How hard is it to get a job in Performance Analysis.
This is a guest post (posted anomalously).
This post won’t discuss the roles and responsibilities of a PA nor how we need to continually up skill in our profession. Instead I will examine (using self-collected data) and discuss how difficult it is to get a job in the industry. One misconception I had when I started writing this blog post was that it was essential to have a performance analysis degree to get a job in the industry. I randomly selected 100 analyst’s LinkedIn profiles from different sports at different levels worldwide. I considered their current job and their BSc degree. Based on the results, only 21% of the analysts had a PA undergraduate degree. The sample was indeed small yet a clear trend was emerging. How and why? Thankfully somebody on Twitter asked why:
Job Applications in PA
A lot of clubs and businesses want the benefits that analysis provides but are not willing to pay for it. Most of are trying to sneak the “gaining first-hand experience” as a benefit. The most recent job that caused outrage in our analysis community was the Head of Sports Science at Blackpool FC. A once off? No, it happens across the board. Below are just a couple of examples.
To give an insight into how hard it is to break into the industry, I decided to collect some data. The data collection procedure was very simple. For the past 20 months or so, I kept a record of all job applications (n=140) in PA that I applied for. Without having to check my database,
98% of the jobs were advertised in the UK with the other 2% stagnated across Germany, France, Ireland, Switzerland and the USA.
I used Tableau to visualise the results in the dashboard below. While this data includes numerous different sports (football, rugby, hockey & netball), the overall story is the same – it’s more an industry wide problem than sport specific. The 140 jobs are distributed as shown by the number in each country.
From the dashboard, we can see several stories arise. Recently, one of my Facebook friends asked if it is normal to not hear back after applying for a job. Sadly, yes, it is. How can we as applicants be confident that our application was even skimmed through never mind received? Answer is we can’t! What happened to the days of receiving at least a “thank you but no thank you”?
Over the past 20 months or so, I have had some truly memorable encounters with sports clubs regarding job applications. I received feedback in just 1 out of every 5 applications or 18% to be exact. I have been stood up for interview, dealt with rude and unfriendly staff when asking for feedback over the phone, 1) waited three months for an answer to a job interview I flew out for and 2) never heard back after an interview. The reality is that this happens to everyone and I am confident this is bigger than just an industry wide issue.
I always asked why my application was unsuccessful now and very often (if I ever received a reply) it was along these lines:
“I am sorry to inform you that we are not able to offer you an interview for this particular role. We are unable to provide feedback to each individual applicant due to the high volume of applications received”.
Some analysts though, got back to me and I respect that immensely. Feedback is vital, regardless of critical or constructive. Why can’t a short email to a candidate be written? TIME. Unfortunately, it is limited. Yet, some analysts and clubs find the time. KUDOS to you!
While I did not agree with everything they said, it certainly helped me prepare for future applications. For example, I have a pretty good understanding how to code games from different PA software. While stating this in my Cover Letter, it was suggested that I need more experience of a certain type of match coding software, specifically SportsCode. However, it is one or THE most expensive software available and therefore, I would probably only be available to afford a two-week trial version at best.
As hard as it is to swallow, you must look for the positives from the experience. I have numerously had to tell myself that “I did not fail but they did” …They did by choosing to pass on the best candidate in the room”. If I accepted failure, I know it would only crush me. Over the period, I told myself several things:
- They have lost out on an outstanding candidate
- Just because I don’t know this or that, I am no less qualified than candidate X
- They were wrong and they will regret it
- I got to visit a new place on Planet earth 😊
- That working environment was not for me
That last sentence often made me think. It’s not often we as candidates walk away from the job questioning if that job was really for me. We so badly want that job we don’t question whether it was a GOOD FIT for US.
This last part is for clubs/hiring managers and so forth. Something to consider…how to recruit smarter! Some clubs innovate across all departments – It is very evident! What shocks me is how job applications are handled; they are frankly outdated! Some were very innovative while others were the standard dinosaur application form and terribly formatted.
Towards the end of summer 2017, I saw this very unusual Recruitment Analyst position based just outside London. All they wanted was a CV. Along with the job description they provided
a link to random data of approx. 20 players. The applicants were asked to discuss (using the data) which player the club should sign and why. Talk about testing the applicant’s theory and applied knowledge as well as data visualisation, communication and presentation skills!
I hope this blog post has been 1) insightful and 2) thought provoking for several reasons. It highlights important issues that analysts face daily while trying to start/further their careers. My advice to any students thinking about a career in sport, is to take a step back and think if it is worth it. Yes, I am serious! I urge you to consider how you can add “value” to the sport in a different capacity. For example, over the last year or so, the demand for data analysts & data scientists has been noticeable. Why not combine the two together and have a more direct impact at club level and possibly even recruitment?