Interview Tips for Careers in Sports
Any career in sports begins with an interview, but what sets a sport management interview apart from any other job interview? The questions may vary from sport to sport and from company to company but invariably, some of the same questions will come up in every interview. Below, we’ll go over some of these questions and how to approach them, what to wear, and curveballs you may want to prepare for.
What to prepare for.
You should be ready to answer the standard questions such as “tell me about yourself” and “where do you see yourself in five years?”. You can use these as an opportunity to talk about things your resume may not cover in detail, and to talk about your goals and show that you have plans to stay within the company or organization. When asked about your biggest weaknesses, think about it as an athlete. Nobody is flawless, there is always something to work on. Figure out what you’d like to improve on, and tell them about your plans to improve on this weak spot.
The sports industry is results-oriented, and this applies to athletes as well as management. Before you interview you should be able to explain how you can improve the organization. Be able to provide examples and rough plans. Know what your skills are and the talent you bring to the table. The interviewer wants to be sure you can deliver, and you’ll need to prove it.
The most important part to prepare for is the sports quiz. You’d be surprised by the number of candidates who interview at a sports organization or company and know nothing about the industry. You should possess knowledge of sports and be able to prove that you care about them. You may not need to know the stats of this year’s hall of fame inductees, but you should be able to do the following:
- Know how to calculate basic statistics: Almost all sports involve math of some sort. Be sure you know the relevant statistics for the sport you want to make a career in, these could include earned run average (ERA), pass completion percentage, win-loss percentage, goal differential, and many more. Understand what the statistics mean, what the acronyms are, and how to calculate them.
- Know the history: If you’re interviewing to work for a specific team or organization, be sure you know their history like it’s the back of your hand. This includes major championships, awards, star players, illustrious coaches, and managers. Also know their current history, what’s going on in the league or the market. The importance is in the details here.
- Demonstrate a breadth of knowledge: It’s great to have a robust working knowledge of the big four (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey), but showing that you have knowledge of other sports goes a long way. This helps to demonstrate your appreciation and well-rounded knowledge of sports in general, rather than just memorizing one organization’s stats and history. It could open doors and growth opportunities for you in less recognized sporting federations such as soccer, tennis, golf, or Olympic events.
What to wear
This can cause anxiety in the best of times, so the easiest thing to do is ask the recruiter or HR personnel that you’ve been in contact with. If you’d rather not ask, your best bet is to dress up. Essentially, always dress one level higher than the people walking around the office. With this in mind, here are a few good rules of thumb. If the office requires business attire, you’ll want to come in business formal. This means suiting up, bring a blazer, wear nice shoes. If the office has a business casual dress code (khakis and a nice shirt), you’ll want to be in a blazer and nice pants. If the office has a casual dress code (jeans and a nice shirt), it’s best to wear khakis and a crisp button-down shirt.
Remember, you can always remove a blazer to make your look more casual, but you can’t put on what you didn’t bring. Always wear clothes that fit you well and make you feel confident. Dress for the weather and try to avoid materials that wrinkle easily.
We’ve covered questions and topics that may be thrown your way and we went over gearing up for the big interview. What else could there be? If you already work in sports, you know that you need all of your bases covered (literally and figuratively). So here are a few more things to keep in mind during the interview.
Be ready to think on your feet and prove yourself. Remember when we said this industry is results-oriented? If you’re interviewing for a social media position, be sure you’re able to speak to proven strategies and be prepared to show how you would implement them should they ask for examples. You may even be asked what you would do differently in a given situation if you were in charge. This question may feel like a trap, but if you’ve got a good understanding of your skills and put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer, you should be able to think on your feet and handle the question with grace.
Sometimes it’s what you’re not saying that tells a story. Be aware of your body language and how it may distract from the verbal message you’re trying to convey. Slumping into your seat, fidgeting, crossing your arms, swiveling in your chair, bouncing your legs, these are all things that may cause your interviewer to form assumptions about you. Give firm handshakes, maintain eye contact, sit comfortably but with good posture, and don’t be afraid to smile. These simple tools will help to convey that you are present and engaged in the conversation.
Someone is always watching. Be on your game at all times. From the moment you walk in the door until the moment you leave, anything you say or do can be used in your favor. It can also hurt you. Be sure you’re polite to everyone from the receptionist to the VPs (if you meet them). Even if you think you’ve been left alone in a room, someone may walk by and observe what you’re doing. Always put your best foot forward and be present in the moment.
A great personality can only take you so far in an interview. If you want to be able to gain the skills necessary to accelerate your career in the sport management industries, getting an online master’s in sport management* degree from the University of Kansas can help you rise through the ranks. Athletes gravitate towards talented trainers and successful teams, why shouldn’t you?
*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) degree in health, sport management, and exercise science with an emphasis in sport management.