Will they get along with coworkers?

On the Bubble

Unlike teams who are forced to wait to hear if they received an at large bid to the tournament, hot candidates don’t wait around. There are hundreds of other tournaments they can play in because there are thousands of open positions. Top candidates can quickly be snatched up by another company, so be sure to follow up frequently on where the decision stands, and if you like the candidate, extend an offer.

Final Cuts

Although it’s easy to get caught with daily tasks, it’s important to call candidates that didn’t make the cut and let them know. Share feedback on what they can improve on. They will have a positive perception of you and the company, and you never know where your next client or referral may come from.