The Best Job Interviewing Advice I Ever Heard Was from a Baseball Hall of Famer

Back in the ’80s, legendary Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench was the host of an instructional baseball show on television titled, “The Baseball Bunch.” Airing on Saturday mornings, the show’s audience was young Little Leaguers, and it focused on instructional tips and fundamentals. One day back then I was watching the show with my young cousin and Johnny was demonstrating how to play first base, and specifically, the process of preparing to receive a throw from an infielder (or outfielder).

What caught my attention—and has stayed with me all these years since—was his statement that when you get ready to receive a throw from an infielder “assume it will be a bad throw. Because the good throws are easy to catch.” (Paraphrased.) That simple statement resonated with me and I’ve relied on it throughout my career as a metaphor for how to prepare for a job interview (and any other meeting). I’ve subsequently used it as the basis of a lesson in a class I taught at USC’s Marshall School of Business, and to this day as a legal recruiter, I use it to prep law firm partner candidates before their interviews.

The beauty of the statement lies in its visual simplicity. For, every baseball fan knows the trials and tribulations that can come with a “throw in the dirt.” They can be “hard to dig out.” In that vein, during an interview prep session, I tell my candidates about Johnny Bench and the Baseball Bunch and then I ask them to think back to a time when they were caught off guard with a question “out of left field.” Their eyes glaze upward and then the “oh yeah” expression invariably comes across their face. That’s when we start listing all the “in the dirt” questions we can think of.

Usually, but not always, those questions never get asked but just the exercise of preparing for them will provide you with a heightened level of confidence.

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