Job interviews are all about first impressions. That makes sense because interviews themselves are first impressions. A hiring manager is tasked with spending a short amount of time with candidates and must project their value to the company and their longevity with that company. He must determine if an interviewee fits the company’s culture, professionally represents himself and meets the qualifications of the position. Those potential employees prepare themselves in a variety of ways for upcoming interviews. But there are certain expectations put on job seekers going into 95% of interviews: wearing a clean pressed suit, being well groomed, showing up early and being prepared and professional. So when is it okay to break the rules and which rules are acceptable to break? Non traditional industries like sports and entertainment require a more inspired interview style. Perhaps wearing a business suit and a ball cap to interview with your favorite sports team will get your farther than you’d expect.

 “Business suit and a ball cap” doesn’t literally mean grab your Knicks cap on your way to interview for an Assistant Head of Ticket Sales position with the team. It means showing your passion for the organization. Interviewing with a team you root for is a rare opportunity to display true excitement about working for a company. People most typically seek a new job for more pay, better benefits or to be in a more desirable position. But even if those are more appealing, people find that they still have to feign excitement for the company itself. Displaying false interest isn’t necessary when interviewing with a sports organization though. So be professional but approach it from a non-traditional angle by being upfront about your love of the team.

 Most interviews begin in a similar fashion. The hiring manager wants to get a sense of who you are and why you’re there. “Tell me about yourself.” and “Why do you want to work here?” are the ice breakers. “Tell me about yourself” is the prompt to summarize your education, background and experiences with some added personal commentary. To answer the second question try being honest instead of giving a standard response like “I’ve heard your attendance has increased 10% per year over the last 5 years which proves the health of your organization.” Explain that sports are a major part of your life and that, over the years, you’ve formed a personal attachment to that team in particular. Maybe you’re interviewing with the Cubs and you first met your wife in the Wrigley Field bleachers or at a nearby bar after a game. Or you landed an interview with the Celtics and your father used to work overtime so he could afford to take you to the Boston Garden on the weekends. Just telling a hiring manager you want to work for the organization because it’s your favorite team isn’t enough and lacks sincerity. But telling real stories behind that emotional attachment makes you a memorable candidate and shows the interviewer it’s a place you’ll contribute to for a long time. Using sales statistics or growth projections to show you’re prepared is essential but the opportunity to tie yourself to an organization you’ve never worked for is rare. Obviously you’ll need to back up your value to the team as you both get into the details of the position. And being well spoken, well dressed and on time are still a necessity. But as the interview begins let your professional guard down and show the interviewer that, even without ever receiving a paycheck, you have some of the same passion for the organization that he does. He was in your same position once and will understand the difference between hiring someone that wants a job and choosing someone that wants their dream job.