By Andy Bailey

Have you ever watched a live sporting event and noticed recruiters hiding out in the stands? You can recognize those expert talent scouts by the speed at which they’re taking notes and the sheer amount of photos they’re snapping of the action.

After witnessing this for myself first-hand, I realized that business leaders have a thing or two to learn from recruiters, who start the search for talent early – and I mean really early, often years before young athletes will end up deciding on school colors.

Here are three specific hiring lessons pulled from athlete recruiters, which business leaders can follow to improve their hiring processes:

1. Change your talent scouting process, now

Many executives or HR folks in charge of hiring hold off on lining up qualified candidates until the last possible second – which presents staffing and logistical issues for doing business.

As a leader myself, I know that it can be tough to envision future needs when day-to-day needs seem more urgent. There’s a reason why many businesses suffer from the same hiring issues!

Just as I tell the businesses I coach, commit to thinking about hiring less as a “Band-Aid method” for filling urgent needs, and more as an ongoing proactive process. I promise, you’ll be setting yourself and your business up for success.

2. Start thinking about future seasons

At Petra Coach, we coach leaders in hiring by helping them figure out potential personnel needs in the future, a timeline for getting people onboard, an ideal roadmap for the future of the company and the specific hiring needs associated with their goals.

So, after figuring out your plan for a more strategic and proactive hiring process, work with your team to create a road map on how you will achieve those hiring goals. These plans could even include an organizational chart of what the company will look like in the future and what needs are in the pipeline.

3. Don’t stop scouting for talent

Now it’s time to recruit — and not only when positions need to be filled, but well in advance.

After all, you may have an immediate need, but that doesn’t mean the need will necessarily go away after a specific amount of time. In order to accommodate both immediate and future needs, leaders should constantly scout.

4. Fill out the roster

Once you’ve planned out your roadmap and have started a proactive scouting process, make sure that your company is building a “bench” of great job candidates from which your hiring managers can pull in a time of need.

It’s important to be upfront with all job candidates in the process regarding the how time-sensitive positions are (or are not) for which they’re interviewing. Don’t hide the fact that it may be for a future need.

After all, the key to a good bench is maintaining good relationships with top talent, and keeping those A-players pre-qualified and ready to go. Just like recruiters battle it out for the top athletes, so should a business work to line up and bring in the best team members possible.

Andy Bailey is lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra and serves in an advisory role on the Gazelles Council, the leaders of the scale up movement. Visit his blog at www.petracoach.com for more business and leadership insight.