Appointing a football manager? Forget the interview

by Adam Bate

There are lots of reasons why an interview is important when deciding which candidate should get the job.

A smart appearance is indicative of a fastidious approach. A personable style can suggest a warm and engaging individual capable of motivating others.

It is also a chance to find out more about a person’s career beyond the bland statistics of a written CV.

Anybody can find a couple of references. It is far trickier, when put on the spot, for a person to explain how their ideas were received and how they interacted with colleagues.

But none of these factors should be quite so significant in the world of football management.

A football manager’s record is there for all to see.

While the sales figures at Wernham Hogg’s paper company in Slough might not be common knowledge, it takes about 10 seconds to google the win-percentage record of a football manager.

Their tactics will have been endlessly evaluated in minute detail by a plethora of pundits and bloggers.

The world will have watched on as they battled through hundreds of press conferences and media interviews. Daily assessments will have been made of their ability to handle pressure.

In short, a football manager’s CV does not require a reference.

There are literally hundreds of thousands only too willing to provide that reference – even if, for many, it may involve just two words with one of them being of the four-letter variety.

And yet, despite all this, the indications are that this week a Premier League manager will be selected on the basis of a seven day job search and a 45 minute interview.

Some employers recruit temporary admin staff more thoroughly.

So while Wolverhampton Wanderers insist they had nobody lined up when sacking Mick McCarthy on Monday, chief executive Jez Moxey will place his faith in the interview process.

“There has to be chemistry and you never really know until you get it,” said Moxey.

As a result, the manager – arguably the most important figure at a football club, capable of shaping fortunes for decades to come – will not be decided on the basis of their CV, but over a quick chat and a coffee.

The irony, of course, is that you can learn how to perform well in an interview. These skills can be picked up. And one of the reasons for having lots of successful interviews is due to jumping ship a lot. Or, heaven forbid, sacked.

The very qualities a football club does not want in a manager.

So while Steve Bruce flounced from Sheffield United to Huddersfield, and from Wigan via Crystal Palace and Birmingham then back again, Alan Curbishley stayed put at Charlton. For 15 years.

Curbishley was learning how to guide his club to the dizzy heights of seventh in the Premier League.

But Steve Bruce was learning how to give a damn good interview.

Perhaps it should come as little surprise then, that Curbishley’s son Michael took to Twitter to confirm that that his father “wants it but didn’t feel very confident after the meeting!”

In football, as in any other walk of life, a good interview can be the difference between success and failure.

But when a football manager’s career can be pored over in greater detail than could ever be explained away in an interview, doesn’t that just feel wrong?

3 comments on “Appointing a football manager? Forget the interview

  1. I think you are wrong. An interview is a necessary – even vital – part what should be a detailed selection process.

    You’re thinking of an interview for, say, an office manager when you should be thinking of an interview for a new CEO.

    When the board of directors sit down with a candidate they should already have done their homework. They’ve got his CV, they’ve spoken to people. They know his qualifications, they know his reputation, they’ve, know how well his previous company has been doing. But the interview is still important.

    They want to know the CEO’s plan. What does he think the company can achieve? What is his approach going to be? Does his philosophy match theirs? What is his understanding of the market?

    The same *should* be true in football. Does the manager have a preferred style of play and will it work with the current playing staff? How much investment does he think is required? A board that envisage a long term project focusing on youth will want a different manager than a club willing to spend and gamble on getting promotion, for example.

  2. The interview technique didnt work too well for Burnley when Coyle got sacked. They hired a completely useless manager, but still, I think you have a point.

  3. Josh Tarrant on said:

    I have often wondered how clubs make thier decisions. Previous experience, playing style, personality, abilty to fit with clubs budget, how much will it cost to get them, the list goes on.

    You can look at the hire of McLeish as Villa manager and think how did the club get it so wrong.
    The fans didnt want him – coming directly from their rivals. The rivals – who had just been relegated no less. Just seemed that no one did their research – and look at the club now.

    From that hire – it seems that maybe the interview does play to big a part in the hire of a manager. As you say, Steve Bruce bounces from club to club, spending millions on the way – and has he ever really delivered? Nope but the boy must be good when it comes to his strengths and weaknesses!

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