Many students and early career professionals want to get into professional sports.
Here’s some of our advice on how to stand out when applying and interviewing for these high level jobs.
To view more episodes, subscribe, and ask your questions, go to mikereinold.com/askmikereinold.
#AskMikeReinold Episode 326: Interviewing for a Job in Professional Sports
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Addie from St. Augustine, Florida: “Hi, Champion team. I love the podcast and have been binge watching during my commute to work. I am a PT student and was selected to interview for a professional sports clinical. What advice would you give for a virtual interview with a professional sports team for a clinical placement? Thank you.”
Awesome. Addie, good question. I want to frame this a little bit differently just because I liked your question. This is a PT student looking to get a clinical rotation in a pro sports setting. And to be honest with you, a lot of places for clinical rotations, like us at Champion, you have to interview. So a lot of these places that have a lot of people that want to come here, we do the interview process. So I’m kind of curious to talk to… Maybe we’ll go Lenny last or something, just because I’m kind of curious, Lenny does a lot of the interviews for our students here and I think he might have some good pearls.
But for this, if you’re a student or you’re an early career professional and you want to try to get into elite level sports, it doesn’t have to be pro, but high level college, Olympics, those sort of things, what is the one piece of advice going into the interview that I think we’d all give?
Let’s go around the virtual room, and everybody kind of jump in. Dave, you want to start first?
Yes. My piece of advice, prior to the interview, is to be deeply immersed in the culture of the sports that you’re going to work with. So I think that the best… Obviously you have to have tactical skills and knowledge and be good, but also sometimes the softer skills, the interactions about lingo and culture are what really hooks people into wanting to work with you. So everybody here on this call works with a certain sport or niches that certain terminology, certain jargon, remarks about what’s going on in the sport right now… I feel like those build a lot of trust and rapport. My ability to talk about baseball would be horrific, but I can talk the talk about gymnastics upside down, no pun intended. But I think that’s the most important thing because… Sorry, that was terrible. That was a bad joke.
My brain went right to you being upside down. I mean, It went right to that.
So that would be my piece of advice, make sure that not all the sports, but if there’s five or six sports they specialize in, you should have some working knowledge of the culture in two or three in current events because I think that makes a big trust and rapport established.
That’s a good one. I’m impressed. That was a good one.
All right, who’s next, Kevin?
Yeah, similar to Dave’s comment about understanding the culture, I think understanding common injuries in the sport would be helpful as well. So if you are coming up to a clinical rotation at Champion, if you’re somewhat familiar with shoulder/elbow injuries, ACL injuries, I wonder what Lenny would say, but I think that’s someone that might be more attractive than someone who is very experienced in the acute rehab setting. So I think understanding the culture, but also understanding common injuries that you’re going to see with that professional sports team would be a no-brainer, I would say.
Yeah, and you’re probably going to get asked that in the interview, some of those things. So if you can go in there knowing that, I think that’s huge. Yeah.
Yeah, my advice would be, and I’ve seen a lot of interviews at this point for all of our strength interns that apply for us, but being able to speak on that really good middle ground of what you’re passionate about, what you currently know, what your current understanding of some of these concepts are, and what you need to learn moving forward, and what you’re passionate about learning moving forward. Show that you’re a student of the game, that you do have confidence in your skills, but you are here to learn and you’re here to grow. And even if you’re applying for an actual job where it’s not a clinical rotation or something, chances are you’re still going to find mentors in that organization that you’re going to be learning from. So talk to them about a little bit of both, the current skills and what you want to learn from them.
That’s a good one, Diwe, really emphasizing that you’re looking forward to learning from the great experience of everybody that’s already there. I think that’s a good one.
Who’s next? Jonah?
I am going to give a piece of advice that Mike, you gave me when I was interviewing with the Red Sox, and that’s just to know what the role is that they’re trying to fill and show that you’re prepared for that and that that’s what your interest is. So even if you have things that you’re excited to learn about or things that you think you could offer, that’s not what they’re hiring for. They’re hiring to fill a specific need that they have and just show that that’s something you’re actually excited to do and that you know how to stay in your lane and that you’re going to solve the actual problem they have, and not just try to show off all the different skill sets you have, even if you might have other skills that are quite valuable.
But when you get your foot in the door, that’s when you start to show a little bit, and that’s great. I’d say great advice, Jonah, but you’re paraphrasing me so then it’s like I’m complimenting myself. It’s awkward, so I’m going to avoid it. But good one, Jonah. I like that.
Dan, what do you got?
Yeah, so Jonah kind of stole my thunder a little bit, but I think when you’re interviewing, you’re oftentimes trying to look really good. It’s like, “Oh, look at all this stuff I have to offer for you guys. I want to be the best hire.”
