There have been a few articles I’ve seen using the Olympics to make a point related to a job search. However, I believe there’s one point that’s been fascinating to me but lost in many of the other discussions.
One of the most amazing things to me as I watch these elite athletes compete for a hunk of precious metal, is how some perform at their peak when it matters most, and how others fail!
Think about that… in any sport you choose to examine, the top 3 to 5 contenders are pretty close to equal ability. You know that in their practices and training sessions they’ve achieved their ‘perfect’ performance many times over. They wouldn’t attempt a particular feat in competition if they didn’t believe they’ve mastered it in practice. Yet, when the moment comes, some nail it, and others crumble.
Certainly sometimes there are unfortunate circumstances beyond their control that cause them to fail. Perhaps a competitor crashes into them, a piece of equipment breaks, or some other fluke occurs and they can’t do a thing about it. However, most of the time when one of them fails it’s because of mistakes they made themselves. Pressure, lack of confidence, insufficient preparation, or carelessness caused them to perform far below their ability.
Often, job seekers do the same thing.
They have a marketable background in their career, they get an interview for the job of their dreams, and they perform poorly at the interview and don’t get the job. What happened?
Although, from time to time, there may be other reasons… I believe the biggest reason athletes falter and job seekers bomb an interview is a lack of enough preparation!
The amount of preparation needed will vary from one person to another, however, it’s virtually impossible to be ‘over prepared’. Evan Lysecek’s coach said that in all the years he had been coaching skaters, he never had anyone that worked as hard as Evan. He had to tell him to quit practicing on some days. When it came time to execute his routine for the medal he gave the performance of his life and won the gold.
Larry Bird, the hall-of-fame basketball great used to say he never had much natural ability for the game. However he could determine to work harder than anyone else. He figured that if the best players in the league were practicing 100 free throws a week, he would practice 1,000.
In an interview, a candidate that is well prepared stands out dramatically from all the others that give answers off the cuff.
Success = Opportunity + Preparation
Practice, practice, and more practice sets up a successful performance. Sufficient practice creates confidence. It helps you learn how to compensate for a slight misstep. It makes the performance become second nature and doesn’t require as much thought when it counts. It reduces pressure, tension, and stress because you know you’ve done it dozens of times before.
Preparation is so key. It’s something everyone can do, yet most people don’t prepare nearly enough. Even athletes at the Olympic level often only do enough to perform well. However, those that win the gold prepare enough to excel and to be the best.
In this market companies are interviewing more candidates than ever for an open position because they have so much more to choose from. If they interview 5, or 10 candidates, someone will have prepared, and practiced extensively prior to the meeting. Will you be one of them? Will you have prepared more thoroughly than the others did? Did you practice answers to tough questions enough times so that they come naturally to you, or only enough so that you know approximately how you will answer?
Most people prepare by simply thinking “If I’m asked this question, I’ll talk about ____.” A well prepared person writes out their answer, hones the answer to make it as concise and substantive as they can, practices it, hones it further, then practices it further. They practice it into a recorder and listen back to themselves. They practice it to a friend, or relative, or spouse and get feedback. They practice questions from their kids over dinner. They practice in front of a mirror.
Sounds like a lot of work! It is… but you may be competing for the job against someone else that has gone to those lengths. Will you?
Success = Opportunity + Preparation
How prepared will you be for your next interview?
Harry Urschel has over 20 years experience as a technology recruiter in Minnesota. He currently operates as e-Executives and writes a blog for Job Seekers called The Wise Job Search.
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