Steve Bonomo is the Head of Global Talent Acquisition for Adidas; he’s also a sports enthusiast, a recruiting nut, and a man living his dream job who started preparing for his job when he first startedout on the little league field 30 years ago. A graduate of San Jose State University with a BS in Psychology, Steve worked for a search firm before working for TaylorMade Golf, one of Adidas’ primary brands, in San Diego. For the past six years he’s worked in Herzogenaurach, Germany where he serves as the Global Head of Talent Acquisition for Adidas.
Adidas is one of the largest sporting brands and manufacturers of sporting goods in the world. You produce products for multiple sports — Football, Running, Training, and Basketball – are you looking for well-rounded candidates to join your recruiting team? Or do you focus more on specific areas of expertise?
When I got out here six years ago, I was given the opportunity to build a recruiting team. I wanted to do something a little bit different from the traditional approach to corporate recruiting where the focus is often on the number of jobs you have open. I wanted to build a recruiting operation where there was also a focus on the candidate.
We began hiring people with a recruiting agency background because they were accustomed to being paid on based on their ability to develop relationships with both job candidates and the company that hired them to fill a vacancy. After all, to fill a job you want to make sure that the candidate is a fit for the job and that the organization is a good fit for the candidate.
My brother says, “The secret to being successful is to follow up and do what you say you are going to do.” In recruiting, you have to have people who have relationship skills, and who follow up.
The other thing that is important – when we hire for all jobs and brands within the adidas Group – we look for passion for our brands, our products or a love of sports. If you don’t love what we do, you don’t get everything you can out of working for the organization.
We’ve also found that we are a lot more successful hiring people who have grown up playing team sports, as opposed to people who have grown up working in individual roles because when you are working in – and with – a team you can accomplish great things.
What do you want job seekers to know about working at Adidas?
It all goes back to our value proposition: Adidas is a place where you have the opportunity to shape the future of sport through the work that you do each day. The founder of adidas, Adi Dossler, was focused on improving the true performance of athlete. He wanted to help people run a little faster, jump higher better. Our founder was all about helping people achieve what they want to achieve through sport.
If you do your job really well within the Group, you are going to be able to contribute to the betterment of that sport. That runs true for all jobs. You can truly impact the game of sport. Just like TaylorMade founder Gary Adams did when he introduced metal woods golf clubs into golf.
What types of jobs are you hiring for right now? Where are they located?
We have over 625 openings right now worldwide in 75 locations – not including store retail. Our biggest areas are in the United States in three major locations in Carlsbad, CA (TaylorMade), Canton, Massachusetts (Reebok), and Portland, Oregon (Adidas). We also have 2500 retail stores around the world, which will soon represent 50% of our overall business.
Jobs at Adidas run across functions from ecommerce, customization (personalization), interactive products (like miCoach). We almost always have open positions in marketing and design, as well as infrastructure positions like IT, HR, and corporate finance – I probably have 75 openings there now.
We’re having a great year in terms of earnings. Everybody had been in some way impacted by the recession but we were still able to continue to grow as a company.
Given that the adidas Group is a global company, how should U.S. applicants who are applying for U.S. based jobs acknowledge the international nature of the company? Do you have any tips on skills that candidates should emphasize when applying to a multi-national corporation?
You should absolutely show that you understand what it means to work at a global company.
It’s absolutely important to think globally if you’re thinking about growth potential. It opens a lot more doors. It is a lot easier to think about career progression if you are working with a company that has more than one office. We have 75 different nationalities working here at our headquarters in Germany. It’s not uncommon working at our headquarters that you will be in a meeting with 5 people from 5 different countries.
There aren’t that many companies around the world where you have a realistic opportunity to work in most major locations around the globe. You have an opportunity to do that here. I joined the company in 2002 and had no idea I would ever be living in another country.
What makes a great adidas Group candidate and employee?
If we’re looking at for what I hire for into recruiting, I think you have to have the mindset of wanting to talk to people. You also need to be very organized.
For general positions, we are looking for people who are attracted to the brand combined with an area of expertise that fills a need here. Loving sports definitely helps. We have tennis courts, basketball courts, football fields, etc. So If you don’t like it, you are not going to get the most out of your location. However, we also offer a great environment, fun people and lots to do even if you aren’t playing sports regularly.
What’s the best way I can prepare for an interview within the adidas Group?
I can tell what you shouldn’t do. Don’t come in wearing the product of our competitors.
You should know who our competitors are; Puma was actually founded by Adi Dassler’s brother! Know your area of the business well and be able to think in innovative ways. We are looking for people who have a knowledge of our brand and who understand where we want to go.
If I am interviewing a person for a role, I want to hear how they have been innovative, and I want to see how they can work in culturally diverse situations. You have to be open minded and able to step back and understand how your cultural background influences your initial reactions to things. You have to be able to look at issues and events from different perspectives, and you have to be truly passionate about doing that.
Are there any questions I haven’t asked that I should be asking? What’s the question, and what’s your answer?
What is the adidas Group?
We are so often referred to as Adidas. The group is actually a collection of brands that have many similarities – Reebok, TaylorMade, Adidas, CCM (Hockey), Rockport, Ashworth and Adidas Golf. The founders of all of these companies have similar stories; the CEOs grew up in the industry and have lived through so much in the field. We are successful because of the collection of the brands that we have today – and our common goal of helping athletes perform better.
Use it now—actionable—advice for job seekers:
Understand that whenever you are applying to an organization that is highly desirable, people tend to get discouraged if they don’t get the first job they go for. We may get 400 or 500 applicants for one job. There could be 10 top people in the field. If you are passionate about the organization continue to look at the organization.
The first time I applied for a recruiter job with Taylor Made – I came in third. Then four years later, I’m leading global recruiting.
Michael Jordan got cut from his high school varsity team and ended up becoming one of the best players of all time. You shouldn’t discourage easily. I find that the lessons I learned on the playing field have guided me to this point in his career: Hard work pays off, you accomplishes far more working with teammates, and a good coach is critical to deliver successful end results!