How lessons learnt by Team GB in Rio can help you win at a job interview

Oct 20, 2016

Just as winning at a job interview is the result of small differences, so has the success of the British cycling team in Rio been the result of paying heed to tiny acts.

The six Gold, four Silver and single Bronze medals won by our cyclists in Rio are metallic evidence that anyone can win, if they try. There is, then, hope for the graduate jobseeker who finds himself constantly losing out on the job his heart craves for. If you find yourself wondering whether you will ever get into that company, market or field, the inspirational story of Team GB cyclists leads me to respond with a resounding, ‘Yes, you can!’

However poorly you may think you are doing right now.

I say that with rock solid confidence. Because Team GB did not go from good to great, but from also-rans to winners. That’s why their recent wins turned heads and raised protests. The Rio Olympics had hardly drawn to a close before the cyclists’ success was being questioned because, according to German rival Kristina Vogel, up until a few years ago they were simply “cannon fodder”.

Like Kristina, Australia’s Anna Meares was also puzzled: “How do they lift so much when in so many events they have not even been in contention in the world championships?”

From also-ran to job interview winner

When you look at history you can hardly blame them. Until 2012, no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France. Ever. To put this into context, Tour de France dates back to 1903.

But something dramatic occurred in 2012 when Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win. The following year Chris Froome secured a second win. Team GB have won four times in the last five years, three of these by Froome himself.

The Team has done well in other races, too. Four medals in Sydney and Athens. Then 16 golds in Beijing and London. Everyone agrees that something has changed for British cycling.

How did it happen? It dates back to 2009 with a coach called Dave Brailsford. Dave said that if you focus on improving everything you do by just 1 per cent you will become better at any skill. He borrowed the principle of the aggregation of marginal gains by focusing on small acts, and you can also use it to catapult yourself from also-ran to top job interview winner.

How to make small acts work for you

The aggregation of marginal gains has helped me to understand why an interview is won by such small differences, differences which when placed together add up to huge advantages. I’ve seen it over and over. A candidate’s CV is just that little bit better. It is clear, concise and relevant to the job. The candidate is just that little bit more confident, is just that little bit better at expressing himself and pays just that little bit more attention to the way he looks. He may spend a little extra time on improving his interview skills, researching the background of a company and compiling great questions to ask.

He may come up against someone with more experience than he has, or who is super confident, but because that’s the only area in which his competitor stands out, the graduate who has aggregated small acts reaps the rewards. He stands an act above the rest.

The aggregation of small gains says that if you focus on lots of small things, they will accumulate to a big difference. So, rather than trying to make huge changes, focus across the spectrum of small areas for a well-rounded and greater impact.

At the job selection stage when the interviewer is reviewing all candidates, your name will keep cropping up. Your skills will look significantly better than someone who stands out in a single area. You will look like a Team GB cyclist in Tour de France.

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