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Hire the Triathlete

By Brad Kirley | Jan. 26, 2018, 7:01 p.m. (ET)

Brad Kirley

Many years ago, I was managing the technical systems engineers for a large worldwide computer company. I was going to open a demonstration center in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. I had posted two jobs for the new center, one a technical person to set up and monitor all the equipment, and the other to be the center manager and run things. There were several candidates, all of them technical people, and I had narrowed my choices down to two candidates I felt would make the center a success.

With only one day left with the posting up on the company website, a sales manager came into my office and said he had a sales rep he’d like for me to interview for one of the jobs. Oh great, I thought to myself. Just what I need, a burned-out sales rep who wants to get out of the weekly quota game of “What have you sold this week?” But, the sales manager was a friend of mine and out of courtesy to him, I said, “Sure, have her come by tomorrow.”

The next day, at the appointed time, she showed up and introduced herself to me and I ran her through my normal interview questions. To my surprise, she did very well but not good enough to make the top two. She wasn’t qualified or interested in the “techie” role but in the center manager job. I thanked her for coming by and was about to push her out the door when she dropped her ace in the hole. She asked about my triathlons. It was well known around the company that I did tris so that was not surprising to have her ask me about them. But then I asked her if she did any running or tris and, of course, she said yes — she was a triathlete and had done several races. So, we spent the next half hour, almost as long as my original interview questioning had lasted, talking tris and racing and training and everything else tri geeks talk about when first they meet.

So, in the end, I hired one of the techies for the equipment job and her for the manager role. I knew that as a triathlete, she would do whatever it took to make the center a success and that put her above the other candidates. That turned out to be correct. One day, I went by the center and she was in jeans and a sweatshirt, cleaning some tables and chairs with a bucket of soap and water. “Where did you get all this?” I asked. “You know we don’t have money in the budget for this.”

“I know,” she replies, “But I found it stored away in a warehouse and found out who owned it and they said I could have it if I moved it and cleaned it up.”

The next day, I go by the center and she is in a business suit, giving the corporate pitch to a large group from a prospective customer. That is what I knew would happen. She turned out to be great in the job.

We have both moved on; I retired and she has changed jobs several times, advancing every time as she climbs the corporate ladder of success. We still do several tris together every year and are still good friends. So, if you are in doubt, hire the triathlete and if you are a triathlete interviewing for a job, show them this article. Hire the triathlete.

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