My job interview with the NHLPA

August 11th, 2010 by Burgundy Leave a reply »

Disclaimer: Everything below is 100% true. I’ve never lied about anything on this site before and it wouldn’t make sense to start now. Ultimately you’ll just have to believe this story. It’s OK if you don’t but you should know I’m not getting anything out of telling the world I didn’t get a job.

About three months ago a recruiter contacted me about “a great marketing job.” Having just started another job, the thought of more meetings and interviews didn’t excite me. I blew off the recruiter several times without any hesitation. She kept following up and eventually told me her client was the NHLPA. Now she had my attention. Obviously I was willing to talk about meetings and interviews for a position within the NHLPA.

Apparently the recruiter had already made herself familiar with Stayclassy.net. It turns out a reader of this site knows her well, knew about the opportunity and recommended she speak with me. I’m totally serious too. During initial conversations with the recruiter, I wasn’t aware she’d seen and read the site.

The first official phone interview with the recruiter didn’t get off to a great start. For whatever reason, we just weren’t on the same page. About 20 minutes into the call, out of nowhere, she asked me about Stayclassy.net. I started to laugh and thought “Oh God, this opportunity is going to end quicker than an Atlanta Thrashers playoff series.” That was when I decided to pull a ‘George Costanza’ and literally do the exact opposite of everything I’d normally do. I figured I had nothing to lose and it would make for a funny story. (Note: Don’t mistake my attitude as reckless or care free. I wanted the job but I knew competition would be strong and probably have more experience than me. It was my intention to stand out by being different. I wanted to push the envelope since I already had a good job).

Several weeks later I found myself at the NHLPA’s headquarters in downtown Toronto interviewing with the Hiring Manager. The meeting was short but went well… and Stayclassy.net came up several times. (Note: It’s not that I’m embarrassed by the site – I’m not – It’s that the people interviewing me represent the players I regularly poke fun of. Awkward…). I kept thinking this couldn’t help my chances. Stayclassy’s content wasn’t discussed as much as my views on social media and online marketing. I was later told they liked me and wanted to introduce me to other NHLPA staff.

A few weeks later I was back at the PA’s office (by the way, they call themselves ‘The PA’). This time I was meeting with three new people, in addition to the Hiring Manager from the last interview. I was courted from one Director’s office to another. The first interview started with a simple question: “Kevin, what do you think of our website?” Using the Costanza methodology, I spent the next five minutes ripping it to pieces in sheer disgust. My attitude was well received (somehow). The Director told me he liked my critical perspective. Without flinching I cut him off saying “You didn’t ask me to come in and tell you what a great job you’ve done.” Much to my dismay, he was impressed. I couldn’t believe my luck. Even I thought my tone was a little too much. Perhaps the Costanza theory has merit after all…

For every hockey fan out there reading this, here’s a question for you: How much do you know about J.S. Giguere, Wade Belak, Mike Sillinger and Steve Sullivan off the ice? I was asked this very question. The interviewer wanted me to show I follow more than just on-ice stories. I did well because my life revolves around hockey and nothing else. I was then asked to discuss several trades that happened within the last few weeks. I talked about why I felt trading Jaroslav Halak before signing Carry Price was weird. He agreed. We then talked about how bizarre it must be to get traded (mostly because of Mike Sillinger and how often he was traded in his career).

Moving to the next interview, I saw an insane amount of Alex Ovechkin life-size cutouts, framed photos, books, hockey bags etc… around the office. In a lame attempt to stir up a laugh and break the ice, I said to one of the Directors “Is Ovechkin part of the interview process too?”

Dead silence. Not exactly a hit joke. Two of the Directors responded with a firm “NO.” I made a mental note not to attempt any more jokes while interviewing with the PA.

The next interview was a 2 on 1 and I won’t lie, it didn’t go well. Imagine Bryan McCabe fending off two skilled forwards – that basically describes my performance. It was one of those interviews that felt like I was on trial rather than a candidate of interest. I limped out of this interview assuming the dream was over. I concluded the morning by doing another interview with the Hiring Manager. He asked me what was going through my head at that exact moment. I told him I was thinking ahead to my rec hockey game later that evening and how I wanted to continue our winning streak.

About a week later I got feedback from the recruiter.

You’ve probably noticed this process took a long time with several weeks between interviews and news updates. This process was far longer than any job interview I’ve ever been involved with before. I’m not really sure why, although the summer is a very busy time for the PA. The playoffs just ended, unrestricted free agency had begun, Lou Lamiorello signed a ‘reasonable’ 17-year contract and the PA’s search for an Executive Director (ie Donald Fehr) was heating up (according to TSN).

