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Preparation, Pitching, and the Perfect Interview

August 12, 2009

This is the second installment in my series for Chandlee Bryan’s, The Emerging Professional. In this post I discuss the similarities between baseball and interviewing.

Baseball is one of the most superstitious games in the world. Players may say you make your own luck, but watch that same player as he makes an effort not to step on the foul line. Between eating fried chicken before every game, taking batting practice in multiples of 3 or wearing the same warm-up jacket before each start, baseball players have numerous ways they get ready for a game. Of course, not all of them have to do with superstitions. I met Ryan Dempster, starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, in Texas during a 3-game series against the Texas Rangers. Since my uncle works for the team I got to be in the park before everyone else. Regardless of the scorching heat, Dempster ran bleachers around the entire stadium before each game. Just one of the ways he prepares. Whether it’s taking batting practice or watching film, baseball players do whatever they can to fully prepare for each and every game.

This same attitude can be applied to the job search. Sure you won’t find me eating fried chicken before every interview, but I do have my set ways of preparing. Here are some steps I take in preparing for an interview:

1. Research: As soon as I have an interview set up, I make it my goal to find out as much as possible about the company. Look on the web, ask friends, ask family or anyone you may know in the industry. It is important to know the company’s reputation, objectives, values and goals. Know their brands, products and important clients. The more you know about the company, the better equipped you’ll be to customize your answers. Interviewers will be impressed with your knowledge of the organization and it will show your dedication to the position.

2. Review Your Qualifications: You know how great you are, but it’s important to be able to articulate that. Before going into an interview think about the skills necessary to succeed in this position. Do you need to be organized, have good time management, have good writing skills or be good with people? Now, customize your own skill set to the position you are applying for. In addition, be able to articulate how you have put those skills in action recently. Use examples to prove your point and demonstrate your skill set.

3. Prepare Questions: The job seeker isn’t necessarily the only one being interviewed. It is important for the interviewee to ask questions as well to see if the company is a good match. Before heading to an interview prepare questions to ask the interviewer. Examples of these are, “What are the responsibilities of the position?”, “What qualifications or skills are you looking for this person to hold?” and “What are the goals for this position?”. Interviewers will evaluate you not only on your answers to their questions, but also the questions you ask them. I try to prepare at least 5 questions prior to each interview.

4. Be Prepared!: I know this seems obvious, but this is key. Besides what I discussed above, also make sure to have extra copies of your resume, have your portfolio prepared (or multiple copies if you’d like to leave a few behind) and have your outfit ironed and ready the day before. Know exactly where you are going and allow enough time to purchase train tickets, get gas or take the bus to wherever the interview is. Don’t wait until the last minute to get everything organized. You want to have a clear head going into the interview and being prepared ahead of time will help you with that.

I recently spoke with CJ Wilson, a relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers, about preparing for games. “The key is to focus on the process of what makes you successful. We make a routine where we do stuff in the same order so that our minds and bodies have all the tools needed to go out and do the job.” If you’re a real sports fan you know what you need to do to succeed. We see and hear about it everyday. Players taking batting practice, pitchers having a catch on their off-days, teams watching film before an upcoming game. Whether in sports or in your job search, if you prepare properly you’ll have all the tools necessary to succeed. I’ve always been complimented on my interviews and that’s because I follow the steps I laid out above. I research, I prepare and I set myself up for success.

Whether you’re a baseball player or recent college graduate, preparation is key.

Have you used preparation tactics similar to these? What do you do to prepare for interviews? What do you find successful? And what has baseball, or any sport, taught you about the job search? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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