Craig Wilson
Craig Wilson

Articles From the Team

'Moneyball' and recruitment: the search for undervalued talent

A recent article in Quartz Online: ‘How to recruit for hard to fill positions’, proposed employers should ‘learn from Moneyball and search for undervalued talent’.

Whilst the topic of the article is rather US-centric, and not specifically focused on the legal sector, it raises a number of useful points that are relevant for consideration right here in the UK, and it also poses some interesting solutions to help employers recruit in a challenging market.


  1. ‘Almost half of the employers would admit that they can’t find the skills they need, with the global talent shortage at a 12-year high.’

  1. ‘Employers with deep pockets are solving their talent problems by throwing enticing sums of money at the most qualified people for the job.’

  1. ‘For others, the same option [Point 2 above] isn’t on the cards (or in the budget), forcing most businesses to get creative with how they find and recruit new, talented employees. ‘

Considering Points 1 and 3 tells us that the scarcity of talent in the North-West of England and the wider country doesn’t stop there; globally, there’s an unprecedented shortage of skilled talent.

So, what can be done if you’re a smaller company or an employer with limited resources?

'Moneyball' – statistical analysis and its application in the recruitment

'Moneyball' is a book by Michael Lewis that was given the Hollywood treatment as a film starring Brad Pitt. ‘The book tells the story of how the 2002 Oakland Athletics baseball team was able to recruit undervalued athletes on a $40 million budget and ultimately stay competitive against the likes of the New York Yankees, which spent more than $125 million in the same season.’

The Quartz article states:

  • ‘Using statistical analysis, small-market teams can compete by buying assets that are undervalued and selling those that are overvalued by other teams.’

  • ‘The same logic applies to recruit for developers, salespeople, or for other roles that are hard to fill, with the difference being that you don’t need to bother with statistical analysis to find the best talent. You just need to focus on what really matters—that candidates have the fundamental skills to get the job done—not which schools they attended or how many years of experience they have.’

In short, ‘figure out what success looks like for a given role, and ignore the irrelevant details.’

Opinion and BCL Legal

Recruitment in a candidate scarce market is frustrating, time-consuming and challenging, even for the biggest of companies with the deepest pockets. 

If the talent isn’t there, or on paper doesn’t match up with historic requirements: grades, qualifications, university attended, law firm trained at etc., then many big employers will also struggle, irrespective of how much money they throw at it.

In a candidate scarce market, a different approach is required. Employers need to think outside the box and look beyond qualifications and background experience when identifying and considering applications.

In the in-house legal sector, this could mean you recruit a commercial litigator or corporate solicitor for a general commercial contracts role, or you consider individuals from smaller firms or those who’ve trained in-house.

The key is to throw out any preconceived ideas about the ideal candidate and focus on identifying the individuals who can do the job required. Do they have the right attitude, style and approach, and do you feel they’ll develop? It’s true that applicants from the top law firms may be a surer bet, however, if they’re not applying, and/or are being well looked after and/or are being bought back when you make an offer, then you need to relax your criteria and consider what’s needed for a lawyer to be successful in your team/business.

Many of our clients are utilising contract reviews to test knowledge, style, approach and commerciality. They’re pleasantly surprised by the quality of answers when testing applicants from smaller firms and/or different commercial legal disciplines.  

To view the full Quartz article please following this link.

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