I can only speak from my own experience interviewing with the Browns. I have heard interviews being similar but each GM has their own hiring process and way of evaluating prospective scouts.
The year was 2016. After two years in the equipment staff, I had made my desire known that I wanted to transition into scouting. I had concluded my time with equipment at the end of 2015-16 season and had worked externally for the Browns scouting staff leading into the 2016 draft. After the draft was when the hiring cycle was in full swing and I had managed to line myself up with an interview. I had dreamed about becoming a scout since I pledged my fandom to the Browns at nine years old. The opportunity to get better through the draft and free agency was always my favorite part. Diving through mock drafts after week 2 was a yearly tradition. So, you can imagine the fear and anxiety that this opportunity with the Browns presented. To help bring a winner to the city of Cleveland and the team I had adored since I was just a boy.
I was confident that I had done all I could, that I had the knowledge necessary to add value to the scouting department, and that I had a real feel for how to evaluate and write up reports. Looking back now, boy, was I naive. That naivete, however, likely helped my confidence and allowed me to overcome my fears.
In preparation for the interview, I had written reports and scoured through every possible interview question that could be asked. I had practiced over and over the answers to every one of these questions. I mock interviewed with family members constantly. Yet, looking back, I was not prepared. This is THE main reason I created Elite Scout School. I had no idea what I didn’t know. I wish I had the Elite Scout School resources back then.
I felt that my football knowledge was dense and my evaluations were strong but scouting is a language and evaluation is an art. I didn’t know how to properly format a report. I didn’t know how to match the report substance with the grades given for traits and position specifics. I didn’t know how to identify what traits were poor, below average, average, good, or elite. I didn’t know the resources scouts used to help make accurate evaluations and compare traits to what’s already in the league. I had no baseline for what is good, bad, or average. I thought I knew, I didn’t.
I was fortunate to have a comfort with those that interviewed me and I was fortunate that I had a proven work ethic and drive that they could draw on as evidence for my potential development. They saw that in me, and it ultimately landed me a job. However, I still think about how I wish I had more of a baseline of scouting knowledge going into that interview and into my first year as a scout.
The interview started from the moment I had stepped into the building two years prior and I knew it. My goals were clear, I wanted to be a scout. However, I also knew there was no way to reach my goals if I didn’t first take care of the duties I was hired for. That became my intention. Earn the trust and recommendation of my bosses first. I did not express my desire for a different job, I didn’t abandon my responsibilities as an equipment manager, and I didn’t allow my future goals to affect my current role. I put my head down and worked. It was advice that I had been given a year earlier when working to earn my recommendation with the University of Arizona Football. PUT YOUR HEAD DOWN AND WORK. So, I did. I came every day with a positive attitude and a desire to learn. I built relationships within the building and picked the brain of my assigned roommate and scout when I got home. I earned the trust of my bosses through my commitment and work ethic. Once that trust was built, it was easy for me to express my desires beyond equipment and they gave me their support 100%. From there, I began to do as much side work in scouting as possible. I was persistent, eager to learn, and quick to jump on any opportunity that they provided. This is was got me my external role and ultimately an interview four months later.
The interview was to be one day from 8am-4pm. I’d fly in the night before, interview, and fly out that same evening. The flight from San Jose, CA to Cleveland, OH was long. I did my best to sleep but the nerves fought hard to keep me up. An operations intern picked me up when I arrived. I had known him from being in the building but for most, this is the first impression and many GMs lean on all the staff for information on how the prospective scout interacts. As he dropped me off at the hotel, he gave me an itinerary of how the following day would go. It was something like this:
8-9 am: Director of Scouting- Traditional interview questions.
9-9:30 am: Team Physiatrist- Personality assessment and cultural fit.
9:30 am-10:00 am: Senior Scout- Interview and talk through evaluations of the draft.
10:00 am-1:00 pm: Director of Pro Scouting- Film watching (I had C.J. Mosley).
1:30 pm-2:00 pm: Present evaluation and answer questions.
2:00 pm-4:00 pm: Interview with each front office executive individually.
5:30 pm: On the plane, heading home.
Most of the interview questions were as expected. Everyone is going to ask about your strengths, weaknesses, examples of overcoming an obstacle, etc. What is less formal and equally important is how you interact with all staff, how you handle being pressed on your evaluation, and how you work through a highly stressful and consequential day.
The process evolved some during my time with the Browns. Once the seats were flipped and I had an opportunity to interview others, we gave our own evaluation and rank of the candidates. Scoring them on their personality, cultural fit within the scouting group, evaluation ability, and overall vibe.
Different staffs had different techniques. What was abundantly clear throughout though, was the emphasis on evaluation and ability to present players. It was a central component of the hiring process. In fact, it is the central focus throughout the league. Interviewees are asked to watch film over a period of a few hours and be prepared to present the player to the front office management. Here, questions are asked about the player, your evaluation, and evidence to back your opinions. It is a shark tank and those that have put in the requisite work to develop their evaluations will do well. Those that don’t, will get eaten alive.
Be prepared, be self-aware, be eager to learn, and be aware of how little you actually know. Preparation and evaluation are obvious, it’s the most important aspect considered for a prospective scout. Self-awareness is an underrecognized trait. It allows you to identify your weaknesses and work to improve them. One of the main issues early in equipment was to remember and keep up with all the tasks that were required of me, so I began to build an extensive daily, weekly, and monthly checklist. My weaknesses were known to me and I brought evidence of my effort to improve them. Eagerness to learn is a gimme. If you don’t have a desire for daily improvement, you are very unlikely to ever reach the pinnacle of your profession. Lastly, I have seen many people squander opportunities because of their arrogance and know-it-all attitude. It is one of the least tolerated traits in the profession. Be aware of how little you actually know. Sign up here.