That was a month or so ago. A few weeks passed and I was told I’d be moving forward to the final stage of interviews. This round of interviews would be with the Hiring Manager and the most senior person currently within the PA. For the sake of this story, he’ll be known as Head Dude. I was asked to submit a strategic report of what I would do in the role, how I would tackle various challenges and meet important deliverables. The report was due on Thursday July 22nd.

The next day, Friday July 23rd, I was scheduled to present my report to Head Dude. This was one of the hottest days of the summer. It was face-melting hot. I was a sweaty mess as I made my way into the PA’s office. Head Dude greeted me with great enthusiasm saying “Kevin, great to meet you. This way please” while guiding me to his office. He followed with “It’s a hot one outside today, eh?” With zero hesitation I responded with “Sure is hot, Head Dude. I’m sweating more than Cam Fowler on draft day.” There was a brief pause of silence, which felt like an eternity. Immediately I regretted making that joke. Truth is, it was completely unplanned. It came out of nowhere. Trembling with fear and nervousness I turned my head towards Head Dude. I was ready to be thrown out of their office. But much to my surprise – a recurring theme throughout this entire story – he erupted in laughter. I was so relieved.

We started to review my strategy document that he’d only read part of (which is fair since I submitted the 12-page report the evening before). Part of my plan was to promote NHL events in non-traditional ways to encourage fan engagement and greater connections between fans and players (courtesy of the NHLPA). I talked about how an opportunity was missed at the 2010 Winter Classic by not having Zdeno Chara show fans how to shoot pucks over the “Green Monster” (Fenway Park’s green homerun wall). I explained how the PA could use sponsors, players and fans to shoot pucks through Heinz Field field-goals for the 2011 Winter Classic. Head Dude busted into laughter, again. (Note: I’m not actually this funny. In fact I was a bit weirded out that someone with a great deal of power and authority was actually laughing at or with me. On second thought, it was probably at me). Head Dude’s laughter confused me because I was dead serious. I continued to explain my idea. He was still laughing but said “Kevin, you are crazy. This is interesting and ‘out of the box’, but it’s crazy.”

One thing you should understand about the PA. They were honest about a number of initiatives they had on the go. They were already working on a few of the ideas I approached them with and disclosed additional information for me to better position my talking points. When I spoke about the Winter Classic idea, they laughed and said it was creative. I left this interview as the ‘crazy marketer’ with some different ideas. I figured if the NHLPA wanted to do something different (or very different), I’d be their guy. Remember this whole approach was the only way I felt I could compete with candidates who probably had more experience than me.

On Tuesday July 27th I got an email from a close friend saying “Dude did you see [link included within the message]?” Not knowing what he was talking about, I opened the link. It was a video of the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting media and members of the Washington Capitals to promote the 2011 Winter Classic game (the video was shot earlier that day) at Heinz Field (Pittsburgh Steelers stadium where the Winter Classic was set to be played). And yes, they were shooting pucks through the stadium’s field-goal poles. My eyes fell out of their sockets. I could not believe what I was seeing. I immediately wondered if the PA was involved with this promotion. I was furious. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. “Did someone use my idea? Do I look less original?” I was in full panic-desperation mode – like Dean Lombardi was after missing out on Kovalchuk and signing Alex Ponikarovsky. (Note: Earlier this week I found out the PA was not involved with this event).

To wrap this long story up, things ended here. I had a series of great interviews with the NHLPA but they elected to go with the other, more experienced candidate. I have no problem with this. I wish the PA all the best. To their credit, the PA and Hiring Manager called me and gave me a full review of their thoughts on me and my interviews. It was a great phone call and I was proud to hear how highly they thought of me. I will admit I asked Hiring Manager half-way through the call “Wait. Are you sure you are talking about the right candidate?”

I feel fortunate to have gone through this process on my own terms. I wouldn’t change a single thing I did or said throughout the interviews… even the bad jokes! One thing I’d like to make abundantly clear: I’m not accusing the PA or anyone else using/stealing my idea. I believe this was 100% coincidence and you should too. I’m chalking it up to great minds thinking alike…

I’d like to thank the PA for giving me an opportunity to participate in these interviews. I was given a great opportunity from a world class group of professionals. Even the Directors that gave me a hard time weren’t that bad. They take their jobs seriously and I can respect that.

