How to Show Off Your Skills to Land Jobs in Sports - Work in Sports podcast e030

By Brian Clapp | December 18, 2017

How to Show Off Your Skills to Land Jobs in Sports

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast Monday QA session.

Before I get into our Monday question from a fan – one quick, timely in-the-moment analysis I need to give. I generally don’t do this because our content is evergreen, meaning, it’s just as relevant and alive today as it will be 6 months or a year from now. Our advice lasts.

If I comment on something very newsy right now, and someone downloads and listens to the podcast in 6 months, it means nothing to them, it has no value. As you’ve probably noticed, you can go back and listen to any of our podcasts from any time, and they will still be worthwhile.Your Sports Career Questions Answered

That said….

Sorry to everyone in Pittsburgh.

I am from Boston, been a Patriots fan since birth, sat through many 2-14 seasons and feel no shame for enjoying the last two decades of dominance. I apologize for none of it.

But… that was a catch last night.

By the rulebook it wasn’t, Jesse James left hand came off the ball as he went to the ground and the ground helped him maintain possession. But, this game happens in full speed with our eyes and when I watched it, with my own eyes, it was a catch.

I don’t want to go too long with this because like I said all of our content is made to be evergreen… but sorry to our friends in steelers nation. And Raiders nation – hello and index card? Alright enough.

Let’s get into our fan question.

Aiden from Chicago writes in, and will receive a free month at since I’m reading and answering his question on their air.

Hi Brian, I’ve listened to each of your industry expert interviews twice. Seriously. The first listen I feel like my head is spinning with information and advice, the second listen it really sinks in. There is just so much good stuff in there…the content is dense with information. But, most of the experts don’t seem to hammer in on what they are looking for when they hire…tell me please in your view, how do I stand out to get hired?

Aiden thanks, this question is perfect in it’s timing.

I didn’t do a Friday QA session this week because I decided to lock myself in and do some deep self-analysis on my industry expert interviews.

A little self-scouting, seeing if I’ve fallen into any patterns or should try some new approaches to questioning. As you can probably guess I’m a very self-critical person, but more than anything I’m just looking for ways to improve for all of you.

One thing I have noticed is a certain pet peeve of mine keeps popping up.

To everyone I ask some version of the question – “what are you looking for when you hire?” I’d like to think I ask it a little better and more in the flow of the conversation, but you get the gist.

Unfortunately, I’ve been given many of the cliché answers you would expect to hear.

Things like “the number one thing I look for is work ethic” or “I want someone who exudes excitement” or “They need to have a passion for working in the sports industry”

All these things are true, but they aren’t complete answers.

The hardest part of getting hired in sports or any industry for that matter, is getting noticed enough to get an interview. You can’t just put on your resume “I’m exicted!” or “I work really hard!” and expect to get noticed enough to get a call back.

It doesn’t work that way. These experts are answering the phase two of the question and ignoring the phase one. Phase one is how do you pick someone out of the stack of resumes, phase two is, once they are in front of your how do they nail the job interview.

See the difference?

In phase two – yeah once you are across the table from Josh Rawitch Sr. VP of Content and Communication for the Arizona Diamondbacks (episode 18 if you are wondering) you can show off your work ethic, show your dedication, passion, sports knowledge …all those great intangibles.

But I’m sorry, if your resume is packed with emotion and lacking skills – you’ll never get to this phase.

So when Amber Cox, VP of the Connecticut Sun (episode 9 and a great listen) says she’s looking for people with sparkle – she’s right, and she’s targeting the right person for her staff… but for you that advice means little. You need to get through phase 1 before you can show anyone sparkle!

My guy Jesse Cole Owner of the Savannah Bananas (episode 15) says he can train anyone to do the job, but he can’t train work ethic. Again, a true statement… but not completely reality based. No employer has the time or desire to spend months and months training someone to be competent to do a job, whether they have great work ethic or not.

You have to start with have the requisite skills.

So what does this all mean?

