Job Interview Stress? Lessons From How Unai Emery Impressed The Arsenal Board

By James Mills, Mentorship Coach & Associate Partner, Lighthouse International

Having a real depth of understanding about a potential employer and their people will always make an impact and ensure you stand out from other candidates.

How do we often feel when going for a job interview?

Stressed? Nervous? Uncertain?

It can be daunting to go into an interview where we have a limited amount of time to make an impact. We may be up against people who have more experience and more qualifications. So, how can we maximise our chances of getting hired even when being compared to seemingly stronger candidates on paper? The example of Arsenal Football Club's recently appointed manager; Unai Emery, is a wonderful one of how important the right preparation and focus for an interview can be.

If you, or someone you know, is getting ready for an upcoming interview, then the advice in this article should definitely be taken on board for maximising the likelihood of success!

Following Unai Emery's appointment, this is what Arsenal Chief Executive; Ivan Gazidis had to say about what impressed him along with the rest of the selection committee that interviewed 8 candidates for the role. Goal.com published the following statement from Mr Gazidis:

"What was really impressive was when you scratched the surface to go deeper and deeper and deeper. If we were speaking about one of our young players, if we targeted Ainsley Maitland-Niles for example, Unai knows Ainsley. He’s watched him, he’s familiar with his patterns of play, his capabilities, he’s very excited about his potential and was able to talk about how excited he was to work with Ainsley, to develop him as a player. 

Very specifically, when you asked the follow-up question and the follow-up question and the follow-up question, you’d get more and more depth about how exactly he would do that, exactly how him and his team would work with an individual player to develop them into the best player they can possibly be and also within the team dynamic.

There are a lot of platitudes in the game of football, a lot, and people can speak at a surface level very easily to sound confident and impressive. What’s impressive to me is when you scratch through that and you get deeply involved in what exactly they mean."

Demonstrating Intellectual Rigour Shows Depth & Substance

What was very evident in Mr Gazidis' remarks that Mr Emery's thoroughness in preparation and analysis immediately helped him to stand out against other seemingly more popular candidates. Quite simply he was able to back up everything he said with facts and evidence!

There was definitely no 'seat-of-the-pants' positive statements that came from nowhere with a desperation to impress and fend off tough questions. Imagine what difference it would make to be able to answer every question through anticipation and thorough discovery!

Understanding People & Their Potential Inspires Possibility!

The second thing that put Unai Emery to the top of the list was that this intellectual rigour was applied to the people at the club.

As a successful coach, Mr Emery recognised that its the understanding of people that makes all the difference to a team's success.

This naturally applies to any organisation and not just a football club! What impact would it make to go into an interview knowing how to best work with potential colleagues whilst also knowing how to nurture future talent at an organisation?

Effective leaders are masters of understanding people and this awareness will always give them the edge in an interview as well as the job itself!

At the heart of this successful interview process is the application of the principles of empathic communication. Unai Emery demonstrated his suitability for the role not by boasting about his qualifications or experience - in the interview they were irrelevant!! His track record and results spoke for themselves and got him to the interview stage.

What he understood is that to become the number one choice, he needed to clearly communicate how well he understood his potential employer; not only the people, but also the challenges and opportunities in relation to those. There is an incredible amount we can learn from Unai Emery's appointment regardless of what job we are going for...

Here's the article in Goal.com.

Looking for an extra bit of career inspiration? Here are 5 questions to get your career back on track!

How To Apply This

Here are some interview preparation questions to consider...

  • What is your vision of the organisation you want to work for?
  • Who makes up the workforce? Why would someone work in this industry and this employer in particular?
  • Who could you speak to who works at the employer and/or in the industry to gain valuable insights?
  • What are the key opportunities and challenges your potential employer faces?
  • What would you do to optimise the opportunities and overcome the challenges?


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