Denzel was athletic and knew he was in excellent shape. He was surprised, however, that, in each of his eight interviews, he had been asked about his four years of college soccer and the fitness involved in the program, even though that was six years and three jobs ago. There was a lot of interest in the fact that he had been recruited as part of a group of six men whom the new coach hoped would turn the program around. The college had suffered through a number of years of losing seasons.
Denzel told the interviewers, with some pride, that his team was 8-8 the first year and then the program took off. They won the league championship, and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I championships their junior and senior years.
When Denzel met Calvin at the end of the second day of interviewing, Calvin had a few more questions. Calvin asked Denzel to describe what an average day was like at school.
Denzel told Calvin he would be up before class to do his weight lifting, spend the day in class, followed by two hours at practice, dinner, and studying. Calvin also asked about fitness in preparation for the following season.
Denzel responded, “For each player, Coach established an individual plan that was expected to be accomplished over the summer. He indicated the expected increase in each of the various exercises in weight training. In addition, all of us knew that we would have the Cooper test on the first day back in the fall. That involved a two-mile run followed by a one-minute rest and another mile that had to be accomplished in 17.5 minutes. In order to pass that test, you had to run combinations of sprints, middle distances, and long distances every day in the summer. If you didn’t pass the Cooper, you weren’t on the team.”
Calvin thanked Denzel for coming in, and indicated they’d like him to come back for one more round of interviews the following morning at 8:00. The next morning, Calvin started Denzel on a series of six interviews plus a lunch with yet another group of associates. The day ended at 6:30 p.m. Throughout the interviews, there were many more questions about Denzel’s fitness training and interests.
At the end of the day, Denzel saw Calvin again. This time he didn’t hold back. Denzel asked, “Calvin, why has there been so much interest in my college soccer experience and fitness program when it was six years ago?”
Calvin responded, “Denzel, we know that you are smart enough to work with us. We have checked you out academically in every way possible. Your experience is also appropriate. But you have no idea what it takes to be successful here. We have had many very smart people come here with great expectations and quit within six months to a year.”
“Why?” Denzel asked.
Calvin went on, “Energy and fitness are critical in our business. As you know, we work under great pressure. When we are interested in buying or selling one of the companies in our inventory, there is usually a very tight time frame. The deal will be done either quickly, or not at all. Sometimes you’ll be working seven days a week for extremely long days, often 18 hours at a time. On occasion, you’ll need to work with your team straight through the night to make a deadline. This rigorous pace could go on for a number of weeks. The regimen you followed for four years of college soccer is way beyond what most people would be able or willing to do. We have found that success in college athletics has a high correlation with success at our company. Almost everyone here competed in college sports.”
Calvin went on, “One thing I forgot to mention. We will often fly home from halfway around the world on a Sunday, and need to be back in the office on Monday. Each person has his or her own way of adjusting to jet lag, but a number of us have determined that the fastest way to shake the time adjustment is to take a 10 mile run. We often do it together.”
“There is another consideration that is incredibly important to us: teamwork. We are very apolitical in this company. We are focused on determining and reaching our goals and not on internal politics. We are also very thinly staffed. Consequently, having each person pull his or her own weight is critical. We are literally right next to one another in cramped quarters for hours at a time, and we require cooperation and good humor in working together. It’s probably obvious that we need to love our work. Do you understand now why we spent so much time on your college athletics and fitness?”
Denzel was silent for what seemed like a long time. Then he responded, “I see what you mean. This is a huge commitment, but I’m willing to make it. If I’m offered a position, I think I’ll do a great job.” Calvin responded, “I think you will, too.” Shortly thereafter, Denzel was offered a position and accepted it with full knowledge of the expectations and the rewards involved.