The NFL Draft – the world’s most popular hiring process

Author(s): Alice M. Brawley Newlin, Ph.D.

Originally posted: April 7, 2016

Earlier I posted about the world’s most popular job interview. In the organizational life cycle, after interviews and other selection procedures comes the hiring decision, or selection. Just like their Combine, the NFL has one of the most elaborate and widely publicized hiring processes, too. The 80th annual NFL Draft is just a few weeks away.

Who knew one of I-O psychology’s favorite topics – selection – would make a wildly popular three-day television event? I mean, we know I-O is cool… but it was “45 million viewers” cool in 2014!

In each round of the Draft, each team gets one spot to select a player. The order of choices is based on the win-loss record of the previous season, with the team with the worst record choosing first. Teams can also trade their spots for other spots or players.

The intrigue of the Draft for me as an I-O psychologist is that it’s so different from other selection procedures. The pool of applicants has essentially publicly applied to 31 organizations other than yours. So “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” might not be a very helpful question to ask your applicants.

Imagine if other organizations used the Draft for hiring.

Not only would you – the applicant – participate in an intensive Combine months ahead of time (I-O psychologists would probably call this an assessment center), now you wait for the announcement or phone call with cameras in your face the whole time. Oh, you didn’t get selected first? Or second? Or twenty-third? Awkward, and being recorded the whole time.

Let’s say you do get hired. “With the first pick in the 2015 Google* employee draft, People Operations selects…”

Woohoo! You go up on stage and CEO Larry Page shakes your hand, puts a People Operations baseball cap on your head, and hands you your employee branded polo shirt and name badge for you to proudly hold up while everyone applauds and 45 million viewers watch at home.

Hooray for People Operations! The commentators will mention that People Ops will probably win the annual softball tournament this year now that you’re on the team!

But this is bad news for Engineering – who has the second pick in the 2015 Google Draft. People Operations traded with Social Impact for first pick and took you, their first choice (wow, what a diverse skill set you demonstrated in the Combine!). Now Engineering will have to rethink their choice. But they only have 10 minutes to decide before the clock runs out and it’s the next team’s pick. Their future as softball tourney champs isn’t looking so bright now…

Imagine! Imagine if this was how selection was done in every company. While it might be costly, impractical, and inefficient in many ways, I can see such visibility having some benefits for selection – the publicity might incentivize valid and fair selection procedures; the transparency that comes with analysis, discussion, and interviews with stakeholders throughout the season would probably promote perceptions of procedural and distributive justice.

Interestingly, even if you’re drafted, you might practice with the team and not make the final roster in the fall. Sorry, the softball tournament is on the line and we really want to win the title back this year. You understand.

*Number 1 place to work for the 6th year running!

Photo by Robert Hernandez Villalta from Pexels