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The 3 Keys To Winning as an Underdog

Victory in sports and business
Joe Van Tassel 21 Oct 2019

The 3 Keys To Winning as an Underdog

Being the best on paper isn’t everything. I see this everyday in our business (Tech Recruiting), but was lucky enough to witness it as a football fan this weekend. The University of Illinois beat the University of Wisconsin in college football, being The Big 10 Conference’s second biggest upset in 40 seasons. Illinois was a 30.5 point underdog, and still won!

So, how do you do it? How do you win as an underdog?

As a technical recruiter, we’re in the business of getting wins. For clients and candidates alike. You lose, we lose, so let me tell you – I’m in it to win it ALWAYS. Here are what I believe are the keys to making it happen even if you aren’t an Ivy League grad, an awarded executive, or the top seed in college football. 

Here are the three keys to winning as an underdog: 

  1. Preparation. The best preparation can beat anyone. Period. That means two things: Do your research and ask questions. Research is not a quick scroll on a company website. It’s knowing the company history, company values, who your interview is with and what they’re all about. Know their title and anticipate how your role will impact them or help them. Know what their pain points are and also what successes would be. Look at LinkedIn so you know where they have come from and find similarities in your histories together so that you have some relatability. Lastly, asking good questions shows enthusiasm and true interest. Conversely, if you don’t ask questions it’s assumed that you don’t care, and if you ask generic questions it means you’re not really prepared. A lot of jobs are won based on the questions asked. Seriously. 
  2. Follow up and follow through. You have to send what you say you’ll send (like additional references or samples of work), and you must send a thank you email or note to everyone you spoke with, including details of your meeting and how you’ll help out with what they need.  The more generic, the less of an impact you’ll make. 
  3. Attitude. This is where I really think the underdog has an advantage. They want it. They really want it. Excitement, energy, and enthusiasm (without desperation – no one likes desperate) can overcome someone that is more qualified all day. It comes down to that eagerness and willingness to learn and be a part of that company. Being gracious and humble can be a part of it too (like with the thank you email). Do not discount having a good attitude. 

There was no reason that Illini game should have been won. It was against the odds, like all great sports stories and personal stories. I hope it’s encouraging to anyone thinking about why things won’t work for them, or why a job wouldn’t be theirs. Luckily, it’s never just about being the best on paper. 

The 3 Keys To Winning as an Underdog
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The 3 Keys To Winning as an Underdog
Being the best on paper isn’t everything. As a technical and engineering recruiter, I see it every day meeting new candidates. We offer some tips on how to winning as an underdog.
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