Advice on hiring best employees from NFL

Published 9:22 pm Saturday, February 27, 2016

The University at Buffalo School of Management has released their findings from a study on teamwork and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty as to how it affects success in the job. Also noted in the journal of Applied Psychology are the traits that make college football players successful when they go on to the NFL.

Beyond on-field statistics is the “contextual performance” — behaviors such as working harder than necessary, making personal sacrifices that benefit the team and helping co-workers with work-related problems.

“These ‘character guys’ are better investments for NFL teams,” says study co-author Tim Maynes, PhD, assistant professor or organization and human resources in the UB School of Management. “Players who hit the weight room after practice, spend extra time analyzing game film or helping rookies learn the ropes while in college will be drafted earlier, awarded higher starting salaries and be more successful in the NFL.” This study analyzed 440 college football players — 218 wide receivers and 222 linebackers — who were drafted into the NFL between 2006 and 2012. They also searched more than 36,000 media sources for articles spanning each player’s entire four-year college career to find instances depicting teamwork.

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This study’s findings are applicable to any workplace involving teams. Seventy-five percent of Fortune 500 companies are team-based organizations. Many mid-size and smaller businesses who are successful also operate as teams, so team work cannot be over emphasized.

“Hiring managers need to look beyond just the previous job performance of candidates,” says Maynes. “Finding a candidate who will take the time to go the extra mile will benefit the team they’re working on and the organization as a whole.”

All of the Mannings are examples of character quality in their respective college and NFL careers. Success goes beyond the playing field and involves life-long commitments.

Best practices in all companies would be well served by taking these factors into consideration, as well as ensuring a good fit with the company’s culture. Interviewing skills should be improved, reference and background checking more comprehensive, resume and application scrutiny are all important parts of the hiring process. Considering the fit with the company culture is often more essential for success than the candidate’s technical skills. Do not make hiring decisions on emotion but more on a thorough process. It is much easier to hire a candidate than to hire the wrong applicant and be faced with later terminating the employee who doesn’t work out.

Look at your company introspectively and determine if you exhibit teamwork in all areas. Successful teams, whether it is in business, athletics or others are more successful when putting teamwork in action.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice-president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing