Does Leadership on the Field Get You Noticed Off It?: The Value of Varsity Sports to Corporate Recruiters




athletics, leadership skills, workplace skills, job screening, college recruiters, corporate careers, correspondence study


An online correspondence study was conducted to explore whether professional recruiters screening candidates for entry-level corporate jobs would view leadership skills acquired through high level participation in amateur sports at the collegiate varsity level more favorably than those acquired through non-sports activities. The experimental manipulation randomly varied candidates’ athletic v. non-athletic leadership experience at university, their gender, and race. Eight hundred and twenty-eight corporate recruiters rated four potential candidate profiles on four of eight job-relevant leadership traits/skills they valued most when assessing a candidate and ranked the candidates for a callback interview. Varsity athletes were rated higher than non-athletes on the ability to work in a team and on being results-driven. However, recruiters rated athletes lower in critical thinking, follow-through on tasks, and organizational skills. Overall, athletes were no more likely than non-athlete candidates to be selected for a first interview. Results are interpreted in the context of signaling theory.

Author Biography

Allison Joye Tracy, 2M Research

Senior Statistician

Social, Behavioral & Methodological Sciences Practice

2M Research Services,



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