My Personal Guide to Help You Ace Your Next Interview

There are quite a few articles athletes can read that are very encouraging regarding the traits they possess and skills they have acquired from their playing days that make them good business prospects.

Though for the most part this is true, just like in athletics, to reach an elite level in your next career you need more than entry level skills. The encouraging thing is, if you know what skills you have and can identify those areas you need to improve, by putting in the effort you can become an elite performer in your new career.

To get to an elite level as an athlete, you will already have demonstrated some traits that are required to become an elite performer in business. However, these traits will only get you in the door. More, much more will be required and as in sports, you will need to perform consistently at a high level over a period of time before you can gain elite status.

Back in the early 1970s coach John Wooden put together the Pyramid of Success to illustrate what it takes to achieve success as an athlete. As a corporate executive, president and CEO for over 25 years, I developed my own model for what traits companies look for and more recently have studied the attributes athletes bring with them compared to those that need to be developed or proven and observed over time.

The Interview Process

In the companies I ran, we had three steps to our interviewing process. In most cases, the candidates could expect to meet with at least three people from the company prior to the final interview which was with the hiring manager. Once all the interviews were done, we all got together to compare notes and decide how to rank the final two or three candidates. Here is typically how it went and hopefully will give you some insight as to what you might expect.

When we interviewed an athlete there were three things we looked for immediately: competitiveness, confidence and poise. These three traits formed the foundation of the evaluation process.

Next we tried to evaluate the athlete’s ability to learn the skills necessary to compete in our business environment. In other words, how coachable is this individual? Here we focused on four areas: initiative, common sense, cooperation and loyalty. If the individual showed ability in these areas he/she was almost there.

The final phase of the interviewing process was critical and it was all about trust. If the candidate scored well on the first two phases, we knew we had someone with the potential to succeed, but if they fell short on the trust scale, it was a real red flag. The six key traits regarding trust were: effort, judgement, adaptability, dependability, character and sincerity.

By charting these traits you can clearly see those you already have, those you need to acquire and those that will need to be proven over time.



During the interview process the traits you already have should be reinforced. Be prepared to give examples of how you demonstrated these traits during your playing days and then, if possible, relate them specifically to the position you are interviewing for. How you handle yourself during these questions directly impacts your evaluation of poise and confidence. Do not underestimate the importance of examples. If you can relate them to the job, you will be well ahead of the competition for the position.

In many companies, including the ones I have run, final interviews are granted to the top two or three candidates. It is not uncommon to ask these individuals to take a professional assessment, usually online, prior to their final interview.

Here is where you are at a real disadvantage if you have never had a professional assessment and feedback. That is because at the final interview the hiring manager has a copy of your assessment and you don’t.

The assessment usually contains how you measure up on many of the traits listed above, as well as how you compare to specific areas related to the job. The results of the assessment form the basis for questions you will be asked during the final interview. If you never had an assessment done and are unaware of some of your weaker areas, your final interview could be difficult and cost you the job. If, on the other hand, you have been assessed, are aware of areas where you may need development and are prepared with answers to questions exploring these perceived weaknesses, your chances for success rise exponentially.


To give yourself the best chance for success on your next interview, you need to do the following:

  • Examine the Success chart above and make note of all the traits you currently possess.
  • Prepare examples of how you demonstrated these traits during your playing days. Where possible, relate these experiences to the job you are applying for.
  • List traits you still need to develop, and be prepared to discuss how you will prove you are the right person for the job.
  • Take a professional assessment and get feedback so you are aware of and understand how to discuss areas where you still may need to improve.
  • Prepare for tough questions regarding these weaker areas, and be prepared to explain how you have overcome some shortcomings in your athletic career to become an elite performer.
  • Finally, after you have prepared, relax. I always enjoyed interviewing people with a positive attitude. It made the process more comfortable for both of us.

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