Selection Sunday was this past weekend and the top college basketball teams from around the country were selected to play in the NCAA Tournament.  As an avid college basketball fan, I will be using a bit of bracketology (the science behind choosing winning tournament teams) in the next few days to give myself the best chance at winning my March Madness pool.

Coincidentally, this college basketball tournament coincides with a time that many college seniors are applying for jobs to ensure that the transition between college and the real world is seamless.  With this influx of applications from soon-to-be college graduates, use a bit of hiring bracketology to pick the best college grads to add to your winning team.  In the spirit of the tournament, I suggest taking the hiring process round by round and looking at your pool of candidates like you are filling out a March Madness bracket.


Round of 64:

The first round of the NCAA Tournament is referred to as the “Round of 64”, and is when people choose teams to advance in their bracket based on an “eye test”, or a certain set of criteria that can be seen on paper.  For the NCAA Tournament, this criterion is often stats such as a team’s win/loss record.  Similarly, when you are hiring for a position, your first round of candidates must pass an eye test and meet a certain set of criterion to advance to the next round of the hiring process.  Since college students preparing to graduate rarely have real world job experience, it is important that other attributes on their resume pass your eye test.  For example: their alma mater, certificates, trainings, internships, organizations and leadership opportunities should all pass your eye test if they are going to move on to the next round.

Round of 32:

In the NCAA Tournament, the next round (known as the Round of 32) is when it becomes more difficult to choose which teams should advance since the teams who were obviously not as competitive were weeded out in the first round.  Due to the increased level of difficulty choosing teams to advance, many college basketball enthusiasts discuss their options with fellow basketball fans to decide who will be advancing in their bracket.  As an employer, the second round of hiring can feel a lot like filling out your March Madness bracket since the candidates have all passed your eye test, but you may be unsure about who you should advance to the next round.  If you find yourself needing to weed out a few more applicants before moving on to interviews, get a second set of eyes to look over your pool of candidates and see if they can help you to whittle down your list even further.

Sweet 16:

Even if you don’t follow the NCAA Tournament, chances are that you have heard the term “Sweet 16”, which is the third round of the tournament.  This round is when individuals begin to truly invest in the teams that they chose.  As an employer, this round of the hiring process is when you start to truly become invested in the pool of candidates that are still on your list by reaching out and conducting phone interviews.  Phone interviews are perfect at this stage of hiring because they transform applicants from words on a resume to possible team members, while quickly weeding out candidates who aren’t the right fit.  With college seniors specifically, you should pay special attention to their level of professionalism during the phone interview.  Did they schedule an appropriate time to talk to you, or are they trying to fit in a quick convo between classes?  Can you tell that they researched the company or are they completely unfamiliar with the company or position that they applied for?  The answers to these questions and their overall level of professionalism will help you to quickly decide who to invest in and advance to the next round.

Elite 8:

Much like the teams who have made it to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament brackets, your Elite 8 candidates are those that you are confident can make it to the end.  Not only do they look good on paper, but they impressed you during their phone interview and at this time you are ready to schedule an in person interview with them.  It is important to be mindful with college seniors that their schedule and the location of their school may make it difficult for them to come in for an interview, so a Skype interview may be another option.  It is also important to remember that their interviewing experience is most likely limited and their nerves may get the best of them.  Don’t let those nerves deter you from advancing them to the next round; instead, try to focus on their potential and what they can bring to your team.

Final Four:

The Final Four teams in the NCAA Tournament are typically those that not only look great on paper and came prepared to win, but are also consistent.  During this round of hiring, it is a good idea to test how consistent your candidates are by conducting a second interview or a panel interview.  By conducting this second interview, you will be able to gauge their level of consistency and get a second opinion on how well the candidate will fit in with the rest of the team.  If nerves took over with a candidate that you really liked during the previous round, this may be a good opportunity to see if they are able to step up their game.


The championship in the NCAA Tournament is the culmination of hard work, dedication, and consistency, and the final round of the hiring process isn’t much different.  This is when you should put all of the information that you have on the remaining candidates together and make a decision on who is going to join your team.  This candidate is the one who has surpassed the other candidates and demonstrated that they will be the best fit for your team.


As you continue to receive applications and resumes from college seniors, remember to take the hiring process round by round to ensure that you make the hire that will be the most beneficial for your team!