Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s performance director, often remarks that the key to the success of Team GB cycling over recent years is what he calls the “aggregation of marginal gains”. These almost unnoticed changes to the way the athletes train eat, rest, as well as the small tweaks to their bikes may not make a marked difference alone, but when combined with many other tiny improvements they do effect significant improvement.
Individually they may seem so marginal as not to warrant the effort required to put into them. Is it really worthwhile removing a tyre and re-fitting it just because it could be set on the wheel slightly better? Brailsford would say yes, absolutely. If the combination of all these tiny improvements means the difference between gold and silver there is no doubt that it is worthwhile.
Are you always going to be the one on the left?
The principle is relevant to all areas including job search. Indeed, especially job search because when going for a job there is only the gold medal. There is nothing to celebrate when coming second in job applications. Either you get the job or you don’t.
There are many tiny things you can do to make a marginal improvement in your application process. Here are a handful of ideas.
Networking is the key to increasing your chances of finding a new job because the opportunities to network are almost unlimited whereas the number of jobs advertised is. So add another networking meeting or event to your weekly job search activity.
Have high quality personal business cards made. Give them to people.
Be proactive in your relationships with recruiters. Don’t sit and wait for the phone to ring. Keep in contact with them but don’t pester them. Seek their advice about how you can improve your performance in the job market.
At this time of year wear a poppy unless doing so compromises your personal ethics. It is unlikely to offend anyone, but it will, in a small way, send a positive message about you as a person to the person who is interviewing you.
Phone the recruiter or HR person before applying for any clarification that will help you to construct a better application.
Phone the recruiter or HR person a day after submission to ensure they received it. Making voice contact will raise you in their awareness and they will feel a tiny bit familiar with you when they see your application. Obviously don’t pester them or it will have a negative effect.
Read, re-read, and then give your application to someone else who is good at grammar to read over your CV, cover letter and application form. The third stage is really worthwhile. You will miss a lot of errors because your brain has learned to ignore them. Fresh eyes will almost always pick something up you have overlooked.
Plan your journey to the interview carefully and ensure you are early. Not on time, early. Be at the reception 5 – 10 minutes before the appointed time, no more. That might mean sitting in a coffee shop or taking a walk around the block. No problem, use the time to relax yourself.
Talking of relaxation, if you tend to get anxious learn some simple relaxation techniques. Don’t be one of those people who always struggles with nerves in interviews. You don’t have to be that person. You can learn to control those nerves.
Take extra time with your grooming and think carefully about what you will wear on at the interview. Make sure all your clothes are properly cleaned and pressed and men, ties go grubby at the knot after a while. Wear a clean tie or buy a new one. Polish your shoes. People often think that appearances shouldn’t matter, and maybe they’re right, appearances shouldn’t matter, but they do. If you want the job, play along.
If you are rejected for the role seek useful feedback. That means not simply asking “Is there any feedback?” because that will most likely get you an answer along the lines of “other candidates were more suitable”. You need to know what you must do to improve your performance next time, so ask for specific feedback: “What were you looking for that I lacked?”, “What could I have done differently or better?” “What advice would you give me if I want to succeed next time?” You won’t always get useful information this way either, but it’s a better way to ask for feedback.
Of course you could look at all these and many other ways of doing things ever so slightly better, and decide that the effort required is not worth the bother, and if you do that you may keep winning the silver medal.
If you’d like to suggest any more tiny improvements people can make please post them up here.