Top 3 Mistakes Former Athletes Make During an Interview

Interview Mistakes

Congratulations job seeker, you have made it.

The daunting hours spent applying for job after job, writing numerous cover letters and even sitting through all of those pesky pre-interview phone conversations are finally over. It is time to step up to the big leagues—you have been invited to an in-person interview.

If you are a former athlete, you know this feeling. You went through the training, the tryouts, the positional battles and more to eventually read a list on the wall denoting whether you would be starting come the regular season. But just because you make it to the starting lineup, doesn’t mean you will stay there—you have to continue to perform at a high level to keep your job.

Landing an interview is kind of like the day you are named a starter. The excitement of seeing your name as first string on that initial list is great, but many people think they have “made it” at that point and just show up and think that is enough. For job seekers, the preparation does not end the second you get the interview—you need to be ready for anything when you step foot in that interview for the first time.

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In this week’s “Three for Thursday,” we examine three common mistakes former athletes make during an interview. Whether you are a recent graduate doing an interview for the first time, or a long-tenured professional who leaned heavily on their athletic experience during the hiring process, you can learn a thing or two from this list.

Saying or listing your traits are not enough

We have all seen and heard the common traits of athletes. They are leaders, team players, goal-oriented, will do whatever it takes to win, etc.—but what exactly does that mean to a hiring manager?

A common mistake athletes make is listing these traits on a resume or cover letter, or coming into an interview and when they are asked what makes you a good fit, they respond with those answers. They have been told all along these are the traits hiring managers want to hire, so they highlight them over and over again in a hope it will mask their lack of experience. But you need to do more than just list those traits!

Hiring managers—especially those who have played sports before—know you have these traits. You likely would not have made the team if you did not. What they want to know now is how these traits will translate to their company if/when they hire you.

As a job seeker, it is your job to show them those traits in action. Explain how you displayed your leadership to get your team out of a bad situation, and then illustrate how that trait will be in action at their company. For example, as a leader for their organization you will be willing to take the lead on difficult projects and pull employees up when they are down and frustrated by results and deadlines. You did it as the starting quarterback when things were not going right for your offense, and you can do it as the leader of their Marketing department.

All athletes have these traits, it is your job to show them what makes you unique and why they should hire you above the guy who may have more experience in the field than you.

Alumni status is not enough to land the job

We have all been to that interview where someone from the same school as you is conducting the interview. You get that feeling of, “Boom, that’s it—I’m going to land the job because he is a Viking just like I was.” Then when you do not receive a call-back for a second interview, you wonder what went wrong.

Being an alumni of the school or program is great, but it is not a green light to talk about the school and athletics program for 30 minutes during an interview and think you will land the job. You can certainly share a few fond memories of your days on campus with each other, but remember the reason you are there—to show why you will be a valuable member of the organization as a whole.

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It may be great to make that connection at the interview, but usually that is not the only person you will work with in the organization. Many people try and fail miserably to get by on alumni status alone, but when it comes to actually doing the job—you cannot fool the people you work with on a day-to-day basis.

So when it comes to the interview, reminisce about the school for a few short minutes, but get down to business and show them what you are made of.

Do not be scared to talk about the good and bad

I have seen it time and time again, when a former athlete gets in a job interview they were coached to not talk about the good and bad of the sport they played. In fact, going through school I was actually coached to not talk about my playing days other than to note that I played.

This led me to reach out to a few hiring managers to ask why, and they could not provide an example. In fact, they stated they would love to hear about the good and bad from a former athlete when it came to the sport they played. It allows them to judge their dedication to something they did for a long time, how they handled success, how they handled failure and how they would respond to those conditions in the workplace.

If someone is telling you to not talk about the sport you played in an interview, you should reconsider that advice. Now, this does not mean you should come in and talk about fantasy football stats during your interview or if the Cavs are going to win a championship this year. It means look at the positives and negatives you went through as an athlete, and relate those times to skills in the workplace.

What you lack in professional experience is made up through your dedication and hard work as an athlete. So do not be afraid to show it off in your interview, and you just may end up in the starting lineup at a company of your choice in the near future.

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