top of page

Godliman and the NFL

Updated: May 17

Anyone who knows me well knows that I lack the sporting gene.  That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes enjoy playing sports; but I almost never watch sports on TV and only follow sports people or events that make it to the front of the newspaper.   So how did Godliman come to model our “Godliman Rule” for diversity hiring on the US National Football League (NFL)?

The Godliman Rule is a commitment that we ask our clients to agree to,  to help promote diversity and inclusion in our Search Process.   It requires that, from every Short List we present, our Clients will interview at least two Diversity candidates: one ethnic-minority candidate, and one female candidate.

It is based on The Rooney Rule, from the US American Football League, named after the late Dan Rooney – former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairperson of the NFL diversity committee.   The Rooney Rule is a NFL policy that requires teams to interview ethnic-minority or female candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.   Notably, there is no hiring preference given to minority candidates; the Rooney Rule only requires that teams at least interview a certain amount of individuals.

The idea behind the Godliman Rule is to give minority candidates the chance to present themselves to interview panels even when they may otherwise not have been selected – for example, if their skills and track record were marginally weaker than other non-diversity candidates on the short list.   Because we believe that what actually determines success in hiring is usually not the functional skillset or specific track record of the candidate.  Research shows that their personality, temperament, coachability, emotional intelligence and motivation are all more important factors in success.  In fact only 11% of new hire fails are due to technical competence.  So it makes sense to allow minority candidates a seat at the table, to give them an opportunity for their personalities to outshine other, apparently more ‘skilled’ candidates.

This approach mirrors the thinking set out by Andrew Haldane, the Chief Economist of the Bank of England, in a speech he gave in November 2016 at the Investment Association Launch of the Diversity Project.  He highlighting that the filters applied in many standard recruitment procedures are, to his mind, a big barrier to building a diverse workforce.   He went on to point out that “filters based primarily on skills and track record such as academic prowess (grades at school and university), work experience (internships and voluntary activities) and even social skills (team-building and networking) are standard recruitment filters and sound perfectly sensible.  Yet these filters may, inadvertently but unhelpfully, disadvantage certain cohorts of society”.

Clearly, if you select only on skills and track record, this will inevitably discriminate against diversity candidates whose parental incomes, and hence school choice, may have held back their academic scores and work experience opportunities.  The same applies to female candidates whose careers, for a wide variety of reasons, may not have benefited from the range of opportunities and roles enjoyed by men.  

So the Godliman Rule is our way of trying to redress the balance, as a form of “positive action” to allow candidates to demonstrate their fit in the interview process.   Because, while experience and capabilities are critical,  it is the Best-Fit between the candidate’s behaviours and personal style, and the organisational culture that ultimately influences long-term success.


Last edited 28th January 2021


bottom of page