SmartRecruiters Blog

Recruiting, a Fishy Business

I’ve lived and worked all over the US: Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, Oregon, and the east coast. I chose to make my homebase in middle Tennessee, just south of Nashville. Tennesseans have many passions: football, music (all kinds) and fishing are at the top. I fit right in. I love football; I came here for the music; and the fishing is fantastic.

Since football season is over and the daffodils are popping up everywhere, it’s only natural to think about fishing. As I fantasized about fishing, I realized how similar recruiting is to fishing. Recruiters have distinct styles that correlate to 4 types of fishers: Noodlers, Opportunists, Net fishers, and Fly fishers. What type best describes your recruiting style?

The Noodlers (Catfish)

Noodlers wade right into the mud. They get down and dirty. Using their hands as bait, they go after the biggest catfish they can find and wrestle them out of the lake and onto the shore. This sport is not for the faint of heart. And, while you might think this sport is only for men, there are women who are formidably fearless in their pursuit of big game cats (catfish, that is!).

Recruiters who seek out the most impressive LinkedIn profiles, who lure those people with enticing bits of company information, and who stop at nothing to get them onboard, remind me of noodlers.

Casting a Wide Net

Net fishers make a living from the quality of their catch. They go to the best site (ocean, bay, farm) and cast the widest net possible. Their biggest dilemma is how to handle the unwanted catch. Sometimes they catch a dolphin when they wanted a tuna. How do they save the dolphin without losing the tuna which will pay the bills? Then there are the tiny fish that just get lost in the shuffle. Do they get tossed or used as bait?

Recruiters who have to tackle volumes of openings (retail, contact centers, truck drivers, etc.) have to constantly think of creative ways to attract talent. They not only have to attract good ones, they have to find civil and legal ways to throw back the ones who don’t fit. And, when you have lots of fish flopping all about, that’s not an easy task. These recruiters have to be as adept at using recruiting technology as they are at being charming at job fairs. The pace is exhausting and many times their catch is rejected when applicants’ drug screens or background checks don’t make the grade.

Fly Fishers

While they don’t make movies about noodlers, A River Runs Through It won an Oscar for best cinematography in the 90s. There is even a “Zen and the Art of Fly Fishing.” Watching an expert fly fishing is almost like watching ballet. It seems more art than sport. Masters are experts on every element: fly tying, fish habitat, casting technique, etc. They remind me of the sophisticated executive search consultant who knows how to source and seduce the highest paid executives. However, I suspect there is often more mystique than technique.

Opportunistic Anglers

These are opportunistic fishers who make a practice of knowing when and where the desired type of fish is. For example, when I was a young girl, I went trout fishing the morning after the stocking truck had dumped a load off the bridge. Guess where I cast my line? That’s right.  A few yards from the bridge is a nice little pool. Always caught my limit of trout in less than an hour.

This is my preferred recruiting style. Fish in open waters. I like to work smart, not hard, or maybe I’m just lazy. Opportunists know where the best candidates hang out and how to get their attention with a compelling message. They offer bait using nets, traps, poles, or employee referrals.


Now you know what makes a noodler, fly fisher, net fisher, and opportunistic angler. What type are you?

Lessons I’ve learned from fishing that work for recruiting:

    • Know where the fish are:
        • Habitat
        • Bait preferences
        • Best times to catch


    • Have a plan. Match your strategy (bait, technique, etc.) to your objective. Don’t use a net when you need a hand tied lure. Don’t get down in the mud and noodle for catfish when you are hoping to find a small mouth bass. Choose the recruiting strategy for the conditions.
    • Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to get out and mix with the fish. As they say down here, either fish or cut bait!
    • Be patient. If you’ve done your homework, you will have success.
    • Don’t rule out Lady Luck. Keep your eyes open because often, the biggest fish are where you least expect them. I have filled many jobs when someone popped up who was perfect, but if I hadn’t kept my eyes open, I would have missed. Don’t be too proud to use your luck.
    • Most of all don’t obsess about the one that got away.

Happy fishing and recruiting!

Video Credits National Geographic, Creeksprinter17, OnlineFlyFishingShop, and Pixelopolis

Pat Sharp, The Talent Architect blends strategy, technology tools, and assessment tools with marketing magic to create unique talent solutions. Past and current clients include: Motorola, Deloitte, TiVo, and Cloudscaling. Visit The Talent Architect or drop her a line at

Editor’s Note: To fish – ahem, recruit – from all channels, SignUp for SmartRecruiters free social recruiting platform.

Talent Architect Pat Sharp

Pat Sharp, The Talent Architect blends strategy, technology tools, and assessment tools with marketing magic to create unique talent solutions. Past and current clients include: Motorola, Deloitte, TiVo, and Cloudscaling. Visit The Talent Architect or drop her a line at