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What You See is What You Get

Posted on in Talent Strategy

Authenticity.  When I hear that word, I instantly think something that is real or actual.  A classic “what you see is what you get.”  In an era of #fakenews and photoshop, it’s hard to come by these days.

When it comes to your employer brand, company values, and culture, authenticity is the only thing that matters.  It is critical that who you think and say you are as an employer to the outside world is in complete alignment with what someone’s experiences are on the inside.  Pretty words on a poster, catch phrases on a wall or snappy sound bites don’t matter if your candidates or employees have a completely different experience when they work with you.

Which brings me to an interesting case study.

Have you ever heard of Barstool Sports?  Until last week, I hadn’t either.  They describe themselves as a media and entertainment company that provides a mix of “commerce, content, and conversation unlike anyone else on the web.”  My description?  It’s a site where ESPN highlight reels meet Jackass (the MTV show for you younger readers) with a layer of pop culture, politics and plenty of other nonsense including jokes, videos, and photos.  No judgment, just an observation.

Anyway, I came across an article highlighting a “test” their CEO puts prospective candidates through on my LinkedIn feed.   Whatever.  I’m sure it’s nothing new…. yada, yada, yada, I keep scrolling.

Later in the day, the same article appears in my feed three more times and I can’t help but take notice of the scathing comments.  People are upset.  Now I’m intrigued.

So I take the bait and read the LinkedIn piece and the full NY Times’ article.  I don’t have a strong reaction as I read through, so I go back and peruse the LinkedIn comments wondering what I’m missing.

The general consensus is that people are outraged by the practice of Erika Nardini, Barstool’s CEO, texting candidates at 11 am or 9 pm on Sunday to see how long it takes for them to respond (note to interested applicants:  you get 3 hours).   The comments ranged from people feeling this behavior promotes an “obnoxious corporate culture” to Nardini being “tone deaf” to the ways of the modern working world.

From Nardini’s point of view, she views a candidate’s response to this “test” as demonstrating whether or not they are always thinking about work.  She goes on to say that she wouldn’t really “bug you all weekend if you worked for her though” (since we are talking authenticity here, I must call bullshit on that).  Nardini goes on to say that she has an “ability to grind” and that she’ll “push and push until I exhaust people.”  In fairness, this is a balanced article and there are positive remarks about her strongly valuing a good work ethic and a dislike for stagnation and complacency.

But the point is this…. people were so quick to jump on her for interview practices and remarks that they clearly missed the bigger message.

She was being authentic.

She is clearly demonstrating Barstool’s values in action and what the cultural norm is.  She’s given you a taste of a “day in the life” and the best part is you know exactly what the company (and CEO) values are and you can decide if they align with yours.

So I say “bravo” to Ms. Nardini for being authentic in her responses and finding a way to vet candidates that help her discern if they can be successful in Barstool’s culture.

It might not be the approach I would take and it may not be a place where you want to work, but being able to determine that from the outside is key.  So instead of judging the remarks, we should be applauding her for cutting through the noise and communicating in a real way.

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