I applied for the Brooks Running Ohio Guru Field Rep position in Fall 2019 and made it to the final round HQ interview in Seattle, but I wasn’t ultimately offered the job. This is purely informative for future Brooks Running applicants.
In a recent post on hiking around Seattle, I mentioned that I’d gone out to the Pacific Northwest primarily for a running industry interview. That interview was for Brooks Running, my favorite running shoe brand. The role was called a Guru Field Rep, a full-time remote role within a specific sales territory (I’ll explain more about what the Guru does later on).
I didn’t end up getting the job, but since I’d made it to the final round (where the company paid for related travel expenses), I thought I’d share my experience to try to help future applicants. Here’s what the interview process was like, plus some tips from my experience, and that of a former Guru.
Brooks Running Application Timeline
After browsing the Brooks Running Careers page, I applied online for the Ohio Guru job in mid-August 2019. The entire process took 3+ months. It involved 2 phone interviews, 1 in-person interview in Seattle, and 1 more phone interview. Here’s the timeline:
Mid-August 2019: Submitted Brooks Running application online—I didn’t have a referral or any connection at Brooks.
Late September: Phone interview with the Regional Guru Supervisor (10-15 candidates make it to this stage).
Late October: Phone interview with the National Guru Supervisor (5ish candidates?).
Mid-November: In-person interview at Brooks Running HQ in Seattle, Washington (2-3 candidates).
Overview of What a Brooks Guru Field Rep Does
The Guru Field Rep is kind of a cross between a sales rep and ambassador for Brooks. That said, they should NOT be confused with an actual sales rep, as Brooks has a separate sales rep position. The Gurus don’t sell any product to the different accounts (“accounts” are stores that carry Brooks—can be a national account like Dick’s Sporting Goods, or a specialty account like Marathon Sports). Instead, they help the accounts sell the stock they have.
Gurus shouldn’t also be confused for the casual brand ambassadors you see on Instagram. The Brooks Guru position is a full-time role with benefits, and involves driving around to the different accounts in a specific territory (normally a state). They give workshops to the employees at the accounts, sometimes work the sales floor, put on events, and come up with programs to increase sell-through.
A few cool things about the role are:
- This isn’t your typical 9-5 office job. The role is remote, as there’s no office, and your schedule is flexible. Each day is really different from the next, as you’re working with all kinds of people, accounts, and products.
- It’s largely about building relationships—with employees at the different accounts, Brooks customers, etc.
- You’re given a lot of independence, as you figure out which accounts to visit.
- It’s creative, as you come up with different events and ways to increase sales.
- You get to travel to national races like Marine Corps and Rock & Roll, and there are 2 yearly training sessions in Seattle.
Some cons of the role are:
- You will be working most weekends, especially Saturdays.
- There’s a LOT of driving and traveling involved. Most sales territories are entire states, and the Ohio one also included part of Kentucky.
- This isn’t your typical 9-5 office job. I listed this as a pro, but it can also be a con if you like having a set schedule. You could also easily end up working way more than 40 hours/week in this role, as there’s always something to do—basically, your work and personal life can be hard to separate/balance. That’s why Brooks wants someone who really cares about this job, and wants to make sure there’s a lifestyle fit.
It’s important you know where I’m coming from, as selection is largely based on your previous experience. I’m a 2018 grad of Amherst College, a selective liberal arts college in Massachusetts, where I studied math and French. While I’m not based in Ohio (where the Brooks job was), I grew up there. I have very little retail experience, other than some seasonal work at Nordstrom right before college and during my freshman winter break.
I am, however, very passionate about running—I’ve been doing half marathons and marathons since my senior year of high school, and have a fan of Brooks running shoes for years now. And while I don’t have a ton of retail experience, I do have a lot of people experience—I was a university lecturer in France for one year, a college applications consultant for one year, and a teaching assistant and tutor in college. I think this teaching experience is what helped make my application even viable, as the role involves teaching store employees about the Brooks product and how to best sell it.
If you want to learn more about my professional experience and what I’m currently doing, feel free to check out my LinkedIn.
