Hiring a Former Athlete? Here’s What to Look For

There’s a lot to be said for hiring former athletes. Aside from the technical skills and experience you want in a job candidate, former athletes often possess traits that are associated with success in a business environment. Still, not every former athlete makes a good hire. Here’s what to look for:
1) Team or Individual Sport
The first thing I want to know is did the person play a team or individual sport. In general, team sport athletes – surprise – understand the importance of teamwork in achieving success. Many are good at collaborating. They know what it means to sacrifice for the good of the team. And they enjoy camaraderie and team spirit.
On the other hand, individual sport athletes tend to be self-motivated and self-reliant. They are often good at self-organization and time-and-activity management. And they’ve been trained to objectively analyze their performance, strengths and limitations.
2) A “Natural” or a “Worker”
The second thing I want to know is was the person a “natural” or a “worker”? The naturals may impress more on the surface but the reality is that many got by on ability alone. They didn’t have to develop strong work habits to excel. Their ability may have made up for, and masked, poor training or less-than-maximum effort when performing.
Conversely, the workers were often the overachievers – highly motivated and willing to work exceptionally hard.
3) Achievement
The next thing I want to know is what the person achieved. Did they, for example, go from being on the second-team to becoming a starter? From being an also-ran to an all-star? Did they simply participate or did they truly compete and excel?
4) Adversity
The final thing I want to know applies to every former athlete: defeats, setbacks and injuries. I want to understand both their immediate and subsequent reactions to these challenges. Emotionally, intellectually and behaviorally. In short, I want to understand how they dealt with adversity. Because in business, they’re going to face lots of it.
Former athletes often possess important traits that transfer well to business. When interviewing them as job candidates, test this assumption by delving into the specifics of their competitive experience.
Now consider this: It’s not just athletes. This also applies to any activity performed at a highly competitive level. Music. Dance. Chess. Debating. It doesn’t matter.
The ultimate question is: Do they have what it takes to help you win?
Make it happen.
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