Recruiting Lessons from the Game of Thrones

I am a total geek when it comes to Game of Thrones. The characters, the intertwined plot, the twists I never see coming and the dragons…. yeah, I’m all in when it comes to the series. To celebrate one of my favorite obsessions, I’d like to share recruiting lessons from the Game of Thrones.

Recruit for skill, not pedigree

The Game of Thrones series is wrought with heroes who have humble beginnings. One of my favorite character developments, Jon Snow, was known as the bastard of the Stark family but has become the hero we all knew he could be. Davos was born of the slums but is a brilliant tactician and political advisor.

Some hiring managers spend so much effort recruiting for pedigree they overlook the amazing potential candidates possess with more humble education or experience. I worked with an IT client who only wanted to interview developers who had graduated from MIT or another Ivy League school. Unfortunately, they missed out on some great candidates I found who had been through a two year degree program or a local developer training firm. In my opinion, these candidates were hungrier and more agile than those the firm decided to hire.

Candidates are drawn to a great brand story

The Dragon Queen is perhaps one of the most influential characters in Game of Thrones. There are so many recruiting lessons from the Game of Thrones involving this dynamic leader, but let’s focus on how she’s able to recruit so many to her cause.

Daenerys‘s personal brand draws countless followers. She empowers everyone, regardless of birthright or rank to her cause and her reputation spreads through the land.

The brand that tells an authentic, empowering story will draw the right candidates. Think of the Googles, Zappos and other notable firms whose brands attract more candidates than they can hire. Leveraging recruiting focused content marketing can help tell your company’s story and draw fans, not just candidates who need a job.

Don’t always depend on your “Dragons” in recruiting

Game of Thrones would be just another fantasy series if it were not for the dragons. As every episode draws closer to the finale, fans have become more in love with the three dragons. If you’re like me, you felt sure the dragons would promise a crushing defeat to any rival on the battlefield.

SPOILER ALERT

During this season, we’ve watched painfully as two of the three dragons have been murdered by the enemy. These scary, yet inspiring, beings were not as powerful as we may have thought. Now, with only one dragon left, many of us are wondering how Daenerys and her army will defeat King’s Landing.

The recruiting lesson from Game of Thrones? Don’t depend on the size of your company, your massive recruiting budget or any other dragon you have in your arsenal. Companies that depend on such will ultimately be taken down by a competitor.

Instead, you should leverage your grassroots efforts including content marketing, employee referrals, employee testimonials and other such tools.

Let your employees be your ultimate recruiters

Another lesson from Daenerys’s rise to power is the relentless recruiting machine she creates-well not her directly. When Jon Snow was leery of joining forces with the Dragon Queen, it was her people who convinced him. Her trusted advisor tells Jon, “She is the Queen we chose.”

The most authentic stories are the ones people are drawn to and who better to tell this story than the people already working for you? Employees should not only be encouraged to share their experience in their networks but should also be part of the interview process. Allow them to help sell the opportunity and judge candidates for cultural fit.


There are so many recruiting lessons from the Game of Thrones. I could write about ten more lessons but unfortunately, I’m writing this blog right before tonight’s episode airs so….. I’ll be signing off now.

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Published by Trent Cotton

I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. My passion to lead, innovate and engage the HR industry. I use my blog at NakedHR.me to reach thousands of readers and provides unique insights into a range of HR and business topics. I currently write for NakedHR.me and SprintRecruiting.com. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive. Connect with me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/trentcotton or on Twitter @TrentCotton.

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