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Apr 2

The USF Search for a Coach: Three questions you should ask a recruiter before engaging with them in a search

On March 14th, the University of South Florida (USF) fired its men’s basketball coach, Stan Heath, after seven years with him at the helm. A university representative stated that they “wanted to go in a different direction.” On March 12th, two days before firing their coach, USF paid $30,000 as the first half of a retainer fee to a national executive search firm, to find his replacement.recruitingtips

After reviewing the problems that have arisen during this search process, one can concede that it is debatable whether or not USF retained the right firm for this search. This is where they’ve more than likely learned the three questions you should ask any search firm before partnering with them to assist you in filling a key position. To give you a better idea of what you can take from the lesson USF learned the hard way, we’ve provided those key questions below. Save time and money in your search process by asking the following before selecting a firm:


1. When, and how do you qualify your candidates for red flags in their backgrounds?


On March 25th, USF had reportedly come to terms with Steve Masiello on a five-year contract paying him over $1M per year. Through the course of the search firm doing their background checks, they learned that Masiello had not completed his undergraduate degree, although it was portrayed as completed on his resume. It was good that the firm eventually found this out, but how much could USF had saved in time, money and reputation in avoiding this situation?

Candidates can have backgrounds checkered with criminal convictions, bankruptcies, forged degrees, and faulty accomplishments. On top of this, they may be untruthful on applications regarding prior places of employment, and prior wages.

How can this be remedied? Your recruiter can ask the simple question:

Our client will screen for A, B and C in your background, as well as verify education and employment. Is there anything we should be aware of that may come up?

Candidates will shoot much straighter, be more forthright with information, and the company will be protected against wasting time with candidates who can’t make it through the finish line.


2. How do you qualify someone’s susceptibility to taking a counteroffer?


The second candidate that USF narrowed in on was Dave Rice at UNLV. USF was in deep discussions with him and made him an “attractive” offer. Reports then came out that Rice was meeting with his boss, the Athletic Director, and requesting “an extension…more charter flights, an academic advisor specifically for basketball, and other improvements.” A “source” later confirmed that “if Rice receives an extension, he will stay.”

USF was played again! Rice wasn’t going to move himself and his family all the way across the country, away from his all-important recruiting channels, and start his career over again in a lesser program than he was already coaching!

How can a recruiter protect their client against counteroffers? Again, the answer is in the questions. Through the recruiting process, candidates are often asked about their “pain” or reasons for discontent in their current job, and what they’d look for in their next position. After understanding these pain points, the recruiter should ask:

When was the last time you talked to your boss about ____?

This is a telling question. If the candidate has already had this conversation with their boss and nothing came from it, it opens up a powerful dialogue about the counteroffer that will come and how to combat it.

If the candidate has not had that conversation with their boss, why would you move forward until they have? You want the current boss to try to fix these problems before you’ve invested time and money in recruiting this candidate who will ultimately accept a counteroffer.


3. What are key indicators you use to assess a candidate’s “deliverability”?


Today’s job market is candidate driven. What does this mean? There are more positions available than qualified candidates. This leaves the candidate in the driver’s seat. They will interview for a multitude of reasons. The majority of them NOT being to find a job. They like “the practice of interviewing”, or “making new connections”, or “hearing what other companies are doing out there”. For many, it’s a boost to the ego.

Your recruiter should protect you from these types of candidates. A question that can screen out a number of these candidates is:

Under what circumstances do you consider taking a step back in pay in your job search?

If this candidate is sticking their toe in the water or simply “window shopping”, they will brush off this question. This is a huge red flag that the candidate may not be earnest in their search. A candidate who is sincere in their job search will take the time to consider this question and have a solid answer.


A few important things to note:


  • I’m not under the illusion that these questions alone will solve the corresponding problems. Our 23 years experience has taught us, however, that these questions are gateways to great conversations, which can alleviate the problems.
  • This post could come across as cynical or may seem to suggest that people are innately deceptive. That is not the intent. The truth of the matter is that people, by nature, do what is in their own best interest. These are a few tips to protect you against their “self interest” wasting your time and money.


Post by: Taylor Cotterell, Executive Vice President of NaviTrust

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