guest post from Ellie Piggott
I’m a former World Champion with the Great Britain Rowing Team and am now embarking on my next career in management consultancy. Having been through a few rounds of interviews, I’ve got a few practical tips to get you ready for your next one!
Sport provides you with a ton of great stories and experiences to share, but there is definitely a skill in being able to tell them succinctly and to someone new who doesn’t have any context.
I found it hard to get this balance right to begin with; too brief and I felt I was underselling myself, but too much explanation and I could sense that I was losing my interviewer. I solved this by listing out all the qualities in an Excel document that I wanted to talk about (leading a team, solving a problem, overcoming an obstacles), and then listing 3/4 examples I wanted to talk about for each. When I practised, I would focus my example on that skill, which helped to stay on point and give an impactful answer. This document was also then a great resource to read through just prior to the interviews to refresh my memory on my ‘best’ stories.
It may seem like a big job to create such a document, but I would highly recommend it as a good investment of time, both for clarity and confidence.
I wish I had started this earlier. I found that I progressed a lot quicker from live practice versus talking to myself out loud. Similar to drills in practice versus an actual race, you get a great sense of where you are strong and which areas need improvement by biting the bullet and doing it.
The first session was daunting, but to begin with I would answer a question, then pause and discuss it, before repeating the question to really embed a clear and confident answer. In rowing we are fortunate to have the support of EIS Performance Lifestyle Advisors (thank you to the fantastic Mel Chowns and Helen Ferguson for my practice grilling!), so reach out to those in your network.
Not everyone you enlist needs to be ultra formal to be of value. I also used friends and family to gain experience and practice. One of the questions I found the hardest to begin with was a simple ‘tell me about yourself’ – it’s meant to be a friendly opener to help you relax, but it’s worth practising so it doesn’t trip you up!
In Olympic sports such as rowing there is only one Great Britain team. Success is binary; it’s black and white as to whether you are in or not, and if you’re not, there isn’t another option open to you.
Yet in most non-sporting careers, there are so many different paths to success and so many different ways to forge a fantastic career. I found this to be a great source of comfort and excitement and, although no doubt intense and challenging at times, helped me to enjoy parts of the interview process.
Yes, that day’s interview might be very important and I wanted to do well, but knowing that this new world was not so black and white meant I didn’t feel the same type of pressure that I often felt in selection situations in sport. This also fed into a productive debrief rhythm for me after each interview; what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and then three things to focus on for the next one.
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