Steve Bisciotti knows the art of interviewing.
Before buying the Ravens, Bisciotti made his money in the staffing business. He founded and built the company Aerotek into the largest staffing firm in the United States and a global leader.
So when Bisciotti sat down with John Harbaugh eight years ago to discuss the Ravens' head coaching vacancy, he had one particular question to determine if Harbaugh was the man for the job.
"It was a trick question," Bisciotti said with a laugh during a conference call with PSL owners.
"My question to him was, 'If, by a strange twist of fate, I gave you the job today but told you that you could only spend 100 hours in this facility from now until the kickoff of the first game, how would you spend those 100 hours?'"
Bisciotti recalled the story by explaining that Harbaugh wasn't exactly sure how to respond. The eventual Ravens head coach "looked at me kind of puzzled, and he got a little nervous," Bisciotti said.
Harbaugh took some time to think it over, and wasn't exactly confident on his answer.
"I'm going to get this wrong, aren't I?" Harbaugh said.
Bisciotti responded by saying, "You probably will. But you work on it."
The Ravens owner then got up and left the room to give Harbaugh some time to work on his response. When Bisciotti returned a few minutes later with sodas in hand, Harbaugh shared his answer, and the Ravens owner used that time as an opportunity to share his philosophy on building an organization.
"Really it was an opportunity for me to explain to him in a nutshell that one-on-one communication, I consider to be gold," Bisciotti said. "Talking in a group, I consider to be silver."
Bisciotti stressed to Harbaugh the importance of connecting with his players on individual levels. Going back to his original question about the 100 hours, Bisciotti explained that he would want his new coach to spend 20 hours talking with him and General Manager Ozzie Newsome, another 20 hours with the coaching staff, and then 60 hours meeting with each player individually for an hour.
"When you get to know them, know their family, know their history, know the names of their children, know whether they're married, know whether their engaged, that as you draw them closer to you, you will be able to build a goal of the sum that is greater than the parts," Bisciotti said. "And if everybody believes that you know them well, and that you care about them individually, then collectively they would be a much better team."
The message resonated with Harbaugh. Over his seven years in Baltimore, he's developed a reputation for grabbing a seat next to players in the cafeteria. He's just as likely to sit down with a group of rookies during training camp as he is veteran players like Terrell Suggs.
"John is a great people person," Bisciotti said. "I think he took it to heart, and I have had more compliments from our players about the time he spends one-on-one with them building relationships. And I believe it is the secret to success."