How Petrino Broke HR Rules of Recruiting—Oh Let Us Count The Ways!

by | Apr 18, 2012 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

How did Petrino break HR Rules of Recruiting…Oh let us count the ways!

When this Bobby Petrino scandal broke last week, a lot of people started asking us: What do you think about that?

If you’ve been avoiding all forms of media as some sort of technological detox, first let us say, “Welcome back!” and secondly, here’s the scoop:

Bobby Petrino was fired as Arkansas’ head football coach on April 10, shortly after it was discovered that he had an affair with a 25-year-old engaged employee, Jessica Dorrell. Petrino, a married man with four children, attempted to cover up the affair even after he got into an accident during a motorcycle ride with Dorrell on April 1.

Oh where to begin with that?

Well, it took us a while to gather up enough energy to even care about yet another professional sports scandal. Seriously, hasn’t this story be written before?


Once we got past that aspect of the story, we started viewing this story through our HR expert lenses.

And we got to thinking, Petrino broke some of the most sacred HR Rules of Recruiting.

We may not be the football experts (despite what our past blogs may have led you to think), but we are HR experts.

As HR professionals, an important part of our job is to recruit, hire and retain the best possible employees for an organization. While we do so much more than that, we recognize that recruiting is at the center of all businesses—if you hire the wrong people, the ripple effect will create much bigger problems.

So let us count the ways that Petrino broke the sacred HR Rules of Recruiting.

1.    He Negated The Affirmative Action Policy

If you’ve ever read our blog before, you know that we PREACH the importance of having your policies in order (and enforcing your policies) so that you can reduce your risk of painful and costly lawsuits. We’re not just trying to get you to let us update you employee handbook policies (I mean, we could do that for you if you wanted), but we are just looking out for your business. We’ve seen what can happen when companies DO NOT have their policies in order or when they do not enforce their policies. And it is not pretty.

But in this case, Arkansas had recruiting policies in place. Petrino just ignored them. The school’s affirmative action rules require a 30-day period for jobs to be posted before interviews can commence. Petrino pushed for the interview process to being just five days into the waiting period (according to Sports Illustrated). That should have been a big red flag for Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. Big HR Rules of Recruiting ‘No No.’

Ms. Dorrell was hired over more than 150 other applicants as the football program’s student-athlete development coordinator, a position that paid $55,735 annually. Only three people had been interviewed for the job.

2.    He Failed To Disclose His Relationship

Here’s a snippet from the termination letter Long sent to Petrino:

“(Y)ou deliberately failed to tell me that you had engaged in an extramarital affair with Ms. Dorrell over a period of several months leading up to your recommendation to hire her,” Long wrote. “If you had been forthcoming with me about the true nature of your relationship, I would not have approved the hiring.”

Not only did Petrino forget to mention that he was sleeping with the new employee, but at first, he didn’t tell Long she was with him on the motorcycle that night. Shortly before the police report (which revealed Jessica Dorrell as the passenger) was made public, Petrino told Long about his affair. (Which according to Ms. Dorrell had been going on for a “signicant” amount of time. Phone records show they exchanged more than 4,300 text messages and nearly 300 phone calls over the past seven months, possibly including photo and video content.)

Now we might be stating the obvious, but hiring a significant other is not a good idea, especially when you enter into a supervisor/employee relationship. Just in case you don’t understand why, we’ll break it down for you. Not only are you opening yourself up for a sexual harassment lawsuit (even if the relationship is consensual), it also makes the atmosphere at the company uncomfortable. Although you may treat your significant other the same as the other employees, there can still be perceived bias from the other employees. The other employees will think you favor your significant other and therefore every decision you make will be scrutinized. Did Sally actually earn her raise or did she get it from sleeping with the boss? (so awkward). Read our blog about interoffice romance policies here.

In this case, Petrino didn’t let his other employees know that he was involved with Ms. Dorrell, causing even more problems. By not disclosing the relationship, he is signaling that he made his hiring decision on personal bias, not job qualifications.

This week, Ms. Dorrell resigned from her position. Long said, “While Ms. Dorrell had a legitimate right to apply for and accept a position within the football program, the circumstances surrounding the former coach’s decision to hire her compromised her ability to be effective in such a position.”

This is exactly why you don’t want to break the HR Rules of Recruiting. It doesn’t end well for anybody.

3.    He Gave His Employee “A Gift”

Oh buddy. Now, we’ve all heard of signing bonuses, but this seems more like a token of love. A very large token of love.  A $20,000 token of love (or hush money…we’re not exactly sure).

Petrino gave $20,000 CASH to Ms. Dorrell, who used the money to purchase a black Acura during her first week on the job.

We’re not even going to waste the energy to describe why this breaks the HR Rules of Recruiting. Seriously, Petrino. Seriously.

The moral of the story (don’t you think this story could use of couple of morals?):

Don’t end up like Petrino and break the sacred HR Rules of Recruiting. Contact Integrity HR to take care of your recruiting swiftly and professionally. Learn more here.

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