How Recruitment Strategies Will Win or Lose the Game of Thrones


Game of Thrones season 6 just came to a literal explosive end. We’re still trying to unpack all the new alliances, foreshadowed threats, and brutal endings for dozens of characters (the writers really don’t pull their punches).

As the initial shock wears off, we’ve thought about how Game of Thrones characters have tried to make the ruthless climb atop the Iron Throne. And what differentiates the winners from those buried by their ambition is similar to what differentiates successful staffing firms from those that struggle: their internal recruitment strategies.

Staffing firms that can learn from the strengths and weaknesses of power players in Game of Thrones will rise up through bloody fierce competition to take hold of their industry markets. Here’s the best recruiting takeaways to pick up as you rewatch Game of Thrones to feed your fix over the coming months.

Rob Stark

Rob Stark, the Young Wolf, was a force of nature. He ripped through opponents with wolfish disregard and made the Lannisters tuck their tails between their legs. Yet if you look at Rob’s recruitment strategy, it’s pretty obvious that his closest advisors and allies were going to earn him an early grave.

Jon “Greatjon” Umber – You may not remember him by name. However, it’s hard to forget a guy who had his fingers bit off by Rob’s dire wolf…and then laughed it off. Greatjon had a big personality. On the battlefield, he terrified opponents, but in the war room, Rob needed to knock his ego down like a whack-a-mole time and time again.

Why did Rob enlist antagonistic guys like Greatjon? Pretty much because of tradition. Ned Stark had recruited Northerners. His grandfather had recruited Northerners. All his ancestors buried in the Stark crypt probably did the same. They clung to traditional methods the way some staffing firms cling to job boards or social media recruiting.

Should staffing firms abandon those recruitment strategies? No, but successful agencies that diversify their sourcing get a better talent pool. That way, when the cold touch of impending talent shortages hits, they’ll have recruiting talent to survive.

Roose Bolton – At times, Roose Bolton appears to be a good hire. He’s a clever man and a pragmatic strategist who never undertakes any action without careful thought. But there are clear warning signs that allying yourself with the guy is not going to end in rainbows and sunshine.

For starters, the sigil on his banner is a flayed man. It’s a symbol that screams “I’m a really bad dude,” yet Rob Stark just brushes it off, assuming it’s some holdover from a bygone era. That’s like a business ignoring the warning signs in an interview that a candidate will be an atrocious cultural fit.

At the very least, the Stark and Bolton ideologies were at odds. Rob fought for honor and Roose for subjugation. That clash of values brewed active disengagement, which spread from Roose through the ranks. Think about it. How many of the Starks’ allies sought vengeance after the Red Wedding? Only the Blackfish. That goes to show how much hiring for cultural alignment needs to be tied to recruitment strategies.

Walder Frey – This guy is just slime. Nothing Walder Frey says onscreen ever makes you want to trust him. But the rotten old codger’s access to an indispensable bridge makes him an ally of necessity. The Starks thought they could buy his allegiance by promising the King in the North would marry one of his daughters. Who knows? Maybe that concession might have kept him loyal, if Rob Stark didn’t lapse in his promise.

Any recruitment strategy that overpromises and under-delivers is bound to backfire. The moment Rob Stark married Talisa, he forfeited his shot at winning the Game of Thrones. He’d alienated too many allies so that this final betrayal was not one from which he could return. Even if a company never faces anything as bad as the Red Wedding, there’s much at stake when more mercenary candidates aren’t given what they want. Err on the side of cultural compatibility over simple strategic value.

Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and all that jazz, has a pretty clear bid for the Iron Throne. Every opponent she has faced has been left as a pile of cinders. But Dany does more than annihilate her enemies. She encourages adulation and uses smart recruitment strategies to strengthen her shot at the Iron Throne. Here are just three of the smart hires she’s made:

Barristan Selmy – This Westerosi knight is a living legend in Game of Thrones. He’s slain notorious swordsmen and earned a reputation as an agreeable and thoughtful man. But he had one huge black spot on his reputation: he’d been dismissed from the King’s Guard, a lifelong commitment (like sitting on the Supreme Court or waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series).

Daenerys was in the situation that many businesses face when they learn that a candidate has been unceremoniously dismissed. She had to be thinking: Can I trust him? Will he make the same mistakes with me? But Daenerys listened to the full story and remembered the source of Barristan’s dismissal (cough Cersei cough) before taking him on as one of her most wise and loyal servants.

Barristan Selmy imparted advice that helped guide Daenerys in the right direction. He advised her on dealing with the mercenary Second Sons, counseled her on practicing justice rather than vengeance, and fought for her until his dying breath against the Sons of the Harpies. His absence is missed, but his service will forever leave a positive imprint on the way Daenerys will rule.

Missandei – Watching the smart, multilingual Missandei in action is proof of her skill. As a translator for her former masters in Astapor, she turned crass pronouncements into tactful responses. She’s incredible at thinking on her toes, but never brags or boasts about it. However, Daenerys had a good enough eye to see an exceptional talent and recruit her.

Candidates can brag about their skills until the Long Winter has come and gone, but how they act in real world situations matters most. Daenerys put Missandei through a secret interview, testing her demeanor before the woman knew she was being reviewed for a job. Businesses that take into account how a candidate acts when they don’t know they’re being reviewed find employees who mesh better with their team.

And Missandei is a perfect fit. She informs Dany of cultural etiquette, explains things about the Unsullied and Masters that prove useful, and helps Tyrion keep Meereen from falling into utter pandemonium when Daenerys is gone. The Mother of Dragons’ strategy in the Game of Thrones would be quite different without Missandei.

Tyrion Lannister – The prodigal son of the wealthiest family in Westeros gets misjudged plenty. Most saw the hard drinking, hard living Tyrion Lannister as another playboy until he proved his worth. His dealings with the Small Council, his defense of King’s Landing at the Battle of the Blackwater, and his ability to stretch every penny in the crown’s coffer make him a great ally to have.

Unfortunately, he’s always served people with wretched values and suffered because of it. That is, until he started working for Daenerys.

In one of Daenerys’ best moves, she chose to give Tyrion tangible ways to prove himself right from the start. Upon their first meeting, she asked how he would handle Jorah Mormont’s betrayal and he responded wisely.

From there, she trusted him to give her good counsel and even guide her through complicated situations with the Masters and her breakup with Daario Naharis. When candidates can sink their teeth into engaging challenges from the start, they’ll be all the more loyal, and the power of their performance will be all the more apparent.

Game of Thrones Recruitment Strategies Worthy of a King

One final takeaway from Daenerys Targaryen’s recruitment strategies is one of the most important ones. At the beginning of Game of Thrones, she was a girl with a famous name and that’s it. She needed to find ways to build her reputation and draw capable talent to her banner from the local tribes and across the sea. Daenerys built her reputation by doing things that went viral.

Since you probably can’t go around with dragons freeing people from their chains or get Lord Varys to whisper about your rise in the Westerosi halls of power, you need to find other ways to go viral. In the staffing world, that means having marketing that can cut through the competition and snare the attention of buyers.

Want to learn how to get your marketing to that level? Contact us today and find out how you can rule in your staffing specialty.