Job interview guide

This guide was provided by the Transit Group, one of the NBRPA's partners in developing members' life skills, careers and education. Email us for more information on the services offered by the Transit Group and AthLife, in this area. 

The interview may be the single most important facet of the job search process. In most cases, it is the only way to obtain a position or at the very least the opportunity to secure a position for which you have been recommended.

The key to interviewing well is to be prepared. This of course is not a shocking revelation, however; we do like to remind our candidates that it is just as vital to prepare for a job interview as it was to prepare for any opponent you may have faced. Take nothing for granted.

Each step you take in the job search process—assessment, resume preparation, networking, research—all leads to being granted an interview. By partaking in these exercises, you should have a better idea of your skills and abilities and perhaps better language to communicate them to others.

Before discussing technical interview skills or assessing questions that might be asked of you, there are three areas that are very important when interviewing for any type of employment.

1. Confidence
Fear of failure and rejection are the most significant barriers to success and fulfillment in this process. Remember, you are selling yourself—the skill sets that you have developed over the years—and while interviewing is surely stressful, it is important to not let fear overtake the time that you spend with your interviewer.

Managing fear is as simple as practice, practice, practice. We often build tension in ourselves through our self-talk. Make certain that your self-talk is positive. What choices are you making in your self-talk that may limit your ability to interview well?

Stop when you feel yourself becoming tense, especially when you are rehearing for a job interview. Take a deep breath, relax and re-examine your self-talk.

Be sure to challenge any irrational thoughts that you may have. What is the worst that could happen? What is the best that could happen? What is realistic?

Choose to think about and believe what is in your best interest but moreover; be honest and direct with your interviewer.

2. Body Language
Communication comes in all forms and body language is a vital component in the interview process. In other words, our personality is not only conveyed by our words, but b our voices, eyes, posture, facial expressions and body movements. A candidate may be saying all the right words, however; nervousness or poor body language and interrupt the real message.

Project a positive image by utilizing good posture, an interested expression and while not outright staring at the interview, do use good eye contact. Most people believe that crossing your arms is a negative even if you are cold and represents that you are guarded about something.

International customs may certainly vary, however; in the typical Western business, education and governmental communities remember to focus on a firm handshake, good eye contact denoting attention, respect and interest.

3. Likeability
People usually hire who they like. How do you become likeable? This can sometimes be hard for current and former athletes because some interviewers may have a preconceived notion about you based on media coverage you may have received, general feelings about the team that you played for or just their positive or negative bias about professional sports and athletes.

You may find that at times, the interviewer may be more nervous to talk to you than it is for you to answer their questions.

A few points toward likeability . . .

• Be open. Tell people something about yourself. People hire people, not machines.
• Let people know what is important to you. Where are you going and why? Talk about your future. It is true that we all like people who know where we are going?
• Your career as a former professional athlete is certainly part of who you are but until you get a sense of how much your interviewer wants to know, stay focused on other areas of your personality.
• Smile and laugh when appropriate. Humor can help you connect with an interviewer.
• Practice empathetic listening and do not talk too much. When you listen it provides the interviewer time to talk which usually helps create a positive relationship and provides clues to where they would like the interview to go.
• Prepare and ask appropriate questions. Questions show interest. Do not wait until the end of the interview—that is too late.

Overcoming Adversity
As a former professional athlete, you have built up a presence on the Internet and there may be some not so flattering articles about you where you were accused, misquoted or maligned. Most interviewers know that everyone has some shadows in their past but for our part, addressing those difficult issues honestly and directly remains the best policy. Write out answers to potentially difficult questions so that you are prepared. Have others who are close to you look them over. Utilize your references to help persuade employers to understand that what happened in the past is in the past. And remember, continue to be confident.

The 90 Second Commercial (Tell me About Yourself)
Ninety-nine percent of the time, you will be welcomed into an office, engaged in some small talk, maybe offered a beverage and will wait for the interviewer’s first question, which will likely be, “tell me a little bit about you”.

This is perhaps the most important question of the day. If you stammer, you may seem uninterested or boring—certainly not the best candidate for the position. Think of this request as the perfect opportunity for you to highlight your positive attributes, your unique combination of skills, experience and education. Remember as a current or former athlete, you may have to help the interviewer make conclusions by leading them to see the connection between playing field and workplace. The “tell me about yourself” should be a well-rehearsed 90 second commercial that is prepared far in advance of your interview.
Effective commercials tell a story-beginning, body and conclusion and usually contain a strong emotional hook. When you write your commercial, you need to focus on the following:

• Who Am I?
• Where have I been?
• What did I contribute?
• What am I good at?
• What do I have the potential to be good at?

In essence the candidate is telling the interviewer what they can do for the company, helping the interviewer conclude that hiring them is the best possible decision that could be made.

Assignment: Write your 90 second commercial. Utilize your assessment and resume information. Be positive and enthusiastic. You will review your commercial with your Coach.