Is This How The Timberwolves Treat Free Agents?

February 13, 2012

Smart, creative, talented young professionals are the lifeblood of our business, which is why we in the marketing business need to do everything we can to convince the very best young minds out there to pursue a career in our industry.

At Fast Horse, we put a lot of emphasis on cultivating relationships with those looking to break into our business, and more importantly, into our agency. Over the years we’ve done countless informational interviews and tours for college professional organizations, taking time to offer a glimpse into our culture and to talk about the things we look for in candidates.

In fact, last Friday we hosted 25 students from St. Cloud State and Minnesota State University Mankato for an hour-long tour and Q&A discussion with some of our staff. We do these things because we are always looking for our next hire, and in fact, it’s so critical to our business that we’ve even set an annual goal for the number of tours and informational interviews we’d like to conduct.

But perhaps our philosophy about attracting the very best young talent is not universal among employers in the Twin Cities. Witness:

Over the past couple weeks, the resurgent Minnesota Timberwolves have run promotions on their TV broadcasts inviting people interested in working in the sports industry to an “Internship and Career Fair,” promising the opportunity to “network and speak with people from the sports industry.”

The March 7th event at the Target Center includes a speaker series and a “social networking mixer with executives,” according to the Wolves web site.

Sounds pretty good, huh?

Here’s the rub: It’s gonna cost you a minimum of $20 to attend, and that doesn’t even get you the speakers or the chance to hob nob with sports muckity mucks. You’ll need to fork over another five bucks to get the speaker series, and that will also get you a ticket to that evening’s Timberwolves game. A cool $30 gets you the full shebang: the Fair, the speakers, the hob nobbing and the game ticket.

The Timberwolves offered no details online about who the speakers are, or which “executives” job seekers would have a chance to rub shoulders with. Nor did they offer details on how good the game tickets are. To save you the trouble, I called to get a bit more of the skinny on this event. A nice person with the Wolves group events department told me speakers “in the past” were people like Timberwolves President Chris Wright and General Manager David Kahn. Didn’t sound like they had firmed up who you’d get to hear from this year, though. I also asked who we might get to hang with at the social hour. She offered no names, but said it was generally members of the Timberwolves executive team and some associates, which, she added, offered job seekers the benefit of hearing perspectives from all levels of the organization.

The career fair portion, I was told, is an opportunity for the expected 500 to 1200 attendees to get “a little face time” with “executives” from most of the major sports franchises in the Twin Cities, as well as a few from the minor leagues. The game ticket? Well, turns out after a long day of networking you’ll need to save some energy to climb some stairs: Job Fair attendees will seated in the upper level, but “the lower part of the upper level” according to the T-Wolves rep, who also quickly informed me that job seekers who wanted to have someone join them for the game could purchase additional tickets for $15. And, in case you get hungry after spending a full afternoon putting your sports career on the fast track, you can also get in on a pop, chips and hot dog “Meal Deal” for another $6.50.

I have to wonder what kind of signal are the Timberwolves are sending to prospective employees by charging them up to $30 for a chance to hand over their resume in person and take a peek behind the front office curtain. To me, at best, this Career Fair is a sign that unless you’re a pure-shooting two-guard who can play stout defense, the Timberwolves really don’t care that much about attracting the very best people to their organization.

At worst, it’s simply a tacky way to make a few bucks and fill a few more seats at Target Center.