By Steven Greenberg
CBSNews MoneyWatch, December 18, 2017 —
Dynamic quarterbacks and run-stuffing defensive linemen aren’t the only people in high demand at the National Football League. John Quinones is head of hiring for the NFL, and he notes that the league has a wide range of open positions at its corporate offices.
In an exclusive interview with CBS MoneyWatch, Quinones shared his secrets on getting hired for jobs in the NFL that don’t require a helmet and shoulder pads. He offered advice on how to stand out among thousands of applicants, how you can turn rejection into an offer, the crazy things candidates do to get attention — and what he looks for that might not be on an applicant’s resume.
Steven Greenberg: Tell us about the range of job openings at the NFL.
John Quinones: We have over 100 positions open today in our offices located in New York, New Jersey and California. We have openings in finance, human resources, information technology, data analytics, youth football, community relations, digital media, engineering, communications, security and production.
Steven: How many resumes do you receive on average for each open job?
John: On average, we receive between 300 to 500 resumes for most full-time positions. For some positions, e.g. summer internships, we can expect to receive close to 3,000 applications!
Steven: With competition so intense, how do you decide who gets the interview? What’s the one thing you look for on a resume that candidates might not realize is important?
John: Candidate resumes that are concise, specific and relevant to the position for which they’re applying will have an advantage over other job seekers.
Steven: In other words, trash the generic resume, and take the time to create a resume that highlights that you have the right skills for the job in question.
John: Yes exactly! We’ll see resumes from candidates that live hundreds of miles away from the job location and that pays a quarter of their current salary. We see candidates one year out of college, and they’re applying for a senior VP role. Many resumes are just not compelling.
Something that might surprise candidates is that we can see all the jobs that candidates apply for online at the NFL. Some literally apply to 40 or 50 NFL jobs — we can’t take them seriously for any job.
Steven: Any advice for candidates who are rejected?
John: Sometimes the candidate’s skills are just not a good match. But in many cases, candidates should try staying in touch with us. I appreciate getting a gracious note after a candidate is rejected. If they have the right skills, I try to keep them in mind for the future. I really do keep a stack of resumes on my desk of candidates who were impressive to us but that we just didn’t have a spot for at the time.
And one more thing — loving football is not really a qualification. Writing about how much they love the game doesn’t really create a reason to hire someone. I never ask candidates if they’re fans. I am far more interested in their skills and their potential to grow with us.
Steven: What can candidates do to stand out among the crowd of applicants? Have you ever seen a candidate do something really creative and inspired?
John: I’ve seen many gimmicks that have backfired on candidates. Some send me shoes or a sneaker looking for a “foot in the door.” At [my previous job, running talent acquisition for Major League Baseball], candidates would send their contact info on a baseball. It doesn’t get candidates anywhere.
One sent me a sweatshirt from the college I attended! It seemed a little creepy.
Steven: Anything creative that worked?
John: When I did HR for a public library, we were hiring a marketing person. One candidate dropped off a letter entitled “100 reasons to hire me,” and for five straight days she dropped off a list of 20 reasons. That was creative and relevant to the job — we hired her.
Steven: What’s the best question you have ever been asked in a job interview?
John: I like questions that ask about my own personal experience at the company. Ones that go beyond what do you like about working for the NFL? Some good ones are: “What frustrates you about working here? What mistakes did you make when you started here that you would suggest I avoid if hired?”
Steven: I hear a lot about helicoptering parents. Is this really a problem?
John: It can be. I have had parents email me resumes because their children were “too busy” with school or finals to complete an application, seek internship information that is readily available online, inquire about deadline extensions, leave messages on their child’s behalf and even attempt to impersonate their son or daughter on the phone!
Steven: If you weren’t the head of talent acquisition for the NFL, what would you be doing for a living?
John: As far as careers go, I’ve had the good fortune to work in talent acquisition for both Major League Baseball and the National Football League. You might say I’m the Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders of talent acquisition!
If I wasn’t in human resources, I would have chosen to pursue a career in community relations working for a professional sports team. As a parent actively involved in youth sports, I have witnessed first-hand the power of sport to bring together a community, teach valuable life lessons and play an influential role in societal change.
Steven: NFL coaches love to talk about the importance of “intangibles” in selecting athletes for their team. What intangibles do you look for in NFL employees?
John: We look for candidates that demonstrate an ability to work well as part of a team and bring a diverse point of view to the League. As Tony Dungy, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, once said “Business is very, very similar to football. How you win on a football field is how you win in business — a cohesive unit that puts the goals of the organization in first place,” Dungy said. “Expertise and brainpower are not enough.”
Steven Greenberg is the host of CBS News Radio’s “Your Next Job,” a daily feature offering career-related news and advice.