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What sports performance employers want

What do people really look for when they’re recruiting staff?

You might have seen me talking about what sports performance employers want from practitioners before. It is so important, but I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about it before. So here you are. this is a brief overview of 25 years of asking (discussion and formal survey) sports performance employers what they are looking for when they the are recruiting sports science and medicine staff.

When we ask employers what they want when you’re looking for practitioners, they respond with;

“They just get it”

While this speaks to a simple, uncomplicated and “we don’t really want to have to think about it and develop it” response – it isn’t that helpful in terms of checking, nurturing and showcasing the right skills so they can see that “you just get it'”

When we dig down further – we’ve asked what do you mean? The top 3 qualities people want from you are;

Character and attitude

This is the most highly rated quality

When we ask exactly what do they mean by ‘character and attitude‘ they respond;

  • Trustworthy and able to create rapport
  • Showing initiative and proactivity
  • Being adaptable to changing needs

So essentially they mean ‘the right character and attitude’ My interpretation of this is that employers want to people they can work with, not that are hard work. Make it easy for people by being someone who turns up in the right way every day.

Next in order of priority they are looking for…


When we ask exactly what do they mean by ‘self-management‘ they respond;

  • Self-awareness and the ability to recognise what you do well and less well
  • Ability to perform well under pressure
  • Resilience and the ability to recover quickly from setbacks

My interpretation of this is that employers need people first and foremost that are aware, don’t present as perfect, and show some humity. Next they are able to work effectively – whatever the circumstances, not just day-to-day in the office, but when there is something to be won-and-lost. These are the moments that matter and how you respond in these moment are magnified.

Next, employers are looking for;

Team Skills

By which they rate the following as the most important aspects;

  • Able to develop and maintain working relationships (see rapport above)
  • Able to work constructively to a common goal
  • Ability to deal with conflict (see self-awareness and resilience above)

My interpretation of this is that while this ranks 3rd, it is probably the biggest differentiator in terms of selecting candidates. There is a disdain and fatigue from employers when character and self-management are absent, e.g. one performance director said to me, “I just need good people who can work effectively”, i.e. annoying people who misfire – are the opposite of what we need.

Once you have these two basic elements in place, then team skills come to the fore and will be one of the most important considerations when choosing candidates to employ.

What can you do?

Look back over the 3 headlines and the 3 sub-points. How are you training these qualities day-in-day-out?Then ask how are you showing these every day? How are you able to inject more of these in your job applications?


These are the qualities employers need from you. Focus on these as the bedrock of your performance!