Do You Have What It Takes? Marathon Interviewing Tips

by Michael S. Levy

We've all read or heard stories of people who have run a 26-mile marathon. Or maybe you're one of those people who took on the challenge yourself! I learned a lot about the preparation for one of these marathons when, during one recent career coaching session, my client revealed that he ran in such a race. You can certainly understand my curiosity as I battered him with questions of how he prepared himself for such an exciting yet challenging event.

Can you imagine the preparation, practice, and persistence required to accomplish such a feat? Not only was top physical form required, but mental preparation as well: Constant self-talk was key in maintaining self-discipline, confidence and persistence toward the goal. I was literally on the edge of my seat listening to the rigors of training and preparation, knowing that there would be hundreds of others in the competition.

After his story, our discussion led to an upcoming job interview and the timing couldn't have been better: We compared his preparing for the marathon and his preparation for job interviews. It quickly was apparent that just as he had practiced and prepared for the race, he must do the same for the interview.

Why do so many interviewees show up without having prepared or practiced, knowing full well they will be competing for an important prize? Could it be a misunderstanding of what the interview is all about? It's much more than a day of answering questions and hoping to get a few right answers, more than putting on your best attire and flashing a lot of smiles, more than dazzling the interviewer with your technical expertise. It's a day to give it "all you've got".

Just like the runner following a daily regimen preparing for the big race, the candidate has to prepare before the interview. One big difference is that the runner can size up his competition the day of the race; the interviewee will never see who she or he is up against. I call this "blind competition".

So here are some pointers that both the marathon runner and the interviewee can add to their checklists:

      1. Size yourself up. - Take a look in the mirror and get a visual check. The interviewer certainly will! See if you're prepared and in shape for the competition. Have you put on a few pounds? Can you use a good haircut? Do you look like a strong competitor?

      2. If you're not exercising, start! - You'll need all the stamina and endurance you can get. Exercise will keep you alert, in tone, feeling good about yourself, and able to continue to race.

      3. Eat right! - It's a known fact that some foods cause us to be sluggish and sleepy while others, such as vegetables, seafood, and fruits keep us healthy and sharp.

      4. Get in the habit of a good night sleep. - Experts suggest seven to eight hours a night to keep the body lean and mean. It will assure no yawning at the interview.

      5. Practice with a friend. - During practice, marathon runners sometimes will have someone to run with and help set the pace. You can do the same with interviewing practice. Purchase a book with various interview questions and role-play. Listen to your responses. Are they flowing, choppy, do they make sense? Be critical, the interviewer will! Videotaping is also an excellent way to catch inconsistencies.

      6. Have well-fitted clothing. - 26-miles are a long haul. The runner wants to have the most comfortable yet best fitting outfit for the race. Not much different with the interviewee. Although you should not consider wearing shorts and running shoes to the interview, both men and women will want to have a conservative (but not old-fashioned) suit that is always interview ready. It should fit comfortably and be neither too tight nor too loose. A good appearance is essential!

      7. Wear minimal jewelry. - The runner wouldn't think of wearing any more than a watch to clock their time, and perhaps a ring. You might not have to be so strict, but if it weighs you down, leave it at home. Nothing flashy; be tasteful.

      8. Stay ahead of the competition. - Keep up on the daily news, both local and national. Know what's happening with the newest technology, changes in the marketplace, or whatever will give you an edge against your competition.

      9. Keep a daily activities journal. - Just as a marathon runner tracks progress, do the same. Track your progress after each interview, noting strengths and weaknesses.

    10. Have the right equipment. - Buy yourself a nice pen and "feel-good" accessories, giving you added confidence. Anyway, don't you deserve it?

Like the marathon runner reaching the finish line, preparation and practice are essential to effective interviewing and to coming out a winner! Oh, and in case you're wondering, my client did finish the race.

Michael S. Levy is founder and executive director of Career Designers Services, LLC, a company offering services ranging from career coaching to corporate training. He has successfully assisting hundreds of clients through career development and transitioning. Michael's website can be found at: http://www.careerdesigners.com. Reach him at: careers@careerdesigners.com

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