Simple – in your presentation tools, and by this I mean cover letter, resume, video resume, portfolio – whatever the demands of this application are… you need to show off your hard and soft skills.

Tell an accomplishment story in your cover letter. That’ll attract the people looking for soft skills. I tell this story often, and it’s what I used to use in my cover letter:

I was the lead editor for our NFL preview show on CNN Sunday mornings during the season. It was a great gig, Bob Lorenz, Vince Cellini, Ron Meyer, James Lofton and Trev Alberts – it was a great show and I was thrilled to be a part of it. We had a digital editing system, and on Saturday night, after all 60 show components were done and edited, the machine crashed. Everything was lost. The whole thing fried. Akin to the blue screen of death.

My boss came to me, it’s now 11pm ish on Saturday night, and said “You know what we need right?” and I just looked at her and said “yep, I’ll get it done”.

She knew that I knew what needed doing. It was unspoken.

I needed to start all over, stay overnight, and get everything that took me three work days to complete…done in the next 8 hours before air.

It got done. And this isn’t come hero story, this isn’t about me, this is about telling a story that conveys who you are. That’s what you cover letter is for if you ask me – expand upon the details of your resume and give something about you.

But then comes the most important part, the actual skills on your resume.

We live in a cold hard world, where machines and algorithms evaluate us before anyone gets to see if we have work ethic, or enthusiasm or passion. Computers do the first scan looking to see if you have the skills for the job, if you don’t you’ll never get to the point where your smile and eye contact matters.

So here’s how you get to phase 2 where you can show off your charisma:

*You need the actual skills for the job. I know, mind blowing right?! But here’s the real deal – you need to be in love with that job description like they are Friday night and you have the secret handshake into the coolest party on campus.

Read it, study it, know what this job requires, and then focus your resume on the skills you currently have that align with this particular job. Employers are giving you the exam questions! They are telling you “Hello, this is exactly what we want for this job.”

Why wouldn’t you cater your resume to answer their questions/needs and desires?! You wouldn’t answer a marketing exam with finance equations, would you?

No two jobs are the same – a production assistant job at ESPN could have vastly different requirements than a Production Assistant at FS1. You need to cater your resume to the skills this job needs. Don’t be lazy, applying for jobs is a job, you need to take it seriously and not waste any opportunities to be noticed.

*You need to be honest with yourself. Don’t apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for – you are wasting peoples time and people in charge of hiring get annoyed with that (I know I do). And, by being honest with yourself, you have to begin to notice if you don’t have the skills that are in demand. If you don’t have them, figure out how to get them or look for a new field of work.

Just wanting it real bad isn’t enough.

*I’ll give Mark Crepeau, VP of marketing for the Basketball Hall of Fame a lot of credit (episode 8 and another great listen if I do say so)– he said he doesn’t care about cultural fit, he cares about great ideas. If you have great ideas and can execute on them, we’ll figure out a way to fit you into our culture.

Now that’s honest.

Again, I’m not saying the other experts weren’t honest – they are, because we all agree, well except Mark, that getting the right person in a role with the right attitude and the right willingness, is paramount to success.

My big issue is just that soft skills in and of themselves aren’t enough, because they alone won’t get you noticed enough to get an interview.

The bottom line is for Aiden and everyone else out there, your soft skills are a big part of the final “hire or no hire” equation…but first you need to focus on the hard skills.

Cater your resume to the skills the employer says they want – remember they are giving you the exam questions, if you don’t utilize your resume and cover letter to answer their exam…well, you are on your own.

So to wrap this up I make you a promise in the new year – when I have more experts on the show, I will push them for deeper answers on this question, because I think it’s THE QUESTION you want answered…

Coming up Wednesday is my interview with Shaun Richard Associate Athletic Director for Ohio State university…if you have ever considered working in college athletics, this is the interview for you. Or if you are just a human being who likes listening to my voice… this is also the interview for you!

In all seriousness, tune in Wednesday, Shaun is awesome.

That’s it… for I’m Brian Clapp and I’m done.

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