Getting Over the Fear of Interviews

In my last 2 installments, I brought you interviews with 3 former student-athletes. Today, I flipped the script and spoke with 3 senior members of the Center for Career Management at Purdue University Northwest including: Samantha Horn – Employer Relations Specialist, Emily Lane – Career Counselor & Training Program Supervisor, and Joelynn Stephen – Associate Director of Career Management. Together, these 3 ladies provided clarity on what companies look for when searching for employees.

*This interview has been lightly edited for clarity

Q: What traits do student-athletes have that employers look for in potential hires?

A: After speaking with various employers about what they like about student-athletes, leadership was consistently at the top of the list with dedication, determination, and self-discipline not far behind. Being able to take constructive criticism in order to improve is vital in the workforce and athletes have experienced constructive criticism their whole life. Employers also love the ability athletes have to successfully manage their school & team responsibilities because it shows great time management skills. This builds trust as it demonstrated an ability to multitask and prioritize tasks.

Q: How can student-athletes use their experience to their advantage?

A: Resume-wise, including a skills section is very useful. This also helps with keywords in your resume that employers are often looking for. Having a section dedicated to your athletics is extremely important – discuss what you do and the achievements you have had. Student-athletes will want to be sure a potential employer is aware of their student-athlete status, particularly on a resume and during an interview. Such time-intensive, on-campus involvement shows an employer that a student is engaged, multi-faceted, and doing more than the minimum. In an interview, a student-athlete could answer a behavior-based interview question by sharing a story about an event that occurred on the team and how the student handled the situation. Student-athletes should emphasize the skills they’ve developed through athletics, particularly the ones that are relevant to the workplace such as communication, dependability, preparedness, and leadership.

Q: Athletes often feel lost once their career is over, how can current student-athletes set themselves up for success after their athletic career whether it is going to graduate school or looking for a job?

A: A few general things: make sure and network, network, network – who you know and have a good professional relationship with matters. This will help you find positions that maybe otherwise you would not. Often athletes cannot do as many internships because of their busy schedules, so networking is VITAL for this group. Also, keep up with your chosen field – be up to date on trends in your major and industry. Counseling and career counseling are also free services available to all students and we would highly recommend either or both to help process emotions and plan the next steps. Former student-athletes can still be involved in athletics as a hobby, which can help contribute to overall physical and mental health.

Q: Student-athletes often excel on the playing field.  How can they take that confidence and carry it into an interview?

A: As athletes are well aware – practice makes you better. Have multiple mock interviews. Athlete or not, this is important. Also, work on self-awareness – know yourself. Know your strengths and areas for growth – and be able to communicate those in an interview. You have worked hard as an athlete, now show that you will give that same passion and drive in the workforce. It’s a transferable skill – to work hard and “not give up.”  Show them that this is you!

Q: How can athletes make sure they don’t lose their competitive fire when entering the real world and starting a job?

A: Be self-aware, know this is something that could happen if you let it happen. If you are truly competitive by nature, it will stay with you. The workforce IS competitive in and of itself, so if you remember this, and then harness your internal drive to be competitive, you will be just fine. Also, if you have a passion for athletics, don’t let it go completely! Life gets busy, yes, but it’s important to find time to still “play the game” if only for fun. This will help keep your spirit active and alive, so to speak. It’s so important for all students to spend time really looking into what career fields interest them AND would be a good fit for their own preferences and values. It’s not enough to be good at something because that alone won’t keep someone motivated and interested in the career long-term. Many student-athletes find that they are naturally competitive, and some career paths and work environments are a better match for that trait.


Samantha Horn – Employer Relations Specialist

Emily Lane – Career Counselor & Training Program Supervisor

Joelynn Stephen – Associate Director of Career Management

About the Author

Kane Clendenen is a student intern for Game Plan.  Currently, he is a junior at Purdue University Northwest majoring in Business Analytics and Finance while also balancing time as a member of the PNW Baseball team.  His future plans include attending Law School and pursuing a J.D./M.B.A. dual degree.

About Game Plan

Game Plan’s comprehensive software platform integrates mobile-first eLearning as well as virtual mentorship and career services, uniquely designed for athletic organizations. Game Plan works with 875+ athletic departments and organizations with over 240,000 courses completed yearly. Our eLearning courses provide student-athletes ultimate access and flexibility while equipping both athletics departments and the conference office management tools and insight to ensure outstanding experiences and outcomes. To learn more about Game Plan, please visit