Me after the Paris Marathon. Check out my race review if you’re interested in running it one day!
The Brooks Guru Interview Process
As I mentioned, I applied online in mid-August and was first contacted over a month later, in late September. It seemed to be a pretty casual screening at this point—the Regional Guru Supervisor texted me to set a phone call up, and I don’t even think we corresponded by email. The Regional Supervisor was really friendly, and the call was basically just a conversation. I was asked pretty broad questions about my background in running and interest in Brooks. You can expect questions like: Tell me about yourself. Are you a runner? How would you interact with customers if you were on the sales floor? The Regional Supervisor also went more in-depth on what the role entailed.
He also let me know how the process would work: at this stage, there were 10-15 candidates he was screening. The next round, there would be 5ish. The final round would only leave 2-3 candidates, and would require an in-person interview at Seattle HQ (Brooks would fly you out).
The next month, in late October, I was contacted for the second round, with the National Guru Supervisor. This call was more formal, and had some tough questions like “What’s a common misconception people have about you?” and “What are some ideas to increase sell-through?”. There was also a more fun question of “What’s your theme song?” I stumbled on the hard questions in this round, so I thought the process would end there for me.
To my surprise, I was contacted a few weeks later to arrange travel to Seattle HQ for final round interviews. Brooks would cover my flight, one night in a hotel, transportation to/from the airport and interview, and $75 in meals. I asked to extend my trip (and of course said I’d cover my extra expenses), because they might’ve otherwise flown me in and out just for the interview—which would’ve been a little ridiculous given that I live in Boston.
The day of my interview, I was given a tour of HQ, then had to speak with 4 different people individually for a total of 2 hours. I basically was seated in a conference room, and the people rotated in and out. The conversations didn’t feel intimidating, and the tone was conversational. The interview questions weren’t really surprising, either. In particular, I remember:
- Why Brooks?
- What do you know about the job?
- Why is this job a good fit?
- How would you get to know your sales territory?
- How would you teach an employee in a national account vs. sales account?
- What’s one brand you admire and why?
- I was also asked to take a look at a spreadsheet and decide how I’d prioritize visiting sales accounts based on some data, but nothing crazy.
At the end of all my interviews, I was asked if I wanted a snack from their cafeteria (which I of course took up—can never say no to snacks haha), then I got shown the company gym and flagship retail store. They gave me a 40% coupon to use that day in the store, if I wanted to buy something.
Brooks HQ in Seattle, Washington
I thought the whole thing was over, but I got a call the next day asking if I could meet with someone else. One of my original interviewers actually couldn’t make it last-minute, so they’d had someone else step in. We ended up scheduling a video call.
The day of my video call, I was supposed to go through a conference call link, but my interviewer texted and asked to just give me a phone call instead. This was probably my least favorite interview, as my interviewer kept emphasizing my lack of retail experience. He also asked me a hypothetical question: “If we were to throw you into this without training, which we would never do, how would you do this…” and corrected me when I didn’t give the response he wanted—I didn’t understand the point of that question, as it was a situation he said would never happen anyways.
When I asked about mobility within the company, he also discouraged me from thinking about that, as I “shouldn’t” view the job as a stepping stone to something else. Sure, that’s fair, but just because I ask about mobility doesn’t mean I’m not excited about the job itself. It’s important to think of long-term goals, and it’s probably a red flag if an interviewee hasn’t thought ahead to how they can develop their career within the company. And to be completely honest, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to think of a job as a stepping stone, as long as you do it well. I was especially surprised by his reaction to that question as he himself had moved up from the Guru position to his management role—he seemed like the best person to ask about mobility.
If there’s one thing I’d go back and change about this call, I would push back on this (respectfully, of course). You could turn it into an opportunity to say something like: “Actually, I mean it as a compliment when I ask about mobility. I view the company positively, and see it as a place where I’d like to stay long-term, and contribute to with my other skills (like my marketing background). Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not excited about the Guru role—I am—but I’m also excited about the potential for a long-term career at Brooks.”
