The Season of the Underdog

It’s March! Finally! The season of Madness. The season of the underdog. The season where not a single team is safe. Where teams like George Mason, VCU, Butler, Wichita State, Valparaiso, Mercer, or Davidson will show up huge, send the blue bloods to an early exit, and take America on a whirlwind romance full of buzzer beaters, half-court heaves, and an emotional roller coaster guaranteed to leave you breathless. It’s where Stephen Curry becomes a household name. It’s where the team that should win, doesn’t. And it’s awesome!

At Vaco, we love an underdog. We love when MTSU (Go Blue Raiders!) comes out of nowhere to beat Michigan State in the first round, or George Mason makes a magical run to the Elite 8.

In the talent acquisition world, our days revolve around finding the best candidates – the ones with the best degrees, latest technology experience, or the Big 4 accounting pedigree. Sometimes in this quest, qualified and talented individuals have their name on the roster but get skipped over as an underdog.

If there’s anything March Madness can teach us, it’s that we can’t discount the underdog. So who are these overlooked underdog candidates that we should never count out? There are two that consistently make my final selection.

The Out-of-Towner

Great candidates are hard to find. This is no secret. Despite that struggle, hiring teams often balk at the idea of bringing in out-of-state candidates, and generally, the concern(s) falls in one of four areas:

  1. Availability: On-site interviews, timelines for getting started, etc.
  2. Cost: Relocation, local salary vs. candidate’s current salary, travel costs.
  3. Reliability: Will they really move? Will they stay?
  4. Hometown Heroes: What about the local guy?

All are valid concerns, and a great recruiter will have these conversations early in the process to address them as completely as possible, as people move for various reasons: Maybe their spouse was transferred or they have family in the area; Maybe they have done prior research on your company, and truly believe in your mission; Or maybe they just really want to work with you. That level of buy-in is the lifeblood of great organizations.

Regardless of the reason, out of town candidates are often highly qualified and completely overlooked, which is exactly why you shouldn’t overlook them. The competition may not be as fierce in a tight candidate market, and again, they might be the perfect fit outside of their current geographical limitation.

So take the shot. It might be a Valparaiso buzzer beater to shock the world. You won’t know unless you take it.

The Job Hopper

Twenty years ago, the sign of a high-quality candidate was longevity within their roles. A guy that had been at the same company for 10 years was absolutely someone hiring managers wanted to meet. Since that time, work has changed for both employers and employees.

Working 10-15 years at a company is no longer the nature of the workplace, but the stigma against job hoppers remains.

If we can get past holding people to standards that no longer fit the reality of the job market, it becomes clear that these job hopping candidates are really good (George Mason anyone?).

Here are a few of the reasons you should be hiring job hoppers:

  1. They know how to learn. Working in a variety of positions required them to master the “learns quickly” skillset.
  2. They have likely seen teams that run well, and teams that…well…don’t. Their insight could be valuable to you in both building and maintaining efficient processes and great culture.
  3. They are not afraid of change. In our digital world, the way we work is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Job hoppers are fully equipped to handle the turbulence that change inevitably brings.
  4. They know a lot. When someone works at one place for a long time, the question is inevitable. Do they have ten years of experience or one year of experience ten times? Job hoppers don’t have that issue. Their experiences are varied, and they have the skills to hit the ground running in a lot of areas.

Every team needs a utility player or a sixth man that can play any position. This might be your guy. Don’t look past them too quickly.


In the season where we are reminded that any of the 68 teams could win, give some of those candidates you’d normally skip over a second look. They may be the next superstar addition to your team.


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