When hiring, most companies will ask candidates questions about their skills, their experience and their qualifications. They may also ask competency based interview questions, where candidates are expected to give examples of times they have showed particular qualities or overcome particular obstacles. However, very few companies ask one of the most important questions you can ask in an interview… “What sport do/did you play?”

Throughout my years of experience in the business world, it’s become clear to me that athletes make fantastic hires. This is also backed up by numerous studies. In 2015, EY, the global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services carried out a study with espnW, the female digital sports brand. This revealed that 94% of C-suite women played sports.

Another study, “Anticipated and Persistent Correlates of Participation in High School Athletics” in 2014 revealed that “Men who participated in varsity-level high school sports appeared to demonstrate higher levels of leadership and enjoyed higher-status careers. Surprisingly, these ex-athletes also exhibited more pro-social behavior than non-athletes—they more frequently volunteered time and donated to charity.”

There’s clearly a correlation between athletic participation and success in business and it’s down to the fact that the skills and qualities required for success on the sports field are perfect for success in the business world too.

Athletes know how to collaborate and work as a team

One of the first lessons that any athlete learns is the importance of the team. No matter how good an individual is, without a good team around them they are nothing. Good athletes understand the importance of striving for team success which is why savvy employers see athletes as valuable additions to their workforce.

They are goal oriented and pay attention to detail

Athletes are self motivated and are driven by a passion to win. To compete successfully in any sport requires the ability to come up with creative strategies to achieve targets. This is a favourable characteristic that transfers perfectly across to business. High performance athletes’ attention to detail is another transferable skill for business. The concept of ‘marginal gains’, popularised by Sir Dave Brailsford, performance director of British Cycling is one that has been used by athletes across the world in a range of sports. The idea is that by making a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would end up being hugely significant. Using ‘marginal gains’, British Cycling went on to dominate the sport and it’s a concept that works in business too.

They see projects through to completion and learn from defeat

Unlike the entertainment industry where an individual can seemingly become a ‘celebrity’ overnight, success in sport, as in business, is a long-term process, with years of preparation going into training, strategy and execution. In sport, athletes can spend countless hours preparing for a competition that’s measured in seconds. As crushing as it can be to lose, athletes have the ability to pick themselves up, learn from the experience and take on their next challenge. Perhaps it’s best summed up by Michael Jordan, widely renowned as basketball’s best ever player.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

What that can mean to you

Over the last 18 years at Robertson, we have sourced and recruited 100’s of Athletes for our clients. Year after year these clients will request some athletic experience as part of the candidate’s profile. These clients know that the athletic population has a great track record, with a desire to move vertically. Companies are always looking to get a competitive edge and hiring an athlete may be the fastest way to get there.