Strong push can take you over the line

Q: I am going for an interview in my company and the field is bound to be very competitive. It’s a great job. People from inside the company are eyeing it up, as are others from similar companies. A woman could get nervous thinking about the opposition. How should I approach the interview? (OL, email ).

A: Every time you go for a job, you must believe that the opposition is of a high quality. To think otherwise is to court complacency and that’s no ally in any competitive process, writes Pearse O’Donnell, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.

I tell clients to think of themselves as the second favourite. With this mind-set – you know you can win it, but you’ve got to push hard – a second favourite will prepare in a dogged fashion.

As second favourite, your focus is on beating just one person – the mythical person you install as favourite. Remember, only one person can get this job so worrying about half a dozen competitors is counter-productive. In your mind’s eye, see yourself trying to pass out the strongest other candidate in the race, and prepare accordingly.

Favourites sometimes slack off. They can take things for granted. In sport, the onset of complacency is an insidious thing. How often have we read a player from a losing team saying – sometimes with the remove of a few years, perhaps in their autobiography – “we guarded against complacency, we talked about taking them seriously, we knew they were good, but maybe it still crept up on us”.

That’s the worry for favourites. Second favourites are not guarding against anything – they are tackling it head on.

You mention nervousness. A certain amount of nervousness is natural. Expect it. The best way of ensuring it doesn’t take you over is to prepare properly.

Some key steps you must take as you get ready for this interview: Read the job spec until your eyes hurt. Talk to someone who previously worked in this job.

Have concrete examples from your own career, hobbies or voluntary involvement that show you doing the kind of things they will want you to do in the job – leading a team, being innovative, taking hard decisions, or whatever else the job is actually about.

Talk out your answers as you drive along in the car. Get a trusted friend to put you through a mock interview. Get comfortable talking about yourself. Resolve to take credit for the good things you have done in your career. Have real ideas for the job.

Do all of that – and more, this job sounds like it’s worth the effort – and you give yourself a much better chance of slipping past the favourite, poor soul, as you come down the straight.

Throw off the crutch

Q: Would you bring your application from into the interview. They say I can, and I think I’d like to. What do you think? (GF, email ).

A: If it were me, I wouldn’t. The interview is held to get to know you, your strengths, your plans, your experience and so on.

By all means, be familiar with what you wrote in the form – a good read of it a day or two beforehand is a ‘must’ – but, other than that, my advice would be to go in there and engage in a proper conversation, rather than relying on any crutch.

Sli Nua Careers ( ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe and Claremorris ), Athlone, Limerick, Tullamore, Sligo, Tralee and Cork. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, job-searching strategies, public speaking and presentation skills, and career direction. For more details, visit


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