Casino JobOnce upon a time, walking into a job interview with a Harvard MBA almost wrapped up was as good as a punched ticket to career success; but in a tough, competitive economy and in an industry that  interacts with customers outside of the normal business model, Caesars Entertainment is trying a novel approach this month to finding successful casino management candidates: they invited them to a real-money poker tournament on site.

Some 300 Masters of Business Administration students and graduates used their own funds to buy in to a special Texas Hold’em poker tournament at the Caesars flagship property in Las Vegas in January; unlike a typical fraternity poker game, however, careers were on the line for this out-of-the-box casino job interview process.

Tijuana Plant, who represents Caesars human resources department, said the company used the recruiting event to “…see analytical people. Poker players are analytical and are willing to take strategic risk, and that is what we’re looking for.”

Following a networking  reception to kick off the weekend on Friday and a presentation about Caesars’ corporate culture on Saturday, twenty of the MBA candidates were then invited to formal interviews with casino brass, with an eye towards being asked to join the company’s 10-week management trainee program for a $16,000 bankroll.  Those who make the cut will be asked to do anything from strategic marketing to troubleshooting issues that may arise on the industry giant’s properties across America; it’s all part of becoming a well-rounded casino executive.  Being a great poker player apparently isn’t a mandatory qualification, however; Plant said that last year only one-third of those accepted into the 12-person trainee program had played their poker event.

With more than 40 properties worldwide,  the Caesars candidates could end up anywhere in the world: from Las Vegas to Mississippi to South Africa and beyond.

Although students had to lay out their own cash to play in the poker event, some who didn’t land interviews still came away with a win: cold, hard cash from finishing in tournament money of close to an $8,000 total prize pool.  Buy-ins ranged from $85 to $225 for the event, with payouts adjusted accordingly.

It appears Caesars is not the only company hiring outside of the traditional interviewing process these days; and Neutrogena Corp. are just two of the other business giants who also have their candidates participate in more socially oriented activities to test their business mettle.

Ironically, the lucky few who land the Caesars management gigs will not be playing poker for awhile, at least not on their own properties: it’s forbidden for executives to play in their company’s casinos.