Be Prepared

Published: 28 September 2012

Be Prepared

It is a widely referenced quotation from Arnold Palmer that the more he practiced the luckier he got. More recently Andre Agassi has written of his fathers obsessive push for him to hit a million tennis balls a year from the age of seven. Different perspectives on the same goal; being prepared delivers enhanced performance when it counts. Matt Cockbill, Partner and Head of Technology & EMI Practices for Berwick Partners, shares some thoughts on getting it right at interview.

Week in week out we meet many talented people; People who run and manage inspirational businesses, deliver fantastic programmes and lead high performing teams. And yet many of them struggle to articulate their role or contribution to the successes when asked simple questions.

In their professional life any other pitch would be relentlessly honed, each feature and benefit carefully analysed and presented with poise. By no means is this a universal problem, some people may lack the often blamed British reserve and can naturally sparkle about their own success. Arguably there are people out there who are better at interviews than they are at actually doing the work! While fascinating the ‘why’ behind this dilemma is beyond the reaches of this blog.

Here are seven points to consider in addressing better interview performance:

• Be in touch with what you ‘are’. What are you coming to market as? Don’t be defined by your current role, or the role you are being interviewed for. People and roles are non-linear. While a role spec gives a square hole for a square peg, reality is always a rough cut shape.

• In discussing your career, be success and achievement led. Responsibilities and accountabilities are in the main homogenous to common roles. Your track record is your unique differentiator. You stand or fall on the strength of your achievements in your current role and you will in the next. Articulating the former is the ticket to securing the latter.

• Irrespective of your discipline, always articulate your achievements in simple commercial terms first, and in technical terms suiting your functional specialism second. It links you to the bigger picture success of the business, not just your department, team or unit.

• Leave long winding tales for long winters nights. Sharp, up beat, ‘critical path’ illustrations embed a clear view that you are in touch with what really matters in your business, and that it matters to you.

• Always be fascinated by opportunity in front of you. If you aren’t, then you aren’t there for the right reasons. Share the fascination and ask insightful questions. Vanilla, uninspired questions leave an indelible suspicion of disinterest or unpreparedness.

• Be clear and candid on what your motivations for your move are. Well articulated drivers, in simple clear terms, give a clear baseline for mutual expectation management.

• Answer the question – ALWAYS! Don’t be afraid of silence, its powerful. Be confident taking time to think, and don’t be drawn in. Don’t gabble to fill it.

Agassi is quoted as saying that he was quite an unremarkable player at the outset. He concluded his playing career a million miles away from unremarkable. Preparation and practice both spawns and enhances talent. So, no more excuses about not being ‘an interview sort of guy’. Of course do the basics; know the business, know the market, know the financials, get a bead on the culture, but most of all know your own successes and points of differentiation. If you can’t articulate them, who else is going to share them for you?

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