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Q&A: DraftKings on the hunt for US sports betting talent

George Hotter, VP of talent acquisition at DraftKings, tells EGR NA about the operator's ongoing hiring spree

In the wake of a flurry of news stories about personnel changes at DraftKings, EGR NA caught up with the operator’s VP of talent acquisition to find out more about the search for sportsbook talent.

EGR NA: Matt Kalish tweeted on 23 August: “Crazy stat – just saw we have had over 30,000 applicants for jobs at DraftKings in 2018 so far!” How do you deal with and process this amount of applications?

George Hotter: That is an impressive statistic, and I’ll share another one with you: as of this past September, we surpassed 44,000 applications in 2018. Compared to this time last year, we have experienced a 50 percent increase in our application volume across employee referrals, direct application candidates and proactive outreach. The overturning of PASPA essentially helped open the floodgates for prospective candidates, but we have also tripled the size of our talent acquisition team to meet this ballooning demand. Our application pool is staggering, but we had a strategic plan ready well ahead of the Supreme Court decision to ensure our staffing requirements and hiring processes were all in place and effective.

EGR NA: With PASPA being repealed, the race has been on in certain states to roll out sports betting, so what challenges has DraftKings faced as a business in terms of recruiting the right talent to address the sports betting opportunities, whilst maintaining number one position in the DFS industry? What have been the key roles you have filled of late?

GH: The daily fantasy and sports betting verticals at DraftKings are two entirely different product lines for our company and are therefore managed separately within talent acquisition. To continue recruiting the best possible talent, whether fantasy or sportsbook, we have optimized our team with members who are dedicated to specific sectors of the business. By segmenting our team, we can efficiently address the talent needs across DraftKings to keep our robust hiring program on track and moving forward. On the DraftKings Sportsbook side, a handful of notable recent hires include Jamie Shea, senior director of digital of sportsbook operations, Frank Kunovic, head of retail sportsbook operations, and Johnny Avello, director of bookmaking operations.

EGR NA: How competitive is the jobs market right now in Boston and NYC for the type of people you’re looking for, and just how advantageous is it to have the DraftKings brand and the fact the business is focused upon sport when it comes to attracting strong applicants?  

GH: Both the Boston and NYC job markets are extremely competitive right now, and have been for a while, especially when you’re going after top-tier talent who always have multiple job options available for consideration. Beyond Boston and NYC, we have also opened offices in New Jersey and San Francisco with plans to expand to Las Vegas as well. In Boston, we will soon be moving our headquarters to a larger space and are on pace to reach 700 total employees across the company by the middle of 2019. Our strong commercial brand is helpful for our perception and reputation in the marketplace since we’re recognized as a global industry leader.

We certainly offer competitive compensation here, but our focus is bringing in great people whose primary goal is being part of team that is building an amazing company – DraftKings is a technology company at our core and we have plenty of employees who have interests outside of sports. We embrace having both sports and non-sports fans at DraftKings because this broadens our diversity and avoids the pitfalls of a groupthink mentality.

EGR NA: Typically, how long does it take from the moment you advertise a role to the point where the candidate is starting his/her first day? And secondly, how do you go about keeping hold of your staff and making sure they are happy and motivated? Is it more than just about salary these days, particular for tech companies with younger workforces?

GH: We are averaging just under 40 days between the time a position is posted until the new employee starts their first day and onboarding. This is slightly faster than the industry average, however we are always cognizant of ensuring a balanced hiring speed without moving too slow or too fast. Even with our raised hiring velocity and volume, we still maintain a high bar for talent with a rigorous interview process in place at all levels and departments.

On retention, the main goal is creating and sustaining a terrific culture. We work to retain talent by fostering a positive environment where employees feel empowered and impassioned to do great things by contributing to the company and growing their careers. There is also an enthusiasm and motivation, particularly among our younger engineers, that we are building and shaping an entirely new industry with the arrival of legal sports betting. This type of disruption is in our DNA as a company dating back to the early days of daily fantasy and fast forwarding to DraftKings Sportsbook today. The collective energy and optimism around the next steps in DraftKings’ journey is palpable from every corner of the company and across all offices.

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