The job search process isn’t for the faint of heart. Putting together a resume with a vibrant summary of your professional qualifications that feels like a handshake is an art. Writing a cover letter that’s individualized and stands out with some flair takes courage. And when we feel successful (and have asked our grammar enthusiast friends to review!), we hold our breath for a second and hit the “send” button.
As soon as your resume and cover letter arrive in the inbox of a Human Resource professional or a headhunter, the questions cycle in our head. Is the new format of my resume too flashy? Do I have key data that really articulate my accomplishments in my work experience section? Does my summary focus on what I can do for this potential employer without sounding too brazen? And of course, were there any typos?
But along with the standard experiential sections on a resume, research shows that there’s a new question to consider–should you list sports experience on a resume? Both team and individual sports teach discipline, goal setting, accountability, focus, and how to lose (hopefully graciously!). Team sports also add the competencies of collaboration and communication. Balancing the discipline of being an athlete and being a student is a great selling point for any career. Women maintaining the “student-athlete” identity in their career trajectory will ultimately give us more women who will also own the words leader, frontrunner, chief or captain, team player; all positive archetypes for career advancement and success.
Now there’s new research from Ernst & Young (Chozet, 2014) showing that the career success and hiring process is influenced by sports. The research report, Making the Connection: Women, Sport and Leadership, is based on a survey of 400 women executives, conducted across Europe, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific. Half of those surveyed were in the C-suite, meaning that they were serving on the board of directors at a company or in another C-level position, such as CEO, CFO or COO. The remaining people surveyed were in other management positions.
Ninety-four percent of the respondents had participated in sport and close to three-quarters agreed that a background in sport could help accelerate a woman’s leadership and career potential. Close to two-thirds said that past sporting involvement contributed to their current career success, and more than two-thirds highlighted a background in sport as a positive influence on their decision to hire a candidate.
The beliefs of women in these hiring positions, influencing their organization’s culture or guiding those in the hiring process, reveals some interesting new insights that might affect whether you put your tennis or lacrosse experience on your resume.
- C-suite women are more likely than average to say that a candidate’s background in sport influences their hiring decision: 75% vs. 58% overall. They put a particular premium on the discipline it requires compared to other experiences.
- C-suite women note that their competitiveness has been a bigger factor in their careers than more junior women: 37% cite this as a key factor, compared with 26% of others.
- C-suite women are more likely to think that women who have played sport often make good employees: 77% agree, compared with 64%.
So before you hit “send” and your resume flies through cyberspace, make sure you have included your time on the court or playing field. And better yet, weave in the skills sport taught you into the cover letter or interview. Owning the power skills you developed as an athlete will surely be noticed by a smart recruiter, and, as this research shows, your time as an athlete will also advance your career!