Recruiting vs. Scouting: What’s the Difference?

Companies looking to build a top caliber team should consider the range of definitions and the subtle differences between the terms recruiting and scouting.

“recruiting” (verb) – to find suitable people and get them to join a company, an organization, the armed forces, etc. OR to persuade (someone) to join you in some activity “scouting” (verb) – to explore in order to obtain information OR to find by making a search

If the definitions don’t suggest a highly passive vs. proactive approach, consider the visuals of an army recruiting site where individuals present themselves to join versus the professional sports team where scouts find and follow a prospect for years believing their potential will grow into A-level talent.

Organizations that wait until they have a need to fill their roster, and then send out a call for those interested to join, will be at a significant disadvantage to those organizations that truly scout for talent to fill current needs but also look for potential to develop and groom for the future team.

Learning from baseball scout Tony Lucadello

We may find some simple guidance in effective talent scouting from the wisdom of Tony Lucadello, baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs and considered by some to be the greatest scout ever. Lucadello identified the four P’s to describe different kinds of scouts:

  1. Poor – wastes time looking for games rather than having a planned itinerary
  2. Picker – emphasizes a player’s one weakness to the neglect of all strengths and ignores the potential within
  3. Performance – bases his evaluation on what a player does in his presence
  4. Projector – envisions what a player will be able to do in two or three years

In his estimation 85% of scouts focus on the performance they see in their presence, but a rare few, less than 5% are projectors who can envision the potential that will be realized in the future. For most small companies, their rush to fill a demanding and immediate requirement continually trumps the ability to scout and fill a roster both now and for the future. To truly scout talent, an organization needs to understand what strengths and weakness they have on their current roster and how this matches the business’s plans now and in the future.

4 tips to effective talent scouting

  1. Develop a talent plan that aligns to your business plan and key corporate milestones. Consider what you need to achieve with the type of talent you need to achieve it.
  2. Know your current talent. Where did they come from and how did their paths unfold? Looking at your current talent might help you find hidden stars.
  3. Plan ahead. Incorporate a development phase that grows the high potential talent you find. If you have a star, cut your estimate in half for the amount of time it will take for them to become a strong contributor.
  4. Be a projector. Make it your business in your industry to know potential from a very early stage and well ahead of when someone hits their peak.


We love to work with organizations to create and execute a proactive recruitment plan, and would appreciate your feedback on this article. Learn more about the Business Sherpa Group’s recruiting services.

About The Author

Margo Crawford is the President, CEO and founder of the Business Sherpa Group where she has been involved with over 140 companies throughout North America from formation stage through to sale. Margo is a recognized thought leader in the area of human resources and entrepreneurship, and is passionate about the long term success of small and mid sized enterprises.

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