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The 2 Toughest Interview Questions in Sports (And How to Answer Them)

Interview Questions In SportsThe toughest interview questions in sports are the two open-ended questions listed below.

1. Tell me about yourself.

2. Tell me why I should hire you.

Having the opportunity to tell the employer—in your words—who you are and why they should hire you is the perfect opportunity to place yourself head and shoulders above the competition.

However, most people give generic answers they think the employer wants to hear. Instead of canned answers, it’s better to speak from the heart and give thoughtful answers, the kind that lead to job offers.

Here’s how…

Interview Questions in Sports:  What’s Your Story?

When the interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself,” you need to have a compelling story that resonates. It’s got to be something memorable and relevant to the job. And most of all, it needs to give the interviewer some insight to your character, your integrity and your work ethic.

Years ago, when I interviewed with the Dallas Mavericks, I told the interviewer a story about my how my friends and I would pile into a van and go to Mavs games when we were in high school. I told him how we would sneak down to the floor to watch “Doctor J” put on a slam-dunk exhibition during pre-game warm ups.

If you’re wondering what’s so compelling about that, keep reading…

Don’t Be Boring… Standout!

After I was hired, my new boss (the interviewer) introduced me to the rest of the company and re-told my story to everyone. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that story was important because it made me standout from the other candidates who were, more than likely, boring and easily forgettable.

My story resonated because the interviewer remembers what a scene it was when all the kids would gather underneath the opponent’s basket during warm ups to watch the other team’s superstars.

It was something we both kind of chuckled about and how that would never happen in today’s game. That brief walk down memory lane with the interviewer was kind of a bonding experience. It got me a second interview.

Best-selling author, Seth Godin, says, “Great stories succeed because they capture the imagination of important audiences.” The person interviewing you for a job may be the most important audience you’ll face. Could your story capture someone’s imagination? Would it resonate with an interviewer?

Big Warning

You’ve got to be very careful about coming across as a “fan” during the interview. That’s the last thing you want to do. I recommend that you do NOT tie your story to the team, like I did, because it could easily backfire!

The only reason my story was effective is because at the end of it I was able to illustrate how the Mavericks would benefit from my talent and skill-set more than any other company in the world. I did this by using real examples from past work experiences relevant to the job, which is exactly the thing your story should do.

This Will Make Them Yawn

As for the, “Tell me why I should hire you” question, let’s first look at what NOT to say. For starters, don’t say, “I’m a hard worker.” That answer is so over-used, it will only make the interviewer yawn.

Saying you’re a “hard worker,” or you’re “dedicated to becoming the best,” is only talk. Instead, give several examples that prove it. Showing evidence of what you can bring to an organization is one of the keys to influencing the decision-making process.

Passion for Sports is Irrelevant

Sports executives that make hiring decisions hear the same boring blather from candidates over and over. Especially the generic, “I have a passion for sports.” And, “My dream has always been to work with [blank] sports team.”

Look, everyone has a passion for sports. So what? That doesn’t make you a strong candidate. As a matter fact, I suggest you not even say you’re passionate about sports. It makes you sound like you don’t know what’s important.

What’s Really Important

Your passion should be about the job itself. Show enthusiasm for selling corporate sponsorships, or season tickets. Show excitement for social media, or public relations. Whatever career you’re pursuing, show how you can deliver quality work. That should be your focus because that’s what’s really important.

How to Prove You’re the Best Candidate

Talent alone will not get you the job. According to Deborah MacDougall and Elizabeth Sanders-Park, authors of The 6 Reason’s You’ll Get the Job, employers are looking for a candidate who meets or exceeds their expectations in these six qualities:

– Presentation – Motivation

– Ability – Attitude

– Dependability – Network

Like I mentioned earlier, you’ve got to prove you’re the best candidate by presenting hard facts that backup your claims. Saying you’re dependable, or highly motivated, or you have a good attitude is just talk. You’ve got to demonstrate—with evidence—that you’re as good as you say you are. A marketing deck can help you communicate that. (More on this in another post.)

The No. 1 Reason You’ll Get Hired

Likability is the key to getting hired. Why? Because employers, above everything else, hire people they want to work with.

Keep in mind: the more skilled you are, the more talent you have, the harder you work—plus the six qualities mentioned above—will increase your likability factor when answering the toughest interview questions in sports. And, of course, a charming personality helps.


40 Responses to The 2 Toughest Interview Questions in Sports (And How to Answer Them)

  1. johntublin November 25, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    This is great advice Chris! Definitely some tips I can implement going forward to land that next job in the sports biz! Very practical. Keep it up!

  2. ChrisMcKinney December 27, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    @johntublin Thanks for the kinds words, John!

    If you ever need anything, you can reach me here:

    Make 2012 you’re best year ever.

  3. Jason January 7, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    I’m glad I came across this article and will make sure I put these tips into action as I continue my journey to a career in sports! These are great interview tips if used correctly as your article points out, thanks for sharing this!

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    The 2 Toughest Interview Questions in Sports (And How to Answer Them)Sports Networker

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