May 30

Visualisation & Interview Success

You don’t have to do much research to uncover that all top athletes’ use visualisation and self talk in some capacity to help them perform at their very best.

Visualisation is a technique that refers to the pictures’ you have in your mind as you prepare for a key situation or event. While ‘self-talk’ is the internal dialogue you have with yourself – the voices in your head.

With the Champions league being played tomorrow (C’mon you reds!) a good example of these techniques being used is a footballer preparing to take a crucial penalty kick in a final.

An amateur footballer may think briefly of a previous occasion when they slotted a screamer into the top corner of the goal, but now, when under pressure to score and win the game they say to themselves; “Don’t scuff the shot.” “Don’t put it wide.” “Don’t hit it straight at the keeper”. Then a picture forms in their head of them scuffing the shot and hitting a weak shot straight into the keepers hands. The take the pen and the result is often just what they pictured – a weak shot that the keeper easily saves.

Compare this to Thierry Henry. Having scored 23 of his 25 penalties during his time in North London with Arsenal, Henry is arguably one of the best spot kick takers that the Premier League has seen. He almost certainly visualised smashing the ball into the back of the net and talked himself through the whole process; head down, clean strike, hit with conviction, you ALWAYS score! The result being, more often than not, a goal.

There is no doubt that these techniques, that work so well in sport, transfer over to a promotion process.

In my experience when I talk to candidates there is often a negative spin on the whole conversation. This intensifies the nearer candidates get to their interview or board. They talk of past failures, the errors they made, say “ I can’t afford to blow it this time!” or “This is my last attempt. I can’t face it again.”

Is this you?

Put simply, thoughts like this do not help you in any shape of form. You need to turn around these negative thoughts by visualising success and having positive self-talk. There is no doubt that interviews and boards are very stressful but you need to move away from saying things like;

  • I’m great at the job but I just don’t interview well.
  • I just can’t relax. It’s all so false.
  • I’m worried about how I sound.

If you consistently find yourself saying “don’t”, “cant”, “worried” or “stressed”, you need to spend time thinking how you can turn these thoughts into positives.

For example:

  • I know that I will interview well because I am strong in my job and I have prepared the best I can for this interview.
  • When I think about the end goal of promotion and the kudos it will bring me, this really helps me relax, as I know the hard work is worth it.
  • I know that when I practice and rehearse I sound much more natural and authentic.


  • Plan every aspect of your interview – how will you get there? What will you be wearing? How do you want to sound? What key message do you want to convey?
  • Visualise the room and the panel. Imagine talking confidently to them all, whatever their rank.
  • See and hear yourself being clear, concise and delivering with impact – Trust in your preparation.
  • Rehearse tough check questions that you may be asked. Don’t be caught out.

Another important aspect will be the pace of your delivery. Slow down and breathe! Often, when we run master-classes, we see candidates deliver an answer so rapidly they do not even pause for breath. We get concerned that we will need to perform CPR! The result of this is a rushed, confused delivery that has little positive impact on the assessors. To help you with this, think of a rugby player about to take a conversion. They slow down, repeatedly look at the ball then the goal posts, they take big deep breaths. They control their breathing. They picture the ball sailing through the middle of the posts. You never see a professional player just run up and boot the ball. That is setting up for failure. How will you replicate this in your interview?

Clearly there is a final step in success along with visualisation and positive self-talk – expert coaching and practice.

Promotion boards and interviews are hard enough as it is without having professional help to focus your efforts. You can’t turn up and wing them these days, the competition is too tough. If you really want to be successful, I would advise that you don’t risk going it alone and get some professional coaching, but as a minimum you absolutely need to practice, practice and practice.

In a recent Twitter poll that our sister company ran, the results were as follows:

To all those doing less than 30 hours – good luck! In my opinion it take a minimum of 30 hours to prepare fully for an interview – thinking of and writing your answers, learning them, rehearsing and then amending appropriately. Visualisation and positive self-talk is a core component of this preparation. Success does not just happen, you need to make it so. Good luck.

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