I think just having a lot of empathy for the people you’re trying to interview with is really important. So one of the things you mentioned is what kind of problems exist within the company that you can help solve. And maybe that is fulfilling a very specific role. Maybe that’s just helping out in whatever fashion you can. For a professional sports team, you probably can’t help out easily, but for other jobs, obviously, if they need help with something specific, you want to try to help out as much as you can, and just being very eager to learn, very eager to help out in any way possible.
So even during the interview process, if there’s something that you can help just expressing that you are very interested and you’re like, “Wow, I’d really like to do that. I actually have a little background here I think could help you out.” Obviously you’re not an expert at this point, so I think trying to be as helpful as possible is good. And just kind of flipping that narrative in your head of like, “Let me show you how good I am,” and more being concerned with helping the organization as much as you can.
Awesome. Great one, Dan. Len, what…
Goodness. Wow. What am I supposed to say now? My goodness. I mean, all…
I mean, I know you have good advice in general, but you interview so many people that you probably in your head without calling anybody out, have been like, “Ooh, that was a bad approach,” right?
Yeah, absolutely, and I try not to… Obviously the people that are with us now are students who passed my tests in my head.
And so to me, I’m looking for somebody that is going to fit our climate, our facilities, kind of the feel of our facility, what we are looking to share for information to that person, and how that person can communicate with me.
I don’t care about some of their skills that they have or don’t have because we’re going to teach our particular skills, our particular testing modes, how we do things. I want to know, that person, do they sound motivated in their voice? Can they communicate with me well, do they struggle through their answers to talk to me? If they’re nervous, do they get over it? If they’re not nervous and cocky, I can sometimes sense that, too. Are they trying to brag about all the different classes or courses they’ve taken and they’re doing all this stuff? Or is it that they really want to hustle?
Because in my interviews, I try to let them know it’s going to be a long day. Our clinic is not a nine-to-five job. It’s going to be you get there early, you stay late, and is that something that you’re willing to do? And most of the people that do come through it, including our current group, know that they’re going to get there early and they’re going to stay later and they’re going to learn from all 10 PTs and our five strength coaches, and it’s going to be an amazing experience for them.
And I ask them, “Does that sound like something that you want to still do?” I put it back on them once I do my elevator pitch, “Is that something that interests you?” And I’m waiting for a hesitation. I’m waiting for something. But usually it’s, “No, this is what I want. I want to learn from you guys,” and so I can hear that in their voice. They can communicate with that with me.
And then all the other stuff that everybody else has said is critical. I need somebody that’s going to hustle and want to be there and not always have an excuse why they have to leave early, they can’t stay late, or something like that. So I want somebody who’s just going to get just kind of embedded in our business and just try to learn everything and ask good questions and be empathetic and sympathetic and all that. And so I try to gauge that in my interviews because I think we can teach, like I said, the PT skills and what we’re looking for. It’s just are they going to fit the culture of our facility and want to really grind?
Awesome. Good one, Len.
And for me to add to this, I mean, you guys, you’ve really said most of it here. I might just have a slightly different spin on a little bit of what Lenny and Dan just said and what everybody’s kind of said to an extent here.
But we’ve definitely seen moments where the number one objective of the student or the early career professional was to show the other person how smart they were, and I think that’s not usually the best approach. I think if you’re in this position right now, I think you have the baseline competency, you’re smart enough to be in this position to even interview. If as a student in an ECP, your focus of the interview is to show how smart you are, I think you have a high chance of turning people off that maybe you’re not open-minded, maybe you don’t have a growth mindset. Maybe they’re worried that you think you know everything already. And man, I can go back in time and some of the things that I thought were very strict things early in my career, I’ve changed my mind on a little bit. So you have to be careful about that.
I think rather than show people that it’s how smart you are, I think what you want to show them is how hungry you are and how ready you are to work your tail off. Especially in the elite level sport environment, nobody works eight-hour days, nobody’s primary focus is work-life balance. It’s about, “I want to get as much out of this opportunity,” and be very service-based.
That’s one thing that I don’t think anybody’s really brought up just yet is that elite level athletics is a service-based industry. Our whole profession is, but elite athletics is, too. We’re here to serve the athlete. So if that’s a late night or an early morning because of a bus or a road trip or something like that, I think you have to show the person that I’m super hungry, I’m super ready to work my tail off for you, and of course, I have the baseline competency to be ready for this, but I can’t wait to learn from you, kind of putting everybody’s together. I think that would be my biggest piece of advice.
Awesome. Addie, good luck. I’ve got a feeling you’ve probably already done this interview by the time we recorded this episode, but hopefully this will help future people that are already in the same jam that you’re in. But hopefully it went well for you, Addie.
If you have questions like that, any more career advice things, or anything else you want to talk about, head to mikereinold.com, click on that podcast link and we will answer as many as we can. Thanks so much. See you on the next episode. Take care.