It’s that time of the year again; Wimbledon fortnight is finally here. Out comes the strawberries and cream and the Pimms for picnics on Henman Hill. Like the world’s most famous Grand Slam, job interviews can sometimes feel like a competitive sport, so here’s how to approach them like a pro, making sure you ace your interviews every time!
No tennis champion would begin a match on the Court at Wimbledon without doing extensive research on their opponent first. They’ll want to understand their strengths, weaknesses and style on the court and interviewing is no different. Understanding who is interviewing you is a vital part of your preparation. Researching the interviewer ahead will give you a clearer indication of their role and the organisation and will also help you predetermine questions they may ask you. For example, a Finance Director may ask finance related questions around saving costs/improving efficiencies, whereas an interviewer with a technical background may focus more on the technical aspects of the role. Consider the working relationship you may have with them to help with you research.
Find commonalities between yourself and the interviewer such as similar backgrounds or career paths. Use research tools such as LinkedIn to identify any connections you have that may be within their network to gather further information. The more research you undertake, the more confident you will appear and this will help you serve a great rapport with the interviewer!
Order on the court
From pristine lawns to the distinctive smart uniforms, Wimbledon’s brand is extremely distinctive and globally recognised. Similarly, when you’re going for an interview it is vital to recognise the importance of presentation. This is why it’s important to not only look the part at interview but also ensure you have a positive online and social media presence. Yes, skills and talent are important – and as a tennis player just making the cut of the first round of Wimbledon is a major achievement – but it’s also very much about making those all-important first impressions count.
The first impression you make on a potential employer is incredibly meaningful and important. When you first meet, employers will form an assessment based on what you’re wearing and how you carry yourself, so regardless of the work environment, it’s important to dress professionally for a job interview. Always be smart, conservative and well groomed. Keep jewellery to a minimum and your mobile phone off. Play it safe – this is about maximising your chances of employment NOT about showing off your personal style, so make sure you keep order on the court!
Don’t wing it -be a STAR
In tennis, preparation is key to a successful tournament. Putting on your game face and getting yourself in the right frame of mind, armed with the appropriate techniques and methods will ensure you stand the best chances of winning the match and beating the competition.
The same can be said for Competency (behavioral) based interview questions. These are used so candidates can demonstrate how they would use certain behaviours or skills in the workplace. Candidates will need to answer questions about how they have reacted to and dealt with previous work place situations. The idea being that by looking at past experience a potential employer can predict future behaviour.
Applying the STAR technique will allow you to structure you answers in a methodical manner, helping you to hit them with your best shot:
- Situation – The first thing you have to do is to find a context or an environment that allows you to answer the question or describe your skill. This is the start of your answer and it should be short, sharp and succinct.
- Task – The next thing you should talk about is what you had to do. This should link to the question you are being asked and the skills required by the job.
- Action -This is the important bit as it will tell the interviewer exactly what YOU did. For some employers the context is less important than what you actually did. This is because they think that you will be able to apply the same process of team working or problem solving to different situations.
- Results – Explain what the result was. Ideally the result of your action should be positive but if it is negative make sure you describe what you have learnt and what you would do differently next time.
Practice makes perfect
We have all heard the saying that practice makes perfect. Tennis players owe their success to their devotion to endless hours of practice and improving their technique.
Even if you have practiced and researched your answers and you know the details in your head, this doesn’t mean it will sound the same when you vocalise your answers or that you’ll find the exact words when speaking aloud. Even if you write it down and internalise the information, you won’t deliver exactly how it’s written on paper. Practicing what you intend to say out loud is the only way to ensure that you can engage and concisely talk about yourself and your skills, and really help you volley your answers back to the interview questions.
Reflect on your performance
Research has proven that self-reflection after a game can enhance sports professionals’ performance. Self-reflection is a highly effective tool for critiquing your behaviours and actions through identifying successes and failures and applying improvements to future games. Self-reflection takes places straight after the sporting event and the same self-analysis should be applied after a job interviews. After each job interview you should take some time to assess what happened and whether you can learn anything from that interview that will help you in the next interview going forward.
Working with a Coach
Behind every successful sports professional is an encouraging Coach, providing advice, helping them deal with success and failure, and setting realistic goals to support them on their way to success. Working with a Career Coach can make a significant improvement to your job search and career goals, particularly interviews, as this will allow you to practice your answers during a mock interview, demonstrate the skills in line with the employer’s needs, personalise common interview questions and talk through strong examples for competency based interview questions, as well as identifying your unique selling points and selling yourself. Working with a Career Coach can really optimise your chances at interview, helping you to win game, set and match!
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