Differentiation in an Over-Saturated Job Market

Be so good

You have finally earned yourself a seat at the table for an in-person interview to secure your dream job. You are sitting down with four other professionals, and during a series of detailed questions, they finally toss you a softball by asking, “What makes you different than other candidates?” In several of the strength & conditioning interviews that I have been a part of the candidate usually responds by talking about their passion, energy, and love for the career. They say how they do not view it as a job because it is their passion and that leads to them doing good work. Sometimes, they even talk about their “JUICE” in great detail. However, they do not realize that every other candidate says this same thing.

Passion, energy, and “JUICE” are not meaningful enough to secure you the job especially in an over-saturated job market like Strength & Conditioning. There are thousands of coaches out there and only a handful of jobs that open every year. In fact, I was talking to one of my mentors at a prominent Division 1 program and he has 200 applicants for 1 assistant position! The question candidates must ask themselves is, “How do I rise above the competition and differentiate myself from other candidates?”

  1. Do Thorough Research

You should know everything there is to know about the institution and individuals that you are interviewing with. You need to research deeper than surface information. What is the department’s mission statement, departmental structure, recent successes, recent news stories, etc.? Can you then expand on this information to either form connections with your interviewers or have deeper conversations than other candidates who did not do their thorough research? Doing thorough research in order to build a relationship and strong conversation during the interview will make you a memorable candidate.

  1. Have a Plan of Action

They already saw your resume, cover letter, and references. Therefore, you need to bring a plan of action to the table. Not programs or accomplishments from your previous job, but what you plan to do if you are offered the job. If you know what teams you will be working with, show the interviewer what your first 60 days on the job will look like. What are your goals and initiatives? How do you plan to make an immediate impact? What value will you bring to the department right away? A plan of action shows that you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, and that is very attractive to employers.

  1. Ask Thought Provoking Questions

At the end of every interview, the tables are turned and the interviewee gets to ask questions. The worst thing a candidate can do is only ask logistical questions about start date, salary, and job responsibilities. Take this opportunity to learn more about the internal dynamics of the department, introduce more of your ideas, and figure out the future of the job.

What do you enjoy most about working here? This will give you several different opinions of what your future co-workers value about their jobs.

Have you ever thought about increasing your YouTube channel so athletes have access to exercise videos when they are off-campus? Asking questions about an initiative that you have thought of shows that you can bring value to the department right away.

What are some opportunities for growth in this department during the next few years? This will give you a good gauge on how the department is trying to grow, and it will let the interviewers know that you are interested in a long-term commitment.

Making sure your questions continue the conversation and build the relationship between you and the interviewers will guarantee that your interview is memorable.

Conclusion

In an over-saturated job market, you may have a 1 in 200 shot at getting your dream job. Therefore, you must make sure you differentiate yourself. Passion, energy, and love are not enough to set you apart from 199 other candidates. Dig deep in your research in order to form connections and strong conversation, have a plan of action detailing the value that you will bring to the department, and ask questions that help you understand the dynamics of the workplace as well as highlight the value that you will bring to the department. If you want to earn a permanent seat at the table, you must have tangible qualities that let the interviewer know that you are the best candidate for the job.

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