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From interviews to internships: how we landed at ESPN

Updated: Jun 22, 2023


Hi friends,


Last week we introduced ourselves and what interested us in sports. Now, let’s dive into how we got into the industry (and how you can too)! We’ll start by talking internships. Relevant coursework is great, but most organizations want to see some type of work experience, even if it’s not necessarily related to your dream career. We cover the basic types of internships, when to apply, and what to expect with each in our free Intro to Internships downloadable, available below.


The most important thing to remember is that the application, interview, and hiring process takes time and varies for every unique role and organization. To illustrate that point, we wanted to share how we got our ESPN internships. While we were working for the same company, we were in different departments which meant vastly different experiences leading up to landing the job.


DOWNLOADABLE_Intro to Internships
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Download PDF • 487KB

Meghan

As part of the sport management major requirements at the University of Delaware, I had to complete a nine-credit capstone internship with a sports organization prior to graduation. As such, I started looking for summer roles very early in my junior year. My mom was the one who sent me the ESPN Stats and Info Group internship and encouraged me to apply. After updating my LinkedIn and bolstering my resume with relevant school experience, including my roles with the athletic department, the student-run radio station, and the newspaper, I filled out a basic online application. Besides my resume, I answered a few sport-specific questions and uploaded a cover letter highlighting my interest in the role and experience using analytics to tell the story of a game. And then, I waited…and waited…and waited.


While I’d submitted the application in early November, I didn’t hear anything back for over two months, which had me convinced that I hadn’t gotten the position. Then, in mid-January, I received an email congratulating me on moving through the initial screening process and inviting me to take a “sports knowledge assessment”.

Given the nature of a sports researcher’s role, which requires providing immediate stats-based reactions to live events, researching relevant storylines, creating new angles to tell the same stories, and writing copy for anchors before and during shows, the Stats and Info Group, more than any other department at ESPN, needed people who were very knowledgeable and well-versed in sports history. A 60-minute, 60-question online exam in a lockdown browser, the assessment was designed to weed out casual sports fans and identify those who possessed the combination of historical knowledge and research abilities to be successful. I had to complete the assessment within a week of receiving the email. Because UD has a long winter break, I was still home at that point. Nervous, I enlisted my family’s help, asking my parents and younger brother Ryan to be on hand to help if called upon. We sat at the kitchen table with our laptops ready. When I started, I began reading the questions aloud in case my family needed to look them up. But I quickly realized that I knew nearly everything that was asked, yelling out answers almost immediately. The questions covered everything from general knowledge to ability to read box scores to spelling and grammar (for example, I had to pick out the correct spelling of Mark Teixeira), and more.


While I finished feeling confident, having not required any help from my supportive family, there was no instant feedback, as I didn’t receive my score, just a message that recruiters would be in touch if I’d advanced. Once again, I waited. After what felt like forever but was probably more like a few weeks, I received an email inviting me to set up an interview with the SIG recruiter. That call was the easiest of the entire process, as it was simply questions about my background and experience and why I wanted to work in statistics. Fast forward another week or two and I was notified that I’d advanced to the fourth round of the application process. This time, I was interviewing directly with a SIG manager. To prepare, I brushed up on the latest headlines in all of the major sports, plus others that were on ESPN’s air. While I always stayed up to date on sports news, I distinctly remember taking in-depth notes and asking my best friends, Dave and Adam, to quiz me. When the day came for the phone interview in late February, I answered questions like, “If you were asked to pitch a SportsCenter show group a storyline on a potential sleeper team for the upcoming MLB season, who would it be and what statistics would you use to highlight that?” (I chose the Pirates, who had assembled their best pitching staff, on paper, in years and had a wealth of minor-league talent) and “what are three storylines/golfers to watch at this year’s Masters?” (Honestly, no idea what I said for this one but I know I referenced the notes I’d taken to prepare, as I don’t follow golf closely.)


It was after this interview that the process really sped up. I received an email the next week to set up yet another interview with another member of the department. This happened six more times, as they continued to narrow down the applicant pool from 10,000+ to two. My last and final interview was with a senior director and once again involved multi-part questions designed to test my knowledge and ability to think quickly and creatively.


