Track record: Definition and examples

Track record refers to the past performance of an individual, product, or organization. People often use the term to imply that future performance will be similar. A management consultant, for instance, may assure a client that they are the right person for the job because they have a track record of success in their industry.

computer scientist examines code on screenSome schools have a track record of producing high-achieving computer scientists.
Image: Gerd Altmann on Pixabay.

Merriam-Webster define the term as “a record of past performance often taken as an indicator of likely future performance.” The following give some examples of use:

She has an excellent track record as an investigative journalist.
The fund manager suggested that his track record was evidence of his ability to deliver good returns for investors.
I don’t think that his track record qualifies him as a candidate for mayor.
We need to hire someone with a strong track record in risk management.

Use in sport

In sport, the term refers to a contestant’s performance history. This is a list of competitive events with a description of how well the contestant performed at each one.

It is common practice to speak about breaking track records. For example, in 2010, American sprinter Tyson Gay broke one that Tommie Smith set more than 40 years earlier, in May 1966.

Such use of the term in sporting references is consistent with its origin. According Online Etymology Dictionary, the first known use occurred in 1955. In that instance, the term stood as a metaphor for “performance history” of racing contestants, such as cars, runners, and horses. Before then, people tended to use it to mean “fastest recorded speed at a particular track.”

Use in business

In business, people often use the term when justifying a business decision, such as when making appointments or awarding contracts. Here are a couple of examples:

They gave her the site manager job because she has a strong track record in completing tough construction projects.
We deal with Jones Plumbing Merchants because they have a strong track record in sourcing obsolete parts.

These examples suggest that the word reputation has a similar meaning. Sometimes, that may be the case. However, the terms are distinct in that one is matter of subjective opinion, whereas the other implies that verifiable evidence exists.

Imagine, for example, that two job applicants (A and B) say the following in an interview:

  • A: If you need proof of my suitability for the role, just look at my track record.
  • B: If you need proof of my suitability for the role, just look at my reputation.

A comes across as confident that their past performance is verifiable as a matter of documented fact. Perhaps B may wish to imply the same. However, by choosing the word reputation they are suggesting that their performance is a matter of opinion.