How the Boston Red Sox Got into the Digital Hiring Game

Video interviews benefit candidates and hiring managers

By Erin Binney May 10, 2016

BOSTON—Built in 1912, Fenway Park is the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, and that’s something the Boston Red Sox organization is proud of. “But we don’t want our hiring practices to reflect the age of the ballpark,” said Michael Danubio, the team’s senior director of human resources, during a May 3 session at the Human Capital Institute’s Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference. So three years ago, when it became clear that it was time to revamp the hiring process for its game-day staff, the organization turned to digital tools.

Game-day staff perform a myriad of functions such as taking tickets, selling concessions and keeping the stadium clean. All of these jobs—and the people who carry them out—are essential to providing a great experience for every person who comes to the park. And providing a great experience, as opposed to selling a product, is what the organization is all about, Danubio noted.

Every season, the organization hires about 500 game-day staff members. Because the Red Sox have a large and passionate fan base, the organization is “fortunate and blessed” to have ample interest for these positions, Danubio said. The challenge is sifting through all the applications and getting the right people into the right roles in a timely manner.

An Inefficient System

The organization used to hold an annual recruiting event for its game-day staff, Danubio said, where several hundred enthusiastic applicants would show up on a Saturday decked out in their Red Sox gear. Upon arrival, they were directed to a concierge, who would ask what type of work they were interested in doing. Often, the response was simply, “I just want to work here. I want to be a part of this.” Based on that limited information, the concierge would send the candidate to a line designated “concessions,” “security” or another function, and he or she would wait to speak with a hiring manager.

Neither the candidates nor the hiring managers found this system very efficient, Danubio admitted. The candidates would look around and become concerned that the line they were in wasn’t moving fast enough, or they would wonder if they should have been put in a different line. As for the hiring managers, the system “wasn’t valuing their time,” Danubio said, and “it wasn’t giving them the opportunity to sell the job.”

In addition to creating a better candidate experience and making better use of managers’ time, the organization wanted to streamline the hiring process, speed up recruiting time, and get earlier insights into applicants’ passion, fit and skills. Digital hiring tools offered a solution.

Let’s Go to the Video

The first thing the organization did was draft an online survey that asks about applicants’ interests and prior customer service experience to determine their skills and desired position. The survey also collects data on how many games applicants can work and when they can get to the park on game days. Some people can be eliminated from the pool based on sheer logistics, Danubio said, explaining that those who indicate they can’t arrive until half an hour before a typical game time wouldn’t be a good match.

Hiring managers spend little to no time on this part of the process. In fact, applicants fill out the online survey during the last few weeks of the year, when Red Sox offices are closed for the holidays. When offices reopen in January, the organization has the information it needs to determine who will move on to the next phase of the hiring process.

Applicants who make the cut are sent a link and invited to submit a video interview in which they answer preselected questions developed by hiring managers with input from the talent acquisition team. With this system, Danubio said, “people get to tell their stories [and] we get to see their passion.”

Also provided: a video tutorial and other resources as well as guidance on what makes a good video interview, such as a quiet location and an appropriate background.

Candidates can record their roughly 20-minute videos at a time that works for them, which is particularly convenient for the many teachers, police officers and others who apply looking for second jobs.

Organizational fears that older applicants wouldn’t embrace the technology proved unfounded, Danubio noted. He urged employers not to underestimate older generations’ access to and aptitude for technology.

Still, some people—regardless of age—choose not to submit a video, he said, and this helps further narrow down the candidate pool.

Video interviews help the organization focus on what’s important, Danubio said, and this has helped to dramatically reduce time to hire. If hiring managers deem one question more important than the others, for example, they can jump to each candidate’s response to that question when deciding who to call for in-person interviews. As a result, hiring managers “now spend three minutes on a particular candidate as opposed to 30 minutes” for a phone screen, he said.

Candidate Reaction

Feedback confirms that the system is providing a better candidate experience as well, Danubio said. For example:

  • 93 percent of candidates agree that the process respects their time.
  • 94 percent are satisfied with the relevance of the questions.
  • 83 percent are satisfied with the ability to showcase their skills and experience.

Of course, not all feedback has been positive. Initially, some applicants said it was difficult to read interview questions off a screen and talk to a computer; the human element was missing. So now the organization has various staff members ask the questions via video recordings. Since that change was made, candidate satisfaction with the process has reached 94 percent.

Before, it was a given that game-day staff were fans of the Red Sox team. Now, with the new digital hiring system, most are also fans of the Red Sox organization.

Erin Binney is a staff writer for SHRM.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect