After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympic Lessons For Job Interviewers

The Olympics are over and I can safely revert to my true identity as someone who does not care about synchronized diving or the pommel horse.  Until 2016, at least. 

What I do always care about is job interviews.  So while we can’t all be Michael Phelps with his record number of Olympic medals and his model girlfriend and his future millions, we might be able to learn some lessons from Michael and other Olympic winners about life, achievement, and of course –  job interviews.

Here’s a brief review on interviewing guidelines, provided by the likes of Michael, Missy, Gabby, Misty, Kerry, Ryan, Matt, David and all our other great USA athletes.  And me.

Prepare like it means something:

Your job interview may not require life-threatening plunges from a platform, unending laps in the pool, or back flips on a balance beam, but it does require extensive research on your potential employer, a thorough review of the main talking points of your resume, and even some practice in front of a mirror.  When losing is not an option, preparation is not optional. 

Perform when it counts:

Whether you are on the starting block waiting for the start of the 400 IM or in the reception area waiting for your job interview, the pressure is on.  You must perform in this moment, at this time, in this location – or an opportunity is lost, most likely forever.  Make sure you are rested, prepared, and ready for your main event.

When the going gets tough, keep going:

World-class athletes experience injuries (think about sprinting on a broken leg), accidents, bad luck and bad days.  You too may lose an opportunity to bad luck, a bad day, or better competition.  Move on.  Put it behind you.  Keep going.  Prepare for the next opportunity.


Who gets more favorable publicity:  the smiling, happy girl who happens to be a record-breaking swimmer, or the sultry gymnast who frowns and scowls at her silver medal?  Every hiring manager I know would rather hire a pleasant, friendly candidate than one who seems stressed-out, uneasy, or unenthusiastic.  Even if it’s an act, smile.


Talk about your achievements, your hard work, your aspirations, your motivations – avoid excessive personal information, subjects like one-night-stands, and any mention of urination, in a pool or elsewhere.

Be aware of the competition:

A job search is every bit as much of a competition as an Olympic event.  If you slack off in any area of your job interview – be it appearance, preparation, enthusiasm, demeanor, or any other aspect of your presentation, be assured that there is someone warming up in a hot tub somewhere waiting to send you to the second-place podium.  And on that subject…
Go for the gold:

It’s sad but true.  Only one person can claim gold – and the accolades, endorsements, and self-fulfillment that goes with it.  In an interview situation, only one person can claim a job.  Silver or bronze means you are still looking.

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