The Best Way to Show Off Your Soft Skills - Work In Sports Podcast

Hey It’s Brian -- Typical sports guy, I grew up in the 80s and 90s loving Georgetown Basketball -- watching Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, and even Patrick Ewing play games against Syracuse was like a dream Saturday afternoon for me in the winters of my youth.

Funny thing is as a sports fan you don't think of schools as institutions of higher learning, you value them by the stregnth of their teams. 

You know what I never realized back in that time - Georgetown is one of the best schools in the nation. 

I know that now, that’s for sure. And the good news is, you can get a Master’s from Georgetown and open up doors in your sports career. 

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You'll leave the program with the communication, business, and leadership strategies that position you for success.

To learn more about the program, you’re invited to attend an upcoming webinar on Tuesday, October 29, at noon Eastern Time. Visit to RSVP.

And the Work in Sports podcast is brought to you by the Work in Sports Academy -- 4 online courses built by yours truly to give you the insight and knowledge into getting hired in the sports industry. 

It is competitive! It is hard to get in! But trust me, when you do, you are going to love it...and getting into a career you love is worth the effort. 

Check out our online courses that will give you a leg up - visit today!

Alright, let’s start the countdown….

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of content and Engaged Learning for and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

Sorry for being a day late everyone -- my apologies -- trust me my intent is to always do a Monday and Wednesday episode… but you know, life and work and stuff. 

A lot of questions have come in recently about the validity of using a competency based resume rather than a traditional style. I have some thoughts on this technique, but before i get into the subject I reached out to 5-6 of my friends in the industry directly connected to talent acquisition -- these are the people on the front lines of hiring, who look at resumes and evaluate candidates all day long. 

I want their thoughts and feedback before I start telling you my thoughts -- because in all honesty, the thoughts of Mailynh Vu with the Cleveland Indians and Colleen Scoles with the Philadelphia Eagles and Mark Cosacarello with the USGA are far far more valuable than my thoughts. 

So hold on for that...expect it soon. 

I’ve also been working really hard on guest booking the last few weeks -- long time listeniners of the podcast have noticed I’ve rerun a couple of our all-time best the last two weeks, Leigh Steinberg and Mike Judge -- this is happening as I ramp up a new wave of guests on the show. 

We’ve got some really cool guests coming down the line which have me really really excited.

But -- that leaves us to today and a great question that came in from Justin in Ohio -- 

Justin writes in:

“Hey Brian huge fan of the show, I’ve listened to every episode, in fact when I have long drives I often go back and pick a few episodes to listen to again. I like your style and it’s easy to engage with your content and learn important techniques that help my career.

One question I wonder if you could expand upon is the importance of soft skills and how you can sell them on a resume, cover letter and in the interview process. I find it hard to show how great of a team player I am, but I know it is incredible important."

Great question Justin!

There are two major parts to the hiring process -- competency and cultural fit. Or you could call them hard skills and soft skills… but i kind of like competency and cultural fit...sounds better to me. 

Step 1: Competency. can this candidate do they job? Do they have the skills, can the show me examples of how they have accomplished what we need...and more?

Thats the competency. It’s more than, I’m a big fan, or I really love sports, or it’s always ben my dream to work in sports…. Those are statements about what you want. 

Competency is about do you have the skills the employer needs. Can you make a positive difference at their organization.

You aren’t going to get interviews if you don’t have the primary competencies to do they job as required.  

Step 2: Cultural fit: does this person have the “other” skills to thrive in our organization. Do they mesh well with our culture, people, expectations… are they a leader, or at least potential leader, can they work as a team, do they have a strong work ethic etc.

This is a much squishier conversation. It isn’t always black and white or rife with data. Well, most of the time it isn’t. Sometimes it can be, like if you had on your resume “Led a team of 4 interns increasing year over year production by 17%” that’s a pretty good data driven indicator you have some leadership abilities.

But I digress. 

Soft skills are harder to quantify. They are harder to sell on a piece of paper, and that is where the interview process becomes so important. Charisma, leadership, teamwork, become more evident when you are face-to-face with someone.

Employers have a process of identifying skills matches -- is this person qualified to do the job -- and then asking themselves, does this person fit in around here. 

So the bigger broader question from Justin is -- how do I start selling these soft skills early enough in the process to make someone in hiring intrigued by me?

That’s it -- how do I get someone to look at my materials, and think, yes this person is qualified...and i also get a vibe they have thee soft skills too.

Alright let’s dig into that, let’s unpack that concept.

It starts with phrasing and using the right words. 

Leadership and teamwork -- two of the biggest most important soft skills employers want you to have -- starts with listening. 

Every hiring manager I have talked to in my career wants someone who listens well, for a myriad of reasons. 1: thy want to know you will listen to and follow instructions. Trust me, nothing is worse as a boss that when you give team instructions and people then look at you with that blank “wait, what?” look on their face.

I’m going to need you to listen.

BUT, listening jumps into leadership too. How can you help others around you if you aren’t listening to their trouble spots. Or challenges, or roadblocks. AND there is no better signal to your employees or co-workers or the interns who surround your desk, that you actually care, than to listen to them.

As a culture, society, species -- we are not good at this! We are always thinking of what we want next, or what we want to say when this other person is done. That’s pretty crappy when you think of it. Pretty selfish. 

It is impossible to be a good leader, or a good teammate, if you aren’t a good listener. So focus on that soft skill.

But how do you sell this in a resume? Saying you are a good listener, sounds kind of cheesy and inauthentic. 

The best approach is to give as much detail as you can, as succinctly as you can. Get to the point without spelling it out. 

In your cover letter, don’t say, I’m a good listener, that’s cliche. Use an example -- “Worked as part of a cross-functional group focused on promotional elements, which included four members of the sales team., three in marketing and a graphic designer. Set the strategy and communication plan for the team, resulting in a 24% increase in ticket sales from promotions year-over-year.”

By emphasizing that you worked cross-functionally, that mans across multiple groups, with multiple members in different departments AND were able to churn out positive results. That's speaking the language of hiring managers -- that says, this person can listen and lead, or esle in this situation they wouldn't have had results.  

Now you guys and gals know how much I love metrics -- so this one sentence goes to competency, uses data, and tell someone this is a leader who works in multiple departments.   

And then always be ready to talk in your interviews about one or two examples of times when you played a key role in helping your team achieve its goals. Always Always always have stories and specific examples you can share. 

In addition here are some more words that should be used to help sell your overall communication skills: writing, presenting, mentoring, negotiating, training -- all of these if you can embody them in your resume and materials sell you as a strong communicator and leader. 

Alright -- that does it for today's episode tune in Wednesday for another great episode of the Work in Sports podcast! 

By Brian Clapp | October 08, 2019
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