Touch, Pause and Engage*: What you might expect at the start of an applied sports science interview.
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Previous blogs in this series
1. Introduction
2. Making an impressive impression
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Lao Tzu
The interviewing begins and the selectors welcome you. There are reams of work written on polite small-talk (“Where are you based?” etc), handshaking (research says avoid limp handshakes – otherwise you may as well slap a 4 week old leaf of Cos lettuce in their grasp and wave it about), smiling (no ‘Gordon Browns’), making eye contact (no staring contests) or sitting only when directed. Once again there is the chance to impair the first impression, with A or B from the last blog, so your best bet is to be true to yourself** and concentrate on being as mindful as possible about the people you are meeting. You should probably be thinking, “Well it’s very nice to meet you at last”, “I feel fortunate to be here”, and hey presto, your body language and facial expression might just show that too. Equally, if your thoughts are running away from you, “OOSH MAMA! SIZZLING HOT SEAT TIME” or “You’re shorter than I thought”, you will no doubt be conveying these thoughts too!
Now you are sitting comfortably, take a moment to gather yourself and take some steady breaths. The interviewers should do some introductions, outline the mechanics of the interview, some background to the role and organisation, and subsequent selection and notification. For the sit-down panel interview, interviewers tend to use three starting tactics at this point***. One option is to launch into straight interrogative interview questions, but this is slightly unusual these days. As an interviewer, the job should be to get the best out of the candidates, if they go on the attack, the candidate could feel hijacked and this will close down the possibility of a fair showing – so it is not in the interviewers interest.
The second option is to use a softer start, a warmer welcoming question such as, “Please could you give us a brief overview of your journey in sport science and what has led you here today?”. This type of question is an ideal opportunity to give an enthusiastic summary of your accomplishments, your applied experiences, mention some of the guiding mentors, culminating in why these aspects of your development ideally place you for the job in hand. You should be well rehearsed and polished for this type of question and take no more than 2 minutes to do so. If you can’t talk clearly and succinctly about yourself, your experiences or your achievements, it leaves little hope for nuanced, philosophical, detailed or technical questions later on.
A common third option is for you to do a presentation. This once again is an ideal opening for you to show your communication skills. You’ll almost certainly receive a title to present to and normally set a time limit. If you want to annoy the interviewers feel free to put the title on the first slide and then talk about something else instead. If you want to annoy them further take your time limit and feel free to add 15-20 mins on top! Keep to the topic and keep to time.
For example,
“Outline a case-study where you have worked in a multi-disciplinary team to improve performance (10 mins)”,
I would recommend (underlined = it says it in the title!); 1 slide introduction, 1 outlining the case and the people involved, 1 stating the goals, 1 on the multi-disciplinary team interaction and duties, 1 on your support work area, 1 on performance outcomes and 1 wrapping up. So using this formula (please just take the broad principles rather than copying it) 7 slides, allowing a little time for you to expand the main points.
Touch, Pause and Engage*: What you might expect at the start of an applied sports science interview.
Some other typical titles for your delectation (focus areas underlined);
· Present your strategy for leading <<insert discipline>> support work for <<insert sport here>>.
· Describe the demands of <<insert sport here>> and discuss the priorities for support as <<insert discipline>> practitioner.
· Describe a support case study in which you have worked, outlining the scientific and emotional elements that made a difference to the athlete and coach.
Stick to the task, stick to time and present with personality and impact. Interviewers will typically ask at least one or two questions, maybe even 20 minutes worth – it is their choice. Presentation (literally and your first impressions) over, time to take a seat, normally interview questions will now follow.
Read on for part 4, my no. 1 interview question
* touch (handshake), pause (gather yourself), engage (ebb and flow or interview questions), just in case you thought it was some interview ritual that you hadn’t heard of.
**self awareness in high performance sport, hmm, now there’s a blog, waiting to happen, leave it with me…
*** More on group interviews and expecting the unexpected another time.

About steveingham

Dr Steve Ingham is one of the UK’s leading figures in sport and one of the world’s leading performance scientists. He is steeped in high performance and has been integral to the development of Britain into an Olympic superpower. He has provided support to over 1000 athletes, of which over 200 have achieved World or Olympic medal success, including some of the world’s greatest athletes such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent. Steve has coached Kelly Sotherton's running for heptathlon and to 4x400m Olympic medal winning success. Steve has worked at the English Sports Council British Olympic Association, English Institute of Sport, where Steve was the Director of Science and Technical Development, leading a team of 200 scientists in support of Team GB and Paralympics GB. Ingham holds a BSc, PhD and is a Fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Steve is author of the best selling ‘How to Support a Champion: The art of applying science to the elite athlete’, discussing and inspiring the importance of learning and adapting to reach our maximum potential. Steve established Supporting Champions with the ambition of helping ambitious people to find a better way of creating high-performance. Steve hosts the Supporting Champions Podcast on sharing his pursuit of understanding and exploration in performance.

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