What Does Football Have To Do With Your Hiring Plan?


Everything. With this football season coming to an end and the Super Bowl only a little over a week away, I decided to use this blog post to talk about something that stood out to me this season and how it applies to hiring.

Being a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan I couldn’t help but be overjoyed about their making the playoffs again this year, and when it was announced that they would be playing the Denver Broncos in the first round I was more than excited. The Steelers Super Defense against Tim Tebow, how could they lose?  So that Saturday I donned my Steelers Jersey, popped some popcorn, and grabbed my Terrible Towel believing that I was about to see game dominated by the 6-time Super Bowl champs. But that is not the game that I saw. I watched in disbelief as Tebow and his team beat the Steelers in overtime.

I went through all of the phases of mourning, from denial (there had to be a penalty) to anger (how the bleep did that happen) and now to acceptance (next year will be better). And from the place of acceptance I right my blog post. I have to admit that I have been thinking about this subject for a few weeks as I try to make sense of what happened. How did a player that came into the session as the third-string quarterback take the Broncos by storm? The team was 1-4 when Tebow took over, and as the starting quarterback he lead the team to an improbable run to the playoffs. The media was abuzz with coverage on Tebow with ESPN mentioning his name 160 times in one hour. Commentators and pundits were wondering why a player that most agreed was going to fall flat actually (to the chagrin of all Steelers fans) succeed.

So why didn’t he fall flat?

It didn’t happen because what he lacked in functional (technical) skills was made up for in strategic skills. He became a leader. He believed in teamwork. And because of the strategic skills be brought to the table, the level of play up for the rest of the organization improved. He got the rare chance to show that those softer skills really do make difference, and I think all hiring managers can take note.

We hear every day about the unemployment rate and the economy. Because the unemployment rate is high, hiring managers believe that they have the luxury to pick the candidates with perfect functional skills. They just need to wait for that ideal candidate to walk through the door. However, that perfect candidate might not exist. Many times hiring managers are overlooking candidates that are only missing one or two of the things as they wait…and wait….and wait for that perfect candidate. Applicants might have the communication, presentation, and leadership skills to succeed, but without one functional skill they are deemed unhirable. This trend means that it is taking longer for companies to fill a position and is adding to a lot of candidate frustration.  Isn’t it time we stopped looking at job descriptions as lists of skills that needs to be checked off. How often do we shove those soft skills into the “Preferred Skills” category? We need to start looking at the total package of the candidate.

The Broncos did not have that perfect candidate at their disposal, so they went with someone they knew lacked some of the functional skills they thought were needed. What no one anticipated was that it would be Tebow’s soft skills that made the difference and made the Bronco’s winners. He brought success to the organization. And isn’t that what any candidate wants, to bring success to themselves and to the organization they support?

What are your thoughts? How have your hiring standards changed?


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