How to Land a Job in the Bike Industry

CEO Chris Cocalis charges down a rocky descent in Moab, Utah, aboard his Pivot Trail 429.  Photo by Jens Staudt

If you love mountain biking, there may be no better career for you than working in the bike industry. How do you get such a job? We called on some of the top people in the mountain bike world and asked them if they’d be willing to share their tips. If you’re interested in working in the bike industry, read on. This could be the information you’ve always needed to know.

What kind of jobs need to be filled at bike companies?

The list is almost endless—from the most basic, like taking out the trash and cleaning toilets, to high-level engineering and management. Sales, marketing, mechanic and warehouse jobs are probably the most common, but the list is long.

What are the main things Pivot looks for in a job applicant?

Experience, a skill set that matches the job requirements, a solid employment track record, enthusiasm for cycling, a strong work ethic, education and a positive attitude.

What are some things job applicants can do to make themselves stand out as worthy candidates for a job? 

We need to know that the candidate wants to work for us and can be clear as to why he or she wants to work for Pivot. It’s important that they come to the table with thorough knowledge of the company and its history. Don’t be discouraged if the answer is no the first time. Follow up afterwards and check in from time to time. Be persistent but not annoying; it’s a fine line. When interviewing, try to figure out what the company needs for this position and come to the table with a plan that will fill that need. If you can’t figure this out ahead of your interview, ask questions and think quickly. If you do get a chance to interview, keep in mind that everyone you interviewed took time out of their day to meet you. Be polite, get their contact information and always follow up after the interview.  

What are some of the worst mistakes job-seekers make when approaching a company? 

This list is long, but top mistakes include a sloppy appearance, incomplete or poor-looking resume, being late for the interview, lack of follow-up, and questionable social media posts. One of our favorites is using the wrong company name in your resume. If you can’t take the time to make yourself look good, we really can’t expect that you would do any better when representing us.   

How important is it that an applicant lives close enough to your offices to take the job without having to move long-distance?

It depends on the position. Most jobs require you to be in the office or shop every day, but that doesn’t mean that we only hire locally. A good percentage of our staff has moved from somewhere else to work for Pivot. We want the best people with the most experience, so we don’t mind bringing people in from all over the U.S.   

How valuable is it for a job applicant to have a history of racing, working at a bike shop or some other work experience in the bike industry? 

Typically, it is very helpful to have this kind of experience when applying for a job in the cycling industry. Most listed job requirements in the cycling industry have this sort of experience somewhere in the description. A quick learner can pick things up, but you’re already many steps ahead when you know the difference between a rear derailleur and a spoke nipple. 

Are there things a candidate should do before seeking a job in the bike industry? 

Love bikes. There is a saying that if you love what you do you’ll never work another day in your life. While that saying is not exactly true, loving whatever your job is involved with goes a long way in terms of having a fulfilling, meaningful and long-lasting career. Even the most awesome positions often come with long work days, working weekends and times when it’s a grind. Being truly passionate about cycling helps make those hard days meaningful. Get experience wherever you can—bike-shop jobs, racing, volunteering for trail-work days—it all adds up on a resume. When you’re getting that experience, be sure to network. Getting that dream job in the bike industry often starts with knowing the right people. For the higher-level positions, it’s important to have the bike knowledge but also have the education to back it up. We get a ton of resumes from engineers who want to work in the bike industry but have nothing in their background that would even indicate that they ride bikes. We look at the background and want to see that passion. A bike-shop job is a great step, but if you want to design bikes and you have an engineering or industrial design degree, the expectation is that your portfolio would reflect your interest in bikes all the way back to your school projects and sketches. If you want a marketing job, work on projects that provide experience and show a strong knowledge of how the bike industry works. Have you helped race organizers or your local shop with a website or other marketing activities? What have you done on social media that promotes cycling-related activities? Basically, do things that reflect the position that you want, and before you know it, you will have that position.  www.pivotcycles.com

Charles Bisaillon, Specialized.

What are the main things Specialized looks for in a job
applicant?

Humble: Not looking for his own personal success but for the success of the company overall.

Results: We look for someone who needs to get things done, to fix goals and reach them, and who is passionate about the industry and the company.

Dirty hands: We want people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and work in the trenches. Even at a senior level, that person needs to be able to work in the kitchen and to be ready to work with their team to get things done.

Team player: Every decision made in this company (even at the highest level) needs to be a consensus among the team. You can’t be an island.

What are some things job applicants can do to make themselves stand out as worthy candidates for
a job?

Show that they can be an all-rounder. What I mean is that we aren’t looking for somebody who can only do one specific job and that’s it. We always want people who are ready to take on other projects and tasks. We need yes-men and -women who aren’t afraid of jumping into a new project quickly.

We aren’t looking just at previous experience; we look at the fit of that person with the team. 

What are some of the worst mistakes job-seekers make when approaching your company?

Applying when they don’t know who we are. I receive so many applications where I see that the person didn’t do any research on the company. We don’t even look at them in that case. We need to see the passion in the industry and Specialized.

