Posted by Robert Half on 20 February 2015
Finding a new job is a like competing in a rugby scrum. There's only one ball, but two teams fighting for possession of the ball. You're up against a number of strong, capable players, and all your skills, talent and experience will need to be in play to come out winning.
To win a rugby scrum your team needs strength, organisation and drive - many of the attributes professionals require when finding a new job. Everything needs to come together at one moment if you're going to claim the victory. In rugby it's the ball, and in business it's finding a new job you've been looking for.
After winning a scrum, rugby teams break quickly and outflank their opposition. The scrumhalf will either offload the ball to another player, if they feel unable to make a play, or surge forwards towards the try line. This is rather like an interviewee emerging as the preferred candidate in a recruitment process.
There may still be a few obstacles to ultimate success - such as salary negotiations and definition of the role - but having broken through the other team's defence, there's every chance of scoring. After a touch-down, your team gets the chance of a conversion, rather like a candidate turning their job offer into a new employment role.
How to emerge from the jobs 'scrum'
Whenever you are finding a new job, you will need to ask a number of questions. What is the employer looking for? Who is their preferred candidate? And how can you differentiate yourself from the other candidates. Employers often receive dozens of applications for advertised roles, sometimes many more, so it can be like a scrum where you are against other professionals fighting for the ball, or in this case a job opportunity.
To give yourself the best possible chance of winning, you need to make a good impression during ‘the game’ - in this case, the application and interview process. Here are a few training tips for when you are trying to find a new jobs and go to interviews:
When applying for new jobs...
- Look for roles in multiple places, including jobs boards, print adverts and recruitment agency listings. Also network with your team-mates and industry contacts.
- Apply for roles you are qualified for and have a realistic chance of getting. Speak to a recruiter if you're unsure of your suitability.
- Take time over your application and keep referring back to the role criteria. You need to show you have the skills to perform the role in question.
- Tailor your CV or use a CV template when applying to a specific job, focusing on what makes you the ideal candidate. Include the most relevant details first.
- Make sure your CV is a maximum of two pages and has a 150-200 word personal statement, hiring managers and recruiters only have limited time to read CVs.
- Address your application personally to the hiring manager. If you don't know their name, find out before you click 'send'.
When preparing for an interview…
- Research the organisation and memorise details about their performance, activities, locations and key people. You may be tested on this information.
- Find out what the structure of the interview will be, e.g. one-on-one, panel, group, case study or assessment. This will help with your planning and help avoid any nasty surprises.
- Learn the details of your CV of by heart, as this information will help shape your interview.
- Practice answering common interview questions, in order to ease your nerves and ensure you have a rough idea of what you are trying to say. Ensure you are comfortable talking about yourself.
- Become familiar with all the duties of the new role, and be prepared to discuss them at interview. Ensure you can emphasise your ability to perform key tasks.
- Get a good night's sleep before ‘the game’, and top up your energy supplies with food and drink ahead of the interview.
When you face the interview panel…
- Treat the interview panel like a referee. They are there to judge and want to see a fair game; in this case you need to tick all the boxes they believe are necessary for the role.
- Arrive in plenty of time before the interview to make sure you're not late - especially factoring in traffic and public transport.
- Dress professionally, maintain good posture, smile and be polite and courteous. And, of course, switch your mobile phone off.
- Answer the questions posed by the panel, using specific examples where possible. Try not to go off on tangents, unless you can link back to the original question.
- Talk in 'sound bites' until you catch the interest of the interviewer, at which point it is fine to elaborate.
- Listen actively to the interviewer, as they may say something you can capitalise on. Avoid interrupting them when they are speaking.
- Don't volunteer your weaknesses, unless you are specifically asked about them. Ensure you can provide a positive spin. Most likely they want to make sure you aren’t too brash.
- Ask questions during the interview, both to learn more about the organisation and to continue the dialogue with the interviewer. Show your ability to engage in natural conversation.
After the interview....
- Send a note to the hiring manager/interviewer/panel thanking them for their time and consideration.
- If you receive a job offer, take your time to consider it… but not too much time.
- Should you wish to negotiate an improved offer, be wary of asking for too much. It might just cost you the job. You can consult a salary guide and liaise with a recruitment agency over pay and benefits - they will know what represents a good offer for someone in your profession.
- If a higher salary is not on the table, consider whether you can secure other benefits such as additional holiday or attractive pensions contributions?
- If your application is not successful, ask the interviewer for feedback, and think about whether there is anything better you could do next time.
Sometimes, when you are finding a new job, things go your way, especially when you receive a job offer from a prospective employer. At other times you just don't come out of a scrum winning. If your application is unsuccessful, it's important you don't get too dispirited. Stand up and get back in the game - there will be other jobs to go for, and other 'scrums' to contend.