Anyways, I didn’t think that call went super well, and that interviewer was unfortunately the boss of the person making the hiring the decision. I got a call a week later saying they picked someone else, as I didn’t have enough retail experience. I was a little confused by reasoning, as they knew that from the start, and didn’t have to send me out to Seattle to learn that (though I’m glad they did, as Seattle is a fun city). Also, other than the final interviewer, no one had even really brought up my lack of retail experience, or made it seem like an issue. Of course, it’s also possible that the successful candidate had more retail experience, and that was what tipped the scales. In any case, I totally respect their decision and am happy they found a good fit—I just found the reasoning kind of odd.
Overall, I would just expect this process to take some time, and to involve a trip to Seattle, if you make it to final rounds. I had a good impression of Brooks overall, even if the job didn’t work out.
The hotel Brooks put us up in was so apt for a fitness company—there were medicine balls, foam rollers, and yoga mats IN each room.
Tips for Brooks Running Guru Field Rep Interviews
Before going into the final round interview, I emailed the Regional Supervisor to see if he could pass along the contact info of the previous Ohio Guru. I wanted to know what to expect from the HQ interview, and if he had any advice. Here are the main tips he gave me:
- Emphasize the relationship-building component of the role.
- Be ready to answer how you’d educate a national account employee vs. a specialty account one.
He said that Brooks really cared about the Guru’s ability to build relationships, especially since you’ll be visiting so many different accounts, and working with tons of very different people. It can be a big bonus if you really highlight this aspect of the role and describe ways you’ve previously built strong relationships.
The national vs. specialty account question was also definitely a popular one. Most of my interviewers, if not all of them, asked how I’d educate employees differently at the two types of accounts. The national account employees might not know much about running, or might not even care about it, while the specialty account salespeople usually care a LOT about running, and probably know more about it than you do. The former Guru’s advice was to highlight this difference, and say that you might stick to higher-level details for a national account employee (i.e. this shoe is a cross between a racing flat and trainer, the mesh is more breathable, etc). For specialty accounts, you can get into the nitty-gritty (i.e. the midfoot transition zone helps you get from heel to toe faster).
And as someone who’s been through the process, here are my tips:
Have concrete, creative ideas for sell-through (nothing vague like “use social media”). This actually didn’t come up in the final round, but I was caught off-guard when I was asked this in a phone interview. Speaking with the former Guru was really helpful in learning what sorts of things have worked, as he told me about an Orange Theory referral program that had generated hundreds of thousands of revenue. Basically, Orange Theory employees would give clients a referral card with a discount for Brooks shoes if they noticed their shoes were worn, or if they asked for recommendations. The clients would take the card to a specific store and get fitted for Brooks. For every 10 pairs sold by your referral, you’d get a free pair of shoes. Orange Theory is super popular in Central Ohio, so it was a really relevant idea. Aim to come up similarly creative ideas that also show your knowledge of the fitness landscape in your territory.
Speak with a Guru, or at least check out their social media. First, try to get in contact with a former or current Guru. I recommend asking the Regional Supervisor, as I’d tried finding current Gurus on LinkedIn, and only one of the five people responded—after I’d already done my last interview and been rejected. The actual Gurus can give you a much better idea of what to expect in the interviews and offer more insight into the role itself. If you can’t get in touch with any, look up “Brooks Guru” on Instagram to see what you can learn from social media. Many of the current Gurus have their own work accounts—you could even try DMing them if you want to chat about their job.
My favorite Brooks shoes – the Launch series. They’re light but still well-cushioned. If you’re in the market for running shoes, you can check them out and buy them on the Brooks website ($65 – affiliate link) or Amazon ($65 and up – affiliate link).
I hope you found this guide helpful in your interview process! If it was, and you’re interested in running and travel topics, I’d love it if you followed along my blog, whether through my email list, Facebook, or Instagram (or all 3 if you want to make me super happy!). Blogging isn’t free, whether it comes to time or money, and every new reader encourages me to keep writing posts to try to help people.
And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.
If you’re a fellow runner, feel free to check out some of my running posts:
Best of luck,