- Erika Nardini is the CEO of Barstool Sports. She’s said she texts job candidates at odd hours to see how fast they will respond.
- Nardini told Business Insider it’s important for prospective hires to understand the fast-paced company culture.
- Some experts say after-hours communication can be detrimental to a company’s success.
In July 2017, Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini told The New York Times that part of her vetting process is texting job candidates at weird hours.
Nardini told The Times’ Adam Bryant: “If you’re in the process of interviewing with us, I’ll text you about something at 9 p.m. or 11 a.m. on a Sunday just to see how fast you’ll respond.”
Business Insider, along with many other media outlets, covered the news and outrage spread across some parts of the internet.
Nardini recently spoke with Business Insider’s US editor-in-chief, Alyson Shontell, for an episode of the podcast “Success! How I Did It,” and explained the philosophy behind her texting strategy.
“When I was at AOL, or Yahoo, or Microsoft [companies where Nardini previously worked], or any traditional company, it was a predictable job,” she said. At Barstool though, “I saw how alive it was and how constant it was and anyone who works in news and information or in sports understands that most things happen on nights and weekends.”
That sense of aliveness carries over into Barstool’s hiring practices. Nardini said new hires should “understand what they’re walking into. Culturally, mission-wise, vision-wise, practically, executionally, and also how I am and how we are as a manager.”
She admitted that her management and hiring style might not be entirely positive, and she understood how the practice might incite some controversy – but that’s how she’s “wired.”
Nardini added: “I understand boundaries and I’m super respectful of that, but I also want to have a connection, and I think in a place like Barstool that is growing so fast and which so much unexpected happens, I think it’s important to know, to be responsive in general.”
Barstool Sports says having employees be always on has contributed to their success
After Business Insider published a story on Nardini’s hiring practices, Barstool Sports posted a response on their website.
The response said people complaining about Nardini’s hiring process must not “see the connection between working hard and success.”
“They don’t see the groundwork of Barstool Sports was laid by 32 hour days hand delivering newspapers. By me outworking, outblogging, outhustling, outfunnying everybody else in the game,” Barstool wrote.
There isn’t so much research on the relative benefits or perils of texting job candidates outside normal working hours (or of texting them at all). But some experts on work/life balance say emailing employees after hours can work to the team’s detriment.
Maura Thomas, founder of RegainYourTime.com, wrote in The Harvard Business Review: “Being ‘always on’ hurts results. When employees are constantly monitoring their email after work hours – whether this is due to a fear of missing something from you, or because they are addicted to their devices – they are missing out on essential down time that brains need.”
Thomas recommends that company leaders set up policies to support a work culture that values “single-tasking, focus, and downtime.”
Still, Barstool Sports doesn’t appear to be suffering because of its unconventional hiring practices. The company recently raised $US15 million from its majority owner, Chernin Group, meaning it’s now valued at approximately $US100 million, according to Bloomberg. Nardini also told Bloomberg the company is profitable and plans to just about double its staff to 160.
And as Nardini points out, if you want to be a sports writer, you can almost definitely expect to work when the games are, on nights and weekends.
Read Nardini’s full explanation of why she texts candidates at odd hours here, from Business Insider’s podcast:
“I had a very long interview, like a three-and-a-half-hour interview, with The New York Times, and the whole interview was pretty much about things you suck at. It was basically, like, “Why do you suck?” And I was, like, “Oh, I can talk about this forever, like there’s a lot of things I suck at.” “What are your failings?” Like, “What aren’t you good at?” “What’s uncommon?” The context for that whole statement was when I was at AOL, or Yahoo, or Microsoft, or any traditional company, it was a predictable job, people showed up at 9:15 or whatever time and they left at a predictable time in the evening and it just stopped in there. When I got to Barstool, I saw how alive it was and how constant it was and anyone who works in news and information or in sports understands that most things happen on nights and weekends.
“One of the things that I think is really important is that when we hire people they understand what they’re walking into. Culturally, mission-wise, vision-wise, practically, executionally, and also how I am and how we are as a manager. I’m more fluid, just me personally, and I’m not saying it’s good and there’s probably a lot of it or definitely a lot of it that’s not good, but the thing about texting people, it wasn’t texting people on the weekends. What it was, was that I am always thinking about work and that’s my issue or my gift, or just that how I’m wired and that’s that, and I like people who are also always thinking. It doesn’t have to be about work but just thinking and intellectually curious.
“What I said was that I text people on odd hours and I see if they respond and I can see where that created a lot of controversy. I stand by that I do it because I also want to have a relationship with someone and I understand boundaries and I’m super respectful of that, but I also want to have a connection, and I think in a place like Barstool that is growing so fast and which so much unexpected happens, I think it’s important to know, to be responsive in general.”