What it takes to get a job at the Olympics


With the eyes of the sporting world looking ahead to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Our partners at SportBusiness caught up with Henrique Gonzalez, Human Resource Director for Rio 2016, who offered unique insight on what he looks for when hiring the best talent from around the world:

What are the key requirements you look for when choosing new employees for Rio 2016?

The first thing we aim for is people who can prove they are passionate for this business and the Rio project. People who can show they have been team players in the past are exactly what I am looking for. So much of what I am doing over the next year will involve integrating a lot of people from diverse backgrounds, which means I need someone who can prove they can handle that.

Also, if you get involved with an Olympic Committee, you have to be prepared to be flexible, adaptable and resilient. Things change all the time when you are preparing for an event like this. Throughout our journey we are going to face a lot of constraints, and a lot of external pressures which may not always be positive, so I need to know my staff can deal with that.

Our business is to deliver a service to athletes, spectators, private investors and the international media, so  anyone applying has to show me they know how to plan something and then see it all the way through to delivery.

What did you learn from London 2012s recruitment process?

London held a fantastic Games and its HR team was really kind with sharing information about its recruitment process. I was particularly impressed with how it handled its volunteers. I thought it was absolutely outstanding how it distributed everybody around the city.

In terms of paid recruitment, I thought London did very well when it came to diversity inclusion; there were jobs for people from many different ethnic backgrounds as well as people with disabilities.

I thought it was clever how it balanced out the local people it hired with strategically recruiting professionals with Olympic Games experience. It was also interesting how it organised a sponsor to help support the entire recruitment process.

What you have to remember is that there are a few differences between London and Rio’s labour markets. Brazil is a developing country and there are different recruitment challenges. By comparison, we are short in supply of talented people who have the critical language skills that are needed; we are looking for local applicants who have fluent English and international staff that speak Portuguese, which makes the whole process a little bit complicated.

Do you prioritise professional experience over academic excellence when choosing a new employee?

Experience is critical for a project like ours. A few years in the run up to the Olympic Games can go very fast. If I had to choose, experience is my priority, but obviously the dream is to have academic qualifications and professional experience together.

However, one of the Olympic values is excellence, so we really value people who show on their CV that they are trying to improve their personal development through academic achievement.

How important are the issues of language and cultural awareness when considering new candidates?

This is key for us. Most of the public in Brazil do not speak fluent English, so Portuguese-speaking expatriates will be very important for us. People who have experience dealing with influential members within the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the international media are vital to what we are doing.

Have you come across any difficulties in your recruitment process so far?

One of the factors we have to consider is to guess how quickly a potential candidate will be able to learn Portuguese. As a result, we look at whether they already speak a second language, or whether their mother tongue is a Latin-based language. However, there have been a few instances where we have brought in people who only speak English.

We have managed to reduce the bureaucracy constraints so that it makes it easier to bring in international staff. We now have a period of about 25 days to allow us to complete the recruitment process.

Are you under pressure to choose Brazilians for your vacancies, or is your preference to hire international staff who have worked on previous major events such as London 2012?

What I have learned from looking at previous Games is that the majority of the workforce will be locals, and about five to 10 per cent are usually people with Olympic Games experience. Currently, we are heading in a similar recruitment path as previous host cities. Obviously we also want to use the Games to help grow the Brazilian sports industry in the future, and for that we need skilled staff who will be in Rio for a long time.

In your opinion, what is the most impressive aspect any applicant for a Rio 2016 job can put at the top of their CV?

You have to show passion on your CV. That is the main thing I am looking for. I need to see a relationship to sport throughout their life. Then things like international experience and language skills are also really important.

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