The Impact of Including Athletics in Your Resume

A good resume highlights one’s ability and achievements and is simultaneously eye-catching and memorable. This fact is hardly groundbreaking. The art of curating the perfect resume isn’t an easy task; creating the ideal balance of likeability and hireability is difficult, especially when you might not have extensive work experience or groundbreaking accomplishments. The big question for a lot of college athletes is how much or how little they should include their athletic achievements. I spoke to three professionals in different fields who deal with hiring new personnel to see exactly what they thought about seeing athletics on a candidate’s resume. 

When considering a prospective candidate, would seeing leadership positions or high-level achievements in athletics give you a particular image of the candidate right off the bat?

Alexandra Trower, Executive Vice President, Global Communications, The Estée Lauder Companies:

Yes. I think that athletics, especially at the college level, indicate that a candidate has a passion and understands that the way to win/succeed requires a commitment, dedication and a huge amount of hard work, some of which is just a really tough slog. I also find that athletes have a good, real life understanding of the importance of teamwork which is so critical to success. Additionally, many athletes bring an excellent understanding of the group or team winning as a whole and not as a standalone superstar. 

Kate Huncke, M.D., Clinical Professor, Vice Chairman, NYU Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative Service and Pain Medicine:

I interview medical students for our residency program. Medical students who played college level sports do get special attention in the selection process. The residency committee feels that students who could balance college level sports and the demands of a premed curriculum demonstrate exceptional achievement. Also, doctors work as teams so these students always function and interact very well with their colleagues. They are extremely disciplined and understand sacrifice. They get the idea of delayed gratification, which med students must embrace because the training is so long. Our former athletes are often chosen as the chief residents during the last year of their training.

Jon Lindsey, New York founding partner of Major, Lindsey & Africa, the world’s largest (and #1 ranked) legal search firm:

Yes—if team captain, suggests someone with leadership skills who works well with others; if high level achievement, bespeaks someone with grit, perseverance, determination. Simply being member of a team, for me, would not be a particularly strong positive for a resume. Worth including but closer to an extracurricular that does not relate to the job.

What advantages do you think experience in athletics brings to a workplace? How about disadvantages? 

Alexandra Trower:

Advantages- time management, prioritization, understanding of personal trade offs, passion, work ethic, tenacity, winning spirit, commitment. 

Disadvantages- sometimes very successful athletes bring an outsized ego and self-important perspective, which makes them prima donnas and not great teammates or employees. 

Kate Huncke:

Some of our high achieving athletes were not ready for med school when they graduated from college. They didn't take the premed courses or their grades were not good enough so they went back to school to bring up their GPA. They still perform very well as doctors.

Would you ever take into account the time spent on athletics as a justification for slightly substandard academic achievements? 

Alexandra Trower: 

Not really.  I can see struggling with a particular class or area of study (for example, organic chemistry might have been a bear on its own and all of the traveling for games, etc. made that extra lab work really hard to do).  Important to note though that some of the very, very best people I have worked for and with are people who went to average colleges/universities, didn't have great test scores and were not academic super stars. But they are great at strategy, execute with excellence, go the extra mile, see several steps ahead of everyone else, are terrific to work with, and the "what" they deliver and the "how" they deliver it are outstanding. 

Kate Huncke:

Academic college performance doesn't come into play during the residency selection process. The young adults I interview are at the end of medical school. We look at their med school performance and Board scores, but the previous athletic achievement pulls them up. It would be interesting to know if med school selection committees give athletes a bit of break. I suspect they do. 

Jon Lindsey:

It would have to be very slight unless the athletic achievement was unusual. If going to the Olympics, lesser academics might be explainable (but you would want something else on the resume to indicate that the individual is in fact bright). But would I favor a cum laude/magna/summa non-athlete over a varsity athlete graduating without honors? All other things being equal, yes I would.

There isn’t really an argument against the fact that athletics really do add something unique and valuable to a resume. After speaking with a career counselor about the inclusion of athletics in a resume he agreed, but definitely emphasized the fact that people may have subjective ideas about content and value based on the things they have done. “It depends on how the employer is viewing it [athletics] in terms of your relative experience,” he remarked. Also of note, athletics can be invaluable in regards to networking since bonding over a particular sport can be an instant, memorable connection. When creating a resume, it is important to emphasize your passion and dexterity, regardless of whether it is on the field or in a completely different one.