My soon-to-be-official stepson always wants to play baseball with me. I’m thrilled he asks. I don’t always have time, but I like tossing a ball around with him. It’s our time to connect and bond.
He does have an agenda, though.
He’s trying to get better.
This kid wants to be the best he can be. He’s willing to put in extra time, away from regular team practice and games, to work on his skills.
The other day he said something profound. “I need to be good at the basic stuff, the fundamentals. I have to do them automatically, without even thinking about how to do it. If I can do that stuff perfectly, I will be able to do the other stuff better.”
When I talk to students about being a good interviewer, I tell them to over-prepare, to have three times as many questions that they think they will ever need written down.
The next question is almost always the same; why?
Because over preparation is the best way to create incredible adlibs, that’s why.
Beautiful adlibs or tangents rarely happen “organically”. I call the word organic (in this context) another word for lazy.
Think of how you’re going to perform at your next big job interview. What if you had your target company’s recent history committed to memory? What if you had their stock price and “forward-looking statements memorized? What if you knew the names of all the officers in the company etched in your dome? What if you knew the software or workflow they used in their offices? What if you could recite 20-30 seconds of your recent history on command, without a bit of hesitation?
You would likely not need to use much of this inside company information, but something happens when you are mega-prepared; you don’t have to think about the fundamentals. Your brain is free to adlib. When you are fully and absolutely informed about your target job and your employer, it’s only natural you will walk in there with confidence. You did your homework. If asked, you can prove it. That’s you being impressive.
Imagine a ball player in an empty stadium It’s dark, so the stadium lights are on. He’s there with a guy throwing him baseballs. The only sound you can hear is the crack of the bat every 15 seconds.
That’s a player over preparing, doing the basics over and over again. While his opponents sleep, he’s working on ways to beat them.
A lot of your fellow applicants are going to do it organically. Not you. You’re going to show you want it more.