This weekend was the 83rd installment of the ND/USC rivalry on the gridiron – and although the outcome of the game was a letdown, not all is a loss, there are lessons to be learned. I often use athletics in my examples when discussing career planning and thought I would use the ND Football program as the basis for comparison in this analogy.
Preparation: Everything in life comes down to preparation. Did you study for your exams? Did you pack everything you needed for your business trip? Did you save for retirement? Did you preheat the oven prior to putting in the Thanksgiving turkey? No matter what stage of life you are in or what task you are doing, preparation is the key to success. This holds true in football and interviewing.
A football game has 60 minutes of field time (not including NBC commercials), of which there are only about 12 minutes of action. The ND Football program will put in an average of 30-40 hours a week per person on the practice field, film and weight rooms, individual and team conditioning workouts, game strategy sessions, etc. in preparation for those 12 minutes of action.
This same approach needs to be applied to interviewing, one needs to prepare for much more than just 30 minutes for a half-hour interview. Research programs/services/clients of the employer, industry trends, news about the firm, talk with individuals at the organization, etc. to help you prepare for the actual interview. Thorough preparation for an interview dramatically increases the likelihood of a strong interview.
Practice: In meeting rooms, coaches will diagram offensive plays and defensive schemes and discuss the individual responsibilities of each position. Football teams have playbooks that are hundreds of pages thick, detailing every play that could be called during a game. All these “Xs and Os” are important as it is part of the preparation stage; now the team is expected to practice.
Knowing one’s position and responsibility on any given play is important, executing the responsibility is the next level of mastery. It is not enough to know what to do, one must be able to execute the play.
Execution is critical in an interview as one needs to be able to communicate the skills, experiences, and examples requested by the interviewer. Often one thinks through what he would like to say during an interview but does not actually practice delivering coherent answers. One should practice answering questions to be familiar with delivering winning responses at the real interview.
Gameplan: Often one will hear a coach talk about a gameplan for success (want to get a running back 20-25 touches, avoid giving up big plays, eliminate mental mistakes, etc.). Bill Walsh, legendary San Francisco 49ers coach, would go as far as script the first 25 offensive plays of the game. He knew what he wanted to establish with regards to his offense – and this approach worked more often than not (see Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII).
It is good to have a gameplan for your interview. What do you want the interviewer to remember about you after you leave the room? Are there certain skills you want to illustrate to the hiring manager? What image do you want to leave with the interview team? Go into the interview with a gameplan of what you want to accomplish – you have better odds of achieving these goals than if you leave it up to chance.
Review and Evaluate: Sunday’s film session at Notre Dame was not an event in which I would want to participate. Every week, coaches and players review the film from the previous game, evaluate performances, and identify areas that went well and areas that need to be improved upon prior to the next week. I cannot imagine many, if any players left that meeting without receiving a few pointed words of instruction.
After each interview one should evaluate the meeting – what went well and what needs to be addressed prior to the next interview. No matter how painful the review may be, it is important to take an honest look at your performance.
Who would have thought interviewing and football were so aligned? I hope your next interview looks like ND/Purdue and not ND/USC.