It isn’t the candidate that is the most qualified, but the one who is best prepared for the interview that will walk away with the job offer.
An Olympic competition is tough, but a job interview is more competitive. I like this clip to drive the point home: In the game of interviewing, there is no “second place”. WE ARE ALL OUT OF STEAK KNIVES PEOPLE!
Interviewing for a job isn’t a part-time endeavor, it isn’t a game, and there is only ONE winner. This is not just a competition people, this of your self in a more competitive Olympic competition! This isn’t a game of horseshoes or hand grenades where “close is good enough”. There is no second place. There is only a first place loser.
In the Olympics, you can still monetize and capitalize a Silver or Bronze medal. When it comes to job hunting there is only the Gold. The difference in performance between the Gold and the Bronze finisher can be minimal. The rewards differential can be huge. Referencing the first line, you can have the best skill set and be the most qualified for the job, but if you don’t know how to interview, or are not prepared to interview, you aren’t going to get the job. In this economy, the competition is stronger than ever.
For this reason, you need to practice your interviewing skills like you are preparing for an Olympic competition. Know exactly what you want to get across and practice your answers OUT LOUD on family, relatives, and friends. Practice with anyone that will listen and practice in front of a mirror. Reciting your answers in your mind may sound good to you but it doesn’t translate to speaking your answers out loud.
I have talked to numerous people who tell me “I know what I want to say, I don’t need to practice”. But when I ask them:
• Tell me why I should hire you?
• What makes you the most qualified for the job?
• Tell me what you want to do in 5 years.
95% of the time, I hear half-ass answers to these most basic interview questions. These are questions we KNOW WE WILL BE ASKED. How you answer these questions set the tone for the rest of the interview. Stutters, “um’s” and random thoughts do not cut it. I am sure candidates know how to answer these questions in their own mind, but they haven’t practiced them out loud and it shows. It is painful. It is the equivalent of the Jamaican bobsled team.
Olympic Competitions and job interviews compared
Olympic competition: This competition happens only once every 4 years. Olympians prepare long and hard for a single moment, a single performance. There is no do-over.
Interview: In this economy, interviews don’t happen on a regular basis. We need to turn chance meetings into interviews. Be ready, fluid and treat preparation like you only have one opportunity every 4 years.
Olympic competition: Single elimination, no wildcard entries here
Interview: Single elimination. Don’t articulate enough, you are out.
Olympic competition: Performance is key. The athlete with the best, fastest, smoothest, or most fluid performance is the winner.
Interview: The candidate with the most polished answers, the most articulate, and easily understood will usually get the job. They know how to emphasize their strengths, talk around their weaknesses, and demonstrate their accomplishments.
Olympic competition: How you handle yourself not only on the playing field but off the playing field will affect the endorsements you receive. You can be a multiple medal winner, but if you screw it up off the field with your behavior you get nothing.
Interview: It isn’t just how you handle yourself in the interview room. You are being watched as soon as you enter the parking lot (no loud music as you drive in), when you enter the front lobby (treat the receptionist with respect), when you are taken out to coffee or lunch (don’t order alcohol – ever), and when they ask you to job shadow a company employee (consider this an interview even if you aren’t asked any questions).
Olympic competition: Uniform should be clean and appropriate
Interview: There may not be a written rule about company dress code, but there are enough written and unwritten rules around interviewing that it is a topic that should be taken seriously. What first impression do you want to make?
Olympic competition: The difference between first and second place is minimal and can be measured in 1/100’s of a second. The difference in monetary reward from endorsements between a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal can be huge.
Interview: The difference in interview performance between the first and second place candidate can be very minimal. Sometimes it comes down to the mood of the hiring manager or literally the flip of a coin. The difference in the monetary reward between first and second place is everything. You probably won’t even know where in the pack you finished. Even if you do get the job, there is a compensation band. You don’t want to just get the position, you want an offer at the top of the band. What determines this? How polished your answers are during the interview.
Olympic competition: You need stamina and discipline. There will be a sacrifice in the training, nutrition, time spent with friends and family. The focus is the name of the game. Olympians don’t quit.
Interview: You need to keep trying regardless of how much emotional investment you may have a particular job you were declined. If you have gone to 3, 4 or 5 interviews for the same job, you need to keep the same enthusiasm up for the next interview. Don’t wonder about “why another interview?” Another interview means you are that much closer to the Gold. You made the cut! Keep your focus: Answer the same questions the 4th time you are asked with the same enthusiasm you did the first time.
Your job hunt IS an Olympic competition and you don’t know how many people you are competing against. If people saw the number of candidates all lined up that they were interviewing with, most wouldn’t even try. The good thing is that very few of the entrants have practiced for this competition either. Practice your answers, articulate your accomplishments, and give examples.
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.