I am a huge sports fan – especially football. One reason I enjoy football is there is a week leading up to the game where a team evaluates its opponent, identifies areas where they believe they can take advantage of the other team, and then creates a game plan to implement for the game. This type of preparation is similar to my approach to interviewing.
When I interview, I evaluate my skills and strengths against the needs of the employer and I try to identify 2-4 skills or attributes I want to convey in my interview that are aligned with the stated “Desired Qualifications” from the employer. When I leave the office after an interview, I want to be sure the employer knows about these 2-4 attributes and so I weave them into my answers and examples. This type of gameplan helps me focus the interview and it gives the employer a good sense of who I am and what I can do for the firm. Know that using this tactic does not restrict you to only the 2-4 skills in gameplan, but there should be no doubt that the interviewer knows those 4 things about you when you leave the interview.
Football coaches do the something similar each week – they craft a gameplan with a handful of objectives they want to achieve during the game. When teams are successful, you often hear the coach say they were able to stick to or “establish” their gameplan during the game. On the flip-side, losing coaches will often say that the other team forced them “out” of their plans or they had to “abandon” their strategy.
So how does one gameplan for an interview?
- Evaluate the other team: Opposing coaches will try to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent. They evaluate matchups and opportunities they could exploit. Interviewing is similar in that the job hunter needs to evaluate the organization he/she is meeting. What is the company culture, where is the industry and organization heading, new products/services, etc. Get to know the employer inside and out through your research. Identify what skills and characteristics the employer is seeking in a candidate and possible areas where you could contribute.
- Formulate a Gameplan: When a coach identifies on opportunity, he will script plays and philosophy for that opponent. Does the opponent tend to rush the quarterback aggressively – using a draw, shovel pass, or screen play could be very effective. If the company is seeking a financial analyst with strong leadership and teamwork skills than one should prepare examples and weave these skills into his answers during the interview. Craft and establish your gameplan to ensure the employer walks away knowing the information you want him/her to know.
- Execute and Evaluate: Be sure not to give abandon your strategy in the first five minutes of an interview. Running the ball once will not establish a running game in football; mentioning leadership in one example will not establish that attribute with an employer. Keep plugging away to ensure you communicate your best skills. That being said, coaches will make in-game adjustments and apply new information as it arises. Through your interview, if new information arises (ex: you discover the employer really needs someone with experience in a specific software package), adjust (not abandon, but adjust) your gameplan to take advantage of the new information you have discovered.
So put on your old ball cap, channel your inner Knute Rockne and craft a winning gameplan for your upcoming interview. You just might find that having a plan of action makes for a better interviewing experience for you.