Going for gold: interview with a winning mentality

16 Jul 2012

Euro 2012, Wimbledon and the London Olympics; Inspired by this incredible summer of sport we consider how business can learn lessons from sporting excellence.

Nicky Coffin played Rugby for England earning 22 caps for her country. She’s now a successful performance coach, business woman and Managing Director of Centred Excellence. Here Nicky shares her thoughts on how a winning mentality can lead to interview success…..

‘If you look at top performing athletes and top performing business people they both have certain traits and competencies that signify they are high performers. One competence is that they absolutely want to be the best in their space. Another is tenacity and perseverance. There’s no such thing as failure for them, it’s just feedback. If top sports stars get knocked back, they come back stronger. David Beckham, Paula Radcliff and Roger Federer are all examples of that. Here’s how a top sports player would approach a job interview…

1. Create a game plan: When Spain won the European Championships this year, they had a clear plan. Now you create yours. WRITE IT DOWN. Imagine you have a magic wand for your interview and that it went as well as you can imagine. What would you see, hear and feel? What’s important that you need to be doing or saying during the interview to make it go really well? What would make it a great interview for you? Having written it down, you should already be feeling more confident and positive about the experience.

2. Have a clear idea of your goal: Think about the key points you want to get across and the questions that are likely to come up. Prepare your responses. Ask a friend to role play some really tough questions with you. And Practice! Practice! Practice!

3. Visualisation: Imagine yourself doing the interview from as many different perspectives as you can, as if it’s a movie in your mind. Imagine it’s going really well. You’re answering questions confidently and articulately, so, when you get there you’ll feel calmer. Sally Gunnell was asked what had made the difference for her when she won gold in the 400m hurdles at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. She said every day for 9 months she visualised herself running that race in different lanes and weather conditions over and over again. So, when she came to run the race, she’d already run it in her mind over a thousand times, she’d done it before and it was totally in the muscle. So she was much calmer and in THE right state because she had prepared.

4. Mindset is critical: As long as you’ve practised, 90% of what you do is mindset. Whether you think you can do it or whether you think you can’t do it – both are true. Your subconscious will prove whatever you believe. Go in knowing ‘I can do this’.

5. First impressions Count: Hand shake, eye contact and body language are all important. People make up their minds in less than a second. The interview will then spend the rest of the interview trying to prove that their 1st impression was right. Influence what you can – including first impressions, wear clothes that are smart, a tie, suit or dress that is quite neutral. Stay relaxed. If you do get nervous, dry your hands before you shake. When you’re sitting outside your internal mind chatter helps when you talk about being calm, confident and relaxed. All you need to do is your best. If it’s meant to be, know that the job won’t pass you by.

6. Unattach yourself to the outcome: Get in THE right state, rather than being in a right state. You don’t need the job, you’d like the job and if it happens to be the right thing for you then that’s OK. If you do all that you can to perform at your best, and focus on what you can control and influence, that will help you to be in THE right state. There will be things out of your control, but because you can do nothing about them, don’t waste energy worrying. I think Roger Federer fluffed the first game in the Wimbledon final last week, because winning a seventh title was hugely important to him, and he let nerves get to him; the same for Murray. He felt the weight of expectation to win and put massive pressure on himself. Unattach the need and you will see a different outcome.

7. Sell yourself: Interviews are not a time to be a shrinking violet and bashful! This is the time to shout about yourself. No-one else is going to do it for you. A footballer in a cup final will not be shy, retiring and modest, because that won’t help the team win the match. Shout about your key achievements. It’s not boasting it’s just demonstrating what you’re capable of.

8. Closing questions: ‘What’s important to you about the person that you hire?’ is a good open question to have at the end. Pick up on the response and follow up with ‘How do I compare?’ It may seem bold, but it’s the perfect opportunity for you to get honest feedback and to overcome any possible objections.

Comment on Nicky’s blog @theworksrecruit Want to read more about sport, business and mindset? Nicky suggests:

The Inner Game of Tennis by W Timothy Gallwey

Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by Matthew Syed

Ahead of the Game: How to Use your Mind to Win in Sport by Jeremy Lazarus

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