Your March Madness Guide to the Interview Process

by Rich DeMatteo on March 11, 2014 · 0 comments

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GimbelTom Gimbel is the President and CEO of LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing firm. Founded in 1998, LaSalle has served thousands of clients and candidates, placing job seekers in temporary, temporary-to-permanent and permanent positions. LaSalle is the only Illinois-based staffing firm named on the Inc. 500/5000 list for the last seven consecutive years. Read Tom’s latest on his blog, Past Five, or tweet him @TomGimbel.


The parallels between the job hunt and athletics are endless… and with March Madness around the corner, what better time to compare the two. Believe it or not, there are a lot of takeaways for job seekers.

Use the following playbook to determine where you are in the job-search process and use it as a guide to advance throughout the interview process:

Resume Screening Process – There are hundreds of applicants per job opening. To avoid having a resume screened out from the beginning, candidates should have relevant information on their resume.  In desperation to land any job, candidates list every single thing they’ve ever done. Instead, candidates should customize their resumes for each position and show exact reasons why the hiring manager should recruit them onto their teams. For example, for a bookkeeping position, a hiring manager doesn’t need to know that the applicant was a lifeguard throughout high school, but that they have accounts payable or accounts receivable experience.

Cinderella Story – As March Madness has proven, the underdog can come out on top. As the idiom goes, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. The same can be true for job searching and interviewing. Put yourself in a position to win…research the company, leverage knowledge during the interview, describe how you can help the company achieve their goals. Don’t have the exact required skills? Take past experiences that may not be spelled out on your resume and walk the hiring manger through the similarities. It’s okay for a candidate to talk themselves up and make sure their strengths are heard loud and clear.

The Final Four – When a candidate makes it to the final round of interviews, things get more intense, more competitive. This is their last chance to prove they deserve a spot on the team.  Come prepared with better questions, more knowledge of the industry, leverage information from the phone screen or first interview to prepare a presentation on how you can help the company achieve their goals.  Show stats. Quantitative achievements are more impressive than generalizations. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn…in a modest way. Hold nothing back. If you want the position, say so. Don’t forget references will be contacted, so ensure they are prepared in case the hiring manager calls… never list anyone without getting their permission first.

On the Bubble – When waiting for feedback, the follow-up is a candidate’s chance to stand out.  Send a handwritten thank you letter reiterating that you want the position, and taking what was learned about the company during the interview and explaining how you can help. If hiring managers asked for supplementary materials, be sure to provide that, too. When it feels like the hiring manager may have forgotten about you, be patient! Empathy is key. Understand that they have other priorities. If there’s no feedback after the designated timeline they gave you, follow up with a call or email.

The Cut – If cut from the process, don’t get frustrated, and never give up. Some of the best athletes faced adversity and rejection along their way to becoming great…heck, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team! Use the setback as an opportunity to re-evaluate and reflect. Ask the hiring manager for candid feedback on what you were missing… sometime s it’s something you can learn from— i.e. dressing too casually, talking too much, etc.

The Champ – A new hire can’t get arrogant that they’ve won. This is when the game really starts. Be the first one in the office and the last one out. Be thirsty for knowledge… hungry to grow… be passionate, competitive and excited.

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