Leadership and Competitive Sports

Most human resources professionals or recruiters have struggled with interview questions that get to the heart of important characteristics such as work ethic, achievement mentality, teamwork, and leadership. To simply ask “do you have a hard-working, team oriented, leadership ethic?” will also get the answer “Why, yes!” And the interviewer has no clearer understanding of these characteristics. Situational and behavior-based questions do a better job, but some interviewers are looking to drill more into the underlying personality to find out what drives and motivates a person. It’s also important to ensure that any questions asked are valid and as unbiased as possible.

With these things in mind one of my new favorite interview questions is to ask about whether or not the individual ever participated in sports or other team or individual competition. A follow-up question could be related to whether the activity was recreational, community-based, or competitive (and the ideal answer to that question would depend on the nature of the position you are seeking to fill). From my own experience in raising two children who each gravitated toward different recreational programs, I discovered that when someone become passionate about a sport or hobby or program, they will work extremely hard to participate in that activity.

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Knowing that a person loved soccer, or baseball or jazz dance so much that they would practice up to 20 hours a week after school (and sometimes before school) just to achieve the next level in that activity tells a great deal about that individual’s work ethic. Knowing from an interview that the person you eventually hire has been that involved and passionate about achieving something is important. The hard part for a leader then, is finding a way to ignite that motivation and passion for the work you expect from your newly hired team member.

What “non-work-related” interview questions do you use when hiring individuals to determine their leadership potential?  Add a comment and join the conversation.