After the assessment and seven stressful interviews, I was hopeful but continued to apply for other roles. In fact, during the last week of March I was offered roles with Turnkey Sports and NBC Sports Philadelphia. Asked to notify them of my decision by the end of the week, I decided to wait a few days, hoping to hear from ESPN.


The frantic email mentioned below :)

While home for spring break that week, I was out shopping with my Gram and Pop. That’s when the call I’d been waiting for finally came…the only problem? I accidentally rejected it. See, we were checking out at JoAnn Fabrics (don’t be jealous of my wild spring break) when my phone rang with a number I recognized as the ESPN recruiter I’d interviewed with months earlier. Moments before, my Gram had insisted I look up a coupon for her and at the exact moment I went to tap the coupon on my phone, the call came through and I accidentally declined it. Panicked, I ran outside to call back. Of course, it went to voicemail, so I fired off a quick email to the recruiter, who assured me she’d call back in an hour. It might as well have been a year, I was so nervous, but as you know by now, it all worked out! I was offered the job and immediately accepted.


Sam

While it was for the same company, my application and interview process was significantly different. Working for ESPN had always been a dream of mine, so I was focused on gaining as much experience as possible while in college. Naturally, that meant an internship. I began researching opportunities and of course started with the Worldwide Leader. That’s how I discovered that espnW had posted a 10-week summer internship position in Bristol. I was instantly interested and talked to my mentor C.L. Brown, then a writer for espn.com. Not only did he encourage me to apply, he then assisted with the entire process.


While I don’t remember how early I applied, I do remember making sure my LinkedIn was up to date to include the work I’d done with ESPN’s Campus Connections and the UNC Athletic Department. Afterwards, an ESPN recruiter reached out for an initial phone screening, which involved some simple questions about my resume.


In total, I believe I had four interviews. After speaking with the recruiter, I advanced to the next round and had the chance to meet with an espnW employee, then with Laura Gentile, SVP of espnW, and Carol Stiff, then VP of Women Sports Programming. Prior to those calls, I did an insane amount of research! I think I read every single article on the espnW site, lol. I also looked up everyone who worked in the department, read up on their backgrounds, and then connected with them on LinkedIn. From a sports preparation perspective, I researched current events in women’s athletics, such as brushing up on the US Women’s National Team ahead of that summer’s World Cup.


One of the most important things I did was prepare questions for my interviewers. Ahead of each new call, I prepped unique and specific questions, often times referencing their past experience as a way to show I’d done my homework (it sounds like a small detail, but this can help differentiate you from the thousands of others applying for a position in sports). I also practiced a brief introduction about myself and my experiences. In total, I spent several hours preparing for each round.


Finally, in late April, I received a call from ESPN offering me the job! I was thrilled! I accepted on the spot and immediately called my parents to tell them the news. I’m not sure who was more excited. They even bought me an ESPN cake to celebrate!

 

The takeaway: no two interview experiences are the same. The application process can vary wildly, even for roles within the same company. Still, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success in every situation.


First, research the types of internships available (in-semester, post-graduate, etc.) and decide what works for you. The type of internship will often dictate when and how you apply. For more info on that, plus what you need to apply, how to follow up, and more, check out our free Intro to Internships downloadable.


Next, make sure your resume is mistake-free and professional. Not sure what to include or how to present the information? We can help, with The empowHERed Sports Resume Checklist.


DOWNLOADABLE_The empowHERed Resume Checklist
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Download PDF • 174KB

Last but certainly not least, prepare, prepare, prepare! This step is critical. Hiring managers sort through thousands of qualified applicants and are looking for reasons to eliminate people. One of the easiest ways to take yourself out of the running is by failing to do the necessary research into the organization, role, and interviewer. So do your homework and take advantage of empowHERed’s interview prep, resume reviews, and other resources to help you land the role of your dreams!


To all of our empowHERed women currently searching for an internship or job, good luck! We hope we can be of help and would love to hear from you as you navigate this journey. And remember, you’re awesome and you belong here!



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