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I am not a great golfer. In fact, if you know anything about the game, and then watched me play it, you could argue that my “I am not a great golfer” disclosure was a grand overstatement of the truth. I probably could do better if I used a golf launch monitor to manage my game, that should be something to check out, but…

businesswoman waiting for job interviewIn millennial speak: I suck at golf.

But I do know this about the game. There is a big difference between bent grass greens and Bermuda grass greens. Bermuda can be considerably more forgiving. On a golf course with bent grass greens, you have to be a bit more precise – you cannot lag the ball into the hole, you have to hit it dead solid perfect, to borrow a line from Texas writer Dan Jenkins’ quintessential, laugh-out-loud golf novel of the same name.

Over the last 20 plus years in the search industry, I have interviewed so many candidates who failed to hit the ball in the hole. They showed up, mostly clean-shaven, bathed and nicely dressed, and that turned out to be the high point of the interview. It was if they hit the ball in the general direction of the hole and hoped it would drop in.

Hoping for the best is a poor career management strategy. It is certainly a rotten game plan for interviewing.

I have written about this subject many times, but I recently had another poorly prepared interview experience – one of the worst I have ever experienced — and the frustration has driven me to write yet again. If you know someone who keeps getting invited to the table for a face-to-face interview but they always fall short, there is high probability – I am thinking 99.5 percent chance – that they are flubbing the interview because of poor preparation, their indignant protestations to the contrary.

We seem to be a nation that has become obsessed with things-to-do, or information-to-understand, lists. They are a popular journalism prop. OK, here are my five things you need to remember in order to improve your interview performance.

  1. Understand your value proposition. If you have to ask what a value proposition is, you are in trouble. This should be at the core of who you are as a candidate; it should drive your resume development and 100 percent of your other career management activities.
  2. Tailor your resume to the job you are pursuing. As I have written so many times in the past, the idea that the one size resume fits all jobs point of view is so out of date. Your resume needs to “sell” your value proposition, giving the recruiter a compelling reason to call you. Clearly connect the dots of your strengths and measurable accomplishments with the needs of the client.
  3. Do your homework. I know it is flattering when a recruiter calls. It is not hard to feel professionally inflated. Forget that. Early in the search, recruiters and researchers are casting a wide net. That they called you does not mean you are the preferred candidate for the job. They are trying to build a competitive panel of candidates. With current economic conditions – the overall business climate is better than my golfing skills but not by much – there are almost always several dozen candidates with varying degrees of experience and accomplishments vying for attention. You need to know and understand the needs of the client and be prepared to connect the dots-specifically talk about how you can help the client meet a need, solve a problem. Best effort will not work. There are so many formal and informal channels of business intelligence available to candidates that not knowing what is going on is a poor reflection on their passion, attention to detail and ability to execute.
  4. Do not hold back. Candidates shoot themselves in the foot so many times when they are looking at more than one job at a time. You cannot afford to show favorites. It almost always shows during the process. Do not withdraw from a search because you believe you are going to get a better deal from another search. I just wish I had $1 for every candidate who pulled back, or pulled out, of a search because they just knew they had a better deal somewhere else, and nine to 10 weeks later that deal never materialized leaving them still looking for a job.
  5. Be engaged. Be responsive in submitting requested information, returning calls or being available for interviews. Do not allow yourself the costly luxury of believing that you are more important than the search. It shows a lack of respect for the process and the employer. If you really do not care about the opportunity, do not throw your hat into the ring. Sloppiness as a candidate, or showing disrespect, is damaging to a career brand.