I’m someone who has interviewed many recently graduated College or University students eager for their first opportunity in the sports industry. These are a group of applicants who can bring enthusiasm to the role and what they often lack in vocational experience they can make up for in their willingness to learn and desire to succeed.
However, I find myself frequently disappointed in the way many graduates prepare for and then present when interviewed. It appears as though they’ve sent off their Resume to every vacant position, without really thinking about the company or indeed the position they are applying for; they are simply hoping to get an interview for a job, any job, with any company. Look, don’t get me wrong, I can understand that approach. It’s like being a salesperson, the more calls you make the better chance of landing a sale.
However, if you do land an interview, you have 30-45 minutes to prove that you are the best person to help their company succeed. You need to nail it and the best chance of nailing it is with some great preparation. Here are some of my thoughts on preparing for your first interview to ensure you always put your best foot forward. In my opinion there are some simple rules to follow, and they come down to Research and Preparation.
The job description (JD).
This is the most important piece of information you can use for your research. Why? The interviewer wants to find out as much about you and your experiences in the allotted 30 – 45 mins as possible and the JD is the best “cheat-sheet” on the types of questions you will be asked. Every JD has a section that is titled something similar to “Key Selection Criteria, Qualifications and Experience required, or Desired Experience” etc. This is where the interviewee, you, should focus your preparation.
These are the skills, experiences, and qualifications the interviewer wants to find out about, so they can compare you against the other applicants. For each of the points in this section of the JD you should develop an answer or answers listing your own experiences, qualifications, success stories and examples of projects completed. Write the answer to each point down, visualize a question pertinent to that point being asked and practice the answer in front of a mirror saying it out a loud, so when the question comes in the interview you can provide a clear, concise, and confident answer.
Try and find their Mission Statement or purpose, their strategic plan, company values, all by researching on-line and/or their Company website. By doing this you can work into your verbal responses how your own values or purpose for applying for this role are the same or similar to the organizations. Usually one of the first questions you get asked is “Tell us about yourself and why you applied for this role?” This is the perfect opportunity to reflect on your core values and how they relate to those of the company.
Know your own resume, the experiences you have obtained, and how they relate to this specific role like the back of your hand. At some point in the interview there will be a time when the interviewer reflects on your resume and will talk about some of the experiences you have obtained. This is usually to work out how relevant your experiences are to the role you applied for. The golden rule to every answer is that you should always refer back to an experience or project, a success story and/or a role you have performed to highlight how relevant your experiences and skills are to this role.
Whenever you apply for a job you will find there are likely to be some very similar questions asked of you in the first interview. This is the perfect opportunity to prepare in advance very well-crafted responses that have been written down and rehearsed, enabling you to deliver your answer with strength and confidence. Some likely questions you should have rehearsed responses for include:
-Why should we hire YOU?
-What are some of your strengths that you believe would be applicable to this role?
-What qualifications have you obtained and why are they relevant to this role?
-What skill set do you think you would bring to this position?
-What is your management style and how do you like to be managed?
-Where do you see yourself in 5- and 10-years’ time?
-What areas do you think you would like to further develop?
When you are well prepared and well-rehearsed you will enter the room looking confident and relaxed.
When asked a question about areas that you need to further develop, or a question about a weakness you may have, remember, we are not all perfect and it is better to provide an answer than say something along the lines of “I’m not sure of any weaknesses”, or “I haven’t thought about what I need to develop further”. A suggested response, if you aren’t quite sure of areas you want to further develop would be along the lines of “I am still inexperienced and have a lot to learn, however, I do learn quickly and am able to adapt my current experiences to the tasks at hand…” and even better, give an example of how you’ve adapted your experience with a relevant example.
When you are well prepared and well-rehearsed you will enter the room looking confident and relaxed. It is important to know that everyone feels nervous and anxious before an interview, and the interviewer knows this as well, and it is their role to try and relax you as much as they can.
If you have done your preparation it will become very clear to the interviewer(s) that you are organized, prepared and excited about the role and opportunity to work for their company.
With great preparation prior to an interview you should feel confident within yourself and reassured that you have done everything you can to put your best foot forward. This alone will help you calm those nerves and enable you to perform at your optimum.
Sean Cary is the Senior Director of Professional Tennis Strategy, Officiating and Pro Circuit at the United States Tennis Association. Sean oversees the Tournament Referee’s, Chief of Umpires’ and Ballperson teams at the US Open Tennis Championships, in addition to all on court operations. These are large teams, some have more than 300 people, and so making sure the right people are selected to manage large groups of people is paramount. Sean is also a mentor in theClubhouse and you can set up a call with him here