Success is where preparation and opportunity meet

When looking for a job, no matter how much self-confidence you have it’s virtually impossible to get anywhere unless you have prepared
Barry Shannon

WE now know that a rejuvenated Down failed against the the relentless Red Hands as the Anglo-Celt was brought back to the Tyrone heartland.

Two very different teams - one with no expectations at the start of the journey, the other a defending champion with ambitions even loftier than Ulster. One who comfortably navigated Division 1, the other who held on by their fingernails to Division 2 status.

Red and black famed for off the cuff brilliance and sexy football; white and red admired but little loved outside their county for a relentless grinding, systematic approach.

Or so we thought, because 2017 showcased Down as the aggressive, play on the edge, defensive team while Tyrone simply blew Donegal and Derry away with attacking verve and panache. Role reversal almost, yet still poles apart.

The one thing however that both teams definitely had in common on Sunday is that Mickey Harte and Eamonn Burns had them prepared to within an inch of their lives.

It's a bit like that in the world of employment, especially when you're looking for a job. No matter how much self-confidence you have it's virtually impossible to get anywhere good unless you have your work done beforehand. Now this doesn't mean committing to memory the 100-year history of your prospective employer and the organisational structure from CEO down.

What it does mean is understanding what they do, who their key customers are and thinking about what their main challenges might be (and how you could help in that regard). It also means that you should study the job description and especially any accompanying competency related information they provide both inside and out.

Nine times out of ten you will be asked questions that seek to understand if you have been able to demonstrate those competencies in previous roles. So while it might be nice to have prepared an answer on how good you were at calculating payroll accurately every month; if accuracy is not something they are looking for; don't waste much time on it.

Instead prepare by breaking down the roles and projects (especially the most successful ones) that you have been involved with and highlight your particular role within these. Then consider how you can relate your actions therein to the competencies your prospective employer is looking for.

Remember too that even just one good example of your previous work can be spun to suit several different questions. If you managed a team delivering a specific project for example, chances are you demonstrated: communication skills, delegation, time management, attention to detail, resilience and many more competencies. All you need to do is analyse and categorise your best examples and ensure you know what, when and how you can use them for your interview.

Also, don't forget the basics. Figure out in advance how to get to where the interview is being held, how long it takes to get there and even an alternative route if there happens to be roadworks preventing you going the most direct way.

Check too if it's a formal interview with suit and tie, or if smart casual is okay. It can be quite off putting and an unwanted distraction to rock up at an interview and seeing other candidates dressed completely different to you. Little things add up to a bigger picture!

And remember, as Bobby Usner once said: "Success is where preparation and opportunity meet”

:: Barry Shannon ( is HR director at Cayan in Belfast.

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