To Apply, or Not to Apply, That is the Sports Career Question - Work in Sports Podcast

Big question today, what does it mean to be qualified for a job and is it appropriate to apply when you aren't a 100% match? Let's dig in!

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

A couple of quick updates before we get into this week's sports career focused question, which is a good one that just came in this morning from Bill Wang. I had a direction I was going to go this morning, then I woke up, checked my inbox, had a great question in there…and called an audible.

But before we get to that… coming up on Wednesday is an interview I’m pretty excited about. Chelsea Zahn from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Chelsea works in a side of the industry I knew very little about, and what I found out after interviewing her is that her role is a great side of the business for people to enter and thrive in.

She’s in partnership activation – which essentially means, once sponsorship sales team signs on a new corporate sponsor, it is her job to work with them in both a customer service style role and a strategic execution role. She's working with local businesses to keep them happy and fulfilled as part of the Steelers community of sponsors.

Very cool role – she explains it better than I can… and a worth listen especially for those still trying to figure out their fit in the industry and learn about options.

Last note, then we’ll get to the question…

For the last 2 years, multiple times per week, I have been asked to personally consult with people about their sports career. To date I have told people, listen to the podcast and if you have specific questions reach out to me and I’ll help. I love helping, it’s what I do, and that’s why I have this and other forums available to all of you.

That said, I’ve had hundreds of people ask for more. So we’re going to deliver more.

The team at Work in Sports and I have created an online course – a work at your own speed and pace learning center – where you can learn the strategies and tactics behind all of my best sports career advice. How to gain the RIGHT experience and make sure it matches employer needs, Building and maintaining your network, mastering your resume, cover letter, and personal brand, making sure you nail the interview process…and much more.

These are the pillars of getting hired in the industry, but it’s the stuff you never get taught!

No one focuses in on this part in their college education, and then people come to me and say “Hey I’m a college graduate… how do I get hired?”

This has long frustrated me – people graduate will industry-relevant knowledge, but have no idea how to get a job!  So we created this course to help bridge the gap between what colleges and universities teach, and what employers want and need.

It’s not about GPA – it is much more than that.

No matter where you are in your career, this course will help you…and trust me we’re making it way more affordable than I wanted to.

Just being honest – I had a certain price point in mind, and my boss said “hey, let’s make this a little easier for people to afford” and then I said “But boss, this is all my best stuff we can’t just give it away” and then he said “we aren’t going to give it away literally, but kind of.”

And then I gave up and said…” you’re the boss”

Now it isn’t 100% done yet and ready for market – I’m still putting the paint job on it… but soon. And I wanted you all to hear it from me first.

Ok, now let’s get to today’s question from Bill Wang:

I am reaching out because I have a question that I think applies to a lot of people when job hunting. Should I still apply to a job if I don't meet all the requirements for it? There are a lot of openings that I think my experience/skills fit most of the requirements, but there are always 1 or 2 that I don't fit and it will deter me from applying because I don't think I am going to land an interview.

Bill – great question, and you are right, this question is important to everyone in the job market – what constitutes a match?

First off I may have done everyone a disservice and made you all nervous with how much I batter you over the head with – don’t apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for. This likely led to many of you overthinking what it means to be qualified.

Now, I stand behind the advice, I still harken back to my many interviews with talent acquisition managers across sports and they’ve all told me that only around 25% of the people that apply for their jobs are qualified for the role.

This frustrates them because it’s wasting their time. You don’t want to be the person wasting their time. Think of this for a second, they get a job requisition, so say the marketing team gets in touch with the talent team and says “hey we’ve got budget approval to hire a new marketing coordinator, these are the skills we want them to have, this is the job description of the role… and we’d like to start interviewing within the week…get after it!”

The talent team gets to work finding the right people. They use sites like ours to find talented sports people in our database, they post the job we send them people, they publish it in a few other spots, they send out some tweets, post it on facebook… and they get flooded.

Now for the record, teams, and organizations love the talent leads that come from work in sports, because our members are serious about working in the sports industry, and they are qualified and skilled… why else would they pay for a premium site unless they meant business? Employers know this and love our candidates… but that’s off topic.

Back on topic – the talent people have a short time frame to turn a job requisition into a pool of matches. And if they spend their time looking through resumes that don’t match, they are wasting that time. In fact, most Applicant Tracking Systems will leave notes on a user to say, hey they applied for these jobs and weren’t qualified, and it will hang on you like a scarlet letter.

Bottom line, applying for jobs you aren’t qualified for = BAD.

Now, what does that mean… what does it mean to be qualified?

If you have 70% of the required qualifications or more… you are qualified enough to apply. No one would look at a resume and see someone with over 70% of the required skills and say “why are they applying for this!”

If there is a job that has all these requirements and you are missing a few… that is 100% OK! Still go for it.   

Employers fill out a job description and requirements doc with their absolute dream scenario – “if we get someone with all of these skills, they are perfect!” …but that is not their expectation. They think if I get someone with 70% or better, they are in the mix, and we can train them on the rest.

My deeper advice is to pay attention to all of the job descriptions and look for patterns. For example, if you are looking at jobs to be an analyst and you keep seeing Python mentioned and that is a skill that you don’t have… time to learn it. Even if you fit 70%+ of the requirements.

If you keep looking at sales jobs that say they want photoshop experience… and you think, I don’t have this skill, but I see it as something that could stand out for me… learn it…even if you have 70%+ of the job requirements.

So the over-arching theme here Bill and everyone else listening is – if you have a simple majority, 50%+  of the requirements, you may be able to apply and be considered qualified if you have the right mix… but if you have 70%+ you are a qualified match and you should go for it.

When I talk about being unqualified and not applying, I mean you are someone with sales experience applying for a job in event management. Or someone with a degree in kinesiology applying to be a scout… the match isn’t there!

Ok, that should cover it, Bill, remember to tune into Wednesday’s podcast with Chelsea Zahn of the Steelers… subscribe to the podcast, leave us a great review wherever you listen…and share with friends!

Alright everyone … get back to work.

By Brian Clapp | April 29, 2019
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