The point of this story is to give an honest, inside look into the experience I just went through. It’s not meant to insult or disrespect the PA or its staff – this was an awesome experience. I’m not trying to blow hot air their way either. In fact I didn’t even ask them if writing this article was OK. It probably isn’t and it’s likely I’m burning bridges by publishing this story. But as a passionate fan of hockey and anything that surrounds the game, I feel this is a story I’d like to read about.

The things I do for you, Stayclassy readers… Thanks for reading this really long story.

Stay classy, NHLPA.

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18 comments

  1. What an incredibly insightful story. I have to say I think it’s a very good sign that the NHLPA is going outside the box to find new ways to promote their brand. The fact that they’re so in tune with your blog is a credit to them knowing how social media is changing things and they badly need to connect to the community at large.

    “Like Cam Fowler at draft day”. Hilarious exchange!

  2. Now this is a story! Damn dude, you were right there, almost being employed with the NHLPA. But great story none the less.

  3. SensDew19 says:

    Thanks for sharing! That’s really cool …. the fact that your idea was used you gotta think they werent laughing AT you ;)

  4. Matt Reitz says:

    Sorry to hear they went with someone else. That would have been a pretty sweet gig…

    Also, props to you for having the balls to go that route with such a job. I probably would have been sweating, nervously answering questions like they came out of some interviewing text book, and been shown the door in about 2 minutes…

  5. Shurshik14 says:

    Thank you

  6. Wes Mantooth says:

    I’ve obtained video footage of Kevin Burgundy warming up prior to the meeting.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNw5mM_7ES4

    In all seriousness, thank you very much for sharing this with us. Great work getting as far as you did! I personally think you are a pimp for throwing out the Cam Fowler joke, that is epic!

  7. Burgundy says:

    Thanks everyone. It’s awesome everyone’s been so supportive of this post and reading about it (despite how long it is)!

    I can’t say enough about the experience. Everything about interviewing with the PA (they call themselves “the PA”) was surreal. Walking around in their office, talking about what I’d do if working for them, meeting their staff etc…

    @ Keith – You are bang on. That was kind of the sub-message in my post. The PA understands the need to maximize hockey’s web savvy audience. There is a pretty good plan in place too. They are definitely on the right track!! It start’s with their official twitter feed, @NHLPA

  8. Fantana says:

    Hahaha, this is a great story!

    The silver lining to you not getting the job is that it means you’ll be able to continue the blog. After all, if you were working for the PA, I doubt they’d be thrilled to see one of their own poking fun at their own union members. I doubt the NHLPA are thinking THAT far out of the box!

  9. Gord says:

    So if the players didn’t shoot pucks through the goalposts, you still would’ve written a blog about a job rejection?

  10. KT says:

    Thanks for sharing that! It’s good to know that the online hockey community is getting some recognition and consideration.

  11. Burgundy says:

    @ Fantana – Ummm yeah. I believe it would be a conflict of interest… which I find completely uninteresting. Besides, I was pushing for a No Movement Clause for the site. Nothing can take down Stayclassy!

    @ Gord – You must be a new reader. As long as it’s relevant to hockey and the site, I’ll pretty much tell readers anything about me (hint: go back to February’s posts). I felt many hockey fans would be interested in hearing about the interview process. I’m not going to let my feelings get in the way of that. Thanks for reading!

  12. Frank Rekas(TheRatTrick.com) says:

    Terrific story! Too bad you didn’t get the job and they went with someone else. Nice to know that at least they look at people like you for the open positions.

    Maybe next time.
    Thanks for the insight!

  13. Trevor says:

    Dude that’s a great story! Really funny too.

  14. Well played. Your entire interview process was totally “guerrilla” in it’s approach! So many marketers are formulaic, repeating what others have done but rarely having an original idea of their own, or having the courage to take the risk.

    Don’t worry about the NHLPA. This saga isn’t over with yet. They’ll come knocking again, just like Burke continually knocking on the doors of the other GM’s hoping somebody will give him a sweet deal for Kaberle. Mind you, Kaberle probably makes way more money then you do, and get’s better looking dates, but that’s a sidebar.

    Stay Classy, Burgundy!

  15. Burgundy says:

    Hahaha, Darryl. Good one! Nice of you to drop by and thanks for the thoughts, though I’m sure Mrs. Burgundy might not completely agree with you!!

    For anyone wondering, Darryl is a former “real life” boss of mine. I regularly received these kinds of motivational pep-talks/advice from him.

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