Three Qualities Employers Look For When Hiring in The Sports Industry

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

This past summer I led I let a group of graduate students at Idaho State University in a class entitled Athletics in the West. It’s a weeklong field trip where we tour various athletic facilities and interview athletic professionals both at the college level and professional level so that the students can get a feel for the industry. This was my first year of teaching this class.

In years past the class went from Idaho through Wyoming and Colorado, and back home. They stopped at various Division I athletic departments, Division II athletic departments, and professional sport organizations. This summer I decided that the class would head a different direction. We decided to explore the differences between various organizations in Idaho and Washington. We began by traveling from Pocatello over to Boise and up to Lewiston Idaho. There we began our adventure by touring the athletic facilities at Lewis-Clark State College. They have a visionary athletic director who presented some of the best athletic facilities in the NAIA. Later that day we toured the athletic facilities at the University of Idaho. Their associate athletic director was so gracious in providing his time, vision, and insights into the profession. This first day allowed us to compare the differences in facilities, staffing levels, vision, and strategies between a high-level NAIA school compared with a Non-Power 5 athletic department. The difference in facilities and staffing levels was significant. The Division I institution was bigger in everything – staffing, facilities, vision, and strategy. The employees were similar though – very nice, friendly, and professional. During our visits at both schools, one of our students asked each athletic professional what they look for when hiring people.

The next day we visited the athletic department at Washington State University. The senior associate athletic director provided a tremendous opportunity for our class. He gave us a thorough tour of their new and renovated facilities, their branding strategies, and provided insights into the industry that can only be gained by visiting with a seasoned college athletic administrator. After a three-hour tour of the athletic facilities and picking-the brain of one of the most respected athletic administrators in the country, our campus tour moved across campus and concluded with a two-hour visit of the recreation department. Once again, at both stops, the student asked the same question about what they look for when hiring people.

This theme continued as the next day we visited with a first class football coach at the University of Washington. We toured their facilities, and visited on the vision and culture that makes Huskies football outstanding. Our trip concluded with the class touring CenturyLink Field (Seahawks and Sounders) and Safeco Field (Mariners). With each stop came the same question – What do you look for when hiring employees.

While the answer to this question varied slightly from each athletic professional, there was a definite pattern that crossed over to every person at every sports organization. What these athletic professionals are looking for when hiring employees is loyalty, work ethic, and positive attitude. Our students thought the answers would be more in alignment with having a certain type of college degree, a certain number of years of experience, or even a certain type of skill. These latter qualities are either part of the minimum qualifications for the job, and therefore every applicant has them, or they can be gained on the job. The bottom line is – employers want positive people who work hard and are loyal. If a future employer were to call your references, would they say that you are an upbeat positive person, that you work hard, and that you are loyal? Just some food for thought.


Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University. He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach. He is also an author of 9 books. Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at or his new book Execute for Success at  


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“I have recommended this book to many aspiring sports administrators.  This is a must read for anyone who wants to work in college athletics”

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Director of Athletics
Sonoma State University