How important is it that an applicant lives close enough to your offices to take the job without having to move long-distance?

This isn’t a factor. If the candidate is the right person for the role, we are ready to help him or her move.

 How important is it for a job applicant to have a history of racing, working at a bike shop or some other experience in the bike industry?

Not that important. It is a plus, but even if the candidate does not have experience in the bike industry, we need to see curiosity from him or her about the industry. We want somebody who can and wants to learn about it quickly.

Is there anything special that a candidate should do before seeking a job at Specialized?

Be curious about the company. Do a lot of research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We want people who are passionate and want to work here.

Look at all the postings on www.specialized.com/us/en/careers—not just the one you are the best at. We want people who can move around in the company.

A college degree isn’t a prerequisite for a lot of roles. We look for people who want to learn.

What tips can you share for somebody looking to get a job at a bike shop?

My best employees have typically been those who are customers first. Working in a bike shop is a pretty close-knit community, and it has to be a good fit. People have to get along. 

Look presentable when you go in for your interview. Be eager to learn and let them know it. Even if you’ve been wrenching on your bike a lot, you still don’t know everything, and pretending as if you do is not a good thing. Nobody knows everything.

 Having a good rapport with the shop always helps. Don’t be one of the guys who constantly comes in with your mail-order parts to have them installed by the shop, and don’t talk about the sweet bike or parts you bought online. My best employees have been those who are customers first that I got to know and who are into bikes, not just someone “looking for a job.”

Timing is important too. In the Midwest, we don’t need new employees in October or November, but we do need them in February or March to have a little bit of time to train them and get them ready for the huge rush that comes in the spring. Also, even if you don’t get hired right away, it’s still a great idea to periodically check in with the shop and see if they have any need for some help. Things change. People move to go off to college, and the bike shops that didn’t need any help a month ago may suddenly find themselves a little shorthanded. 

Be willing to do anything at the shop. Just because you’re hired as a mechanic doesn’t mean that’s all you can, or have to, do. Floors need to be swept, bathrooms cleaned, the showroom organized, etc. There’s always something to do, and being the guy who does it makes a great impression on the boss. breakawaybicycles.com

“One of the best ways to get a job in the bike industry is to work in a bike shop first,” says mountain bike legend Ned Overend. “It is the best way to learn how the industry works,” says Ned. “Understanding the bike-buying customer and the challenges of running a retail business is important to know for all aspects of the bike industry. I worked at Mountain Bike Specialists in my early days of bike racing as a mechanic and on the sales floor, and the experience helped me transition from racer to bike-industry employee.”

What are your recommendations for a mountain biker looking for a job in the bike industry?

1) Get in the loop through bike-shop friends or industry friends. Get the word out you want a job in the industry! 

2) If you can get access to BRAIN [Bicycle Retailer and Industry News], you can find a job available!

 What do you look for in a good employee?

1) Someone who is a self-starter, outgoing and a hard worker (top 5 percent in the team).

2) If you’re a go-getter and willing to go the extra mile, then other job opportunities or career advances will come your way!

www.magura.com

If you want to get a job in the industry, bike shows can be good places to meet the key people from a lot of different companies.

What are the main things KHS looks for in a job applicant?

We like to hire from the industry and promote from within.

We look for candidates who have bike-shop industry experience.

We like individuals who have worked sales and service.

Note: When women are available and have this background, they go to the top of the list!

Typically, we hire people as customer service or inside sales representatives. After some period of time, we try to promote them to other positions within the company. 

All of our purchasing department has been promoted from within into their current position. Several of our outside sales reps have been promoted from within. Our internal marketing staff have all been promoted from within. You get the gist.

The biggest impediment is distance to KHS from home for new applicants. We are located in Compton, so it’s not the most desirable location in the world.

khsbicycles.com

What is your advice for job seekers in the bike industry?

It is all dependent on the exact position within the Giant family, but here within the global marketing department, we look for (in order of importance):

Photo by Jake Orness

1) Passion and firm understanding of cycling culture, history, trends, segments and technology.

2) Proven marketing savvy.

3) Positive attitude and a willingness to work through challenges—no matter how daunting.

 My personal tips are as follows:

• We tend to hire individuals that we’ve met or have been suggested to us by trusted sources—meaning, if you want to “make it” in the bicycle industry, take the initiative to introduce yourself to as many positive people as you can. Whether this is at your local bike shop, at trade shows or at events/races. You simply never know where your next job might come from unless you ask around.

• Your reputation precedes you. If you’re already working at a bike shop or are an up-and-coming racer, be the best you can be both in word and in deed. Even if you’re not the top salesperson or mechanic at the shop or on top of the podium every weekend, be a positive, proactive individual who is an outstanding spokesperson for the shop/team. Your coach/team manager/shop boss would be happy to recommend you when one of the brands are asking around for talented up-and-comers to fill an internal position.

• We publish all open positions on www.malakye.com.

www.giant-bicycles.com


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Chris CocalisGiant Bicycleshow to'sjobskhs bicyclesNed OverendPivot Cyclespros tips