They say there are no jobs out there and they are right, at least in relation to the number of applicants there are. But that doesn’t stop employers from some industries from holding job fairs to find young upstarts that may be able to fill a need and perhaps someday become an indispensable worker -- companies from the airline industry (Jets), companies dealing with industrials (Steelers), the banking industry (Chargers), and Big Oil (Raiders).
For you see, this is no ordinary job fair. This is the NFL and it began its annual process of holding combines and visiting recruits during their Pro Days to witness college players eligible for the draft. They want to see them perform their job skills and strut their stuff in front of anyone and everyone that matters (and Al Davis).
Typical job fairs just include interviews and some face-to-face time. Bright-eyed, green rookies hand over their resumes as introductions. Their reputations do not precede them. There’s no game film to study. “Can you break this down for us?”
“Well, my job was to rewind the videotape and bring it from the tape vault to the producer in the studio.”
Guys don’t huddle around the tape afterwards mumbling about how you had trouble finding the rewind button, how you had it fast-forwarding for a brief moment.
But the NFL is not your typical employer. They try to recreate the environment under which you'll perform and observe you as you do your job.
Imagine having a Pro Day for your future bosses or a combine where you have to perform all your daily duties in random succession. They should have this for every profession. Gauging words typed per minute, measuring your speed in changing the jug for the water cooler, observing collating skills, etc.
Throw some cone drills in there because you never know when you may have to fax something only to find obstacles strewn along the path to the machine.
Hundreds of people with digital timepieces watching you make a sale on an imaginary client. After you hang up the phone, they all check their times and confer with one another in awe.
Did he really file all those folders so quickly? We gave him all M’s -- McDonald, McDougall, McManus, Macgyver -- no small task. And he didn’t miss one. Remarkable!
But how does he perform when the stakes are high? Like when the boss is in the building or the efficiency expert is taking notes or the Japanese client is in town. Then what will happen?
Sure, he’s got all the tools, but what’s his mental capacity? How was his home life? Are his parents still married? Does he love kids? What kind of representative will he be for the company? For as we all know, the entire community looks up to our bottling plant for moral guidance.
“So tell us, do you love accounting or are you just looking for a paycheck? Because we here at Suckum, Filth and Mange are only looking for people that live, breathe and sleep numbers.”
This is where things fall apart. All the interviews, the school transcripts, the physical tests (how many reps can he lift the carton filled with reams of copier paper?) might not amount to anything if your candidate can’t do the job on a work day. For all the hoops through which he must jump and measurables you toss his way, it still just amounts to guesswork.
He might be addicted to solitaire, a water cooler talker, an office nomad constantly wandering, looking for chatter, hooked on office pools, addicted to long smoke breaks, or he may not be able to drag himself from his bed when that alarm sounds.
You want someone who’s there 100 percent when the whistle blows in the morning, not a second-half performer who needs his lunch to spike his energy levels before he hunkers down in the trenches; someone who never “takes meetings off;” someone who stays just as fresh in overtime as he was during breakfast; you want a “PowerPoint changer.”
On this, the week of the NFL Combine, 31 major players in the corporate world of the NFL (and the Cincinnati Bengals) put potential future employees through tests and compile notes to consider hiring them for a starter’s salary of between $100,000 or $7 million a year, some to replace employees who have been doing the job for years.
Did having a guy drop back and throw a football without a defender in his face to an uncovered receiver help them get a good feeling of his future passer rating? Was his ability to squat a lot of weight on a bar indicative of his aptitude for rushing the quarterback? Does the size of his hands really translate into his knack for catching the ball with James Harrison coming at him? (You know what they say about a size of a man’s hands.)
The answers to these may not become immediately obvious, but one thing is for sure, if there ever was a skills test that included playing Free Cell while stuffing Pringles in my mouth and singing harmony to Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Springs” in my boxer shorts, well, then I may have been drafted first overall. But alas, I ended up going the free agent route. (Which reminds me, could you please pass my resume along to anyone you know that needs someone with these talents? Thank you ... Oh, and I don’t do mornings.)