Successful athletes on winning teams have one thing in common: they intensely and consistently focus on the fundamentals.

That principle applies to executives and managers, as well as candidates in the job market.  Being a successful executive or manager is about focusing on the fundamentals and, more importantly, drilling down to ensure there is consistency in execution.  The same concept applies to job seekers — focus on the job search fundamentals and execute flawlessly.  You will not be successful if these fundamentals are blurred around hope, a wish, and a prayer — otherwise known as throwing your resume around cyberspace and hoping that something will work out.  One reason there are so many chronically unemployed managers is that their job search is based more on hope than those fundamentals that reflect the employment realities of this new economy.  They cannot or will not change.

If you are in the market for a new position, here are some of the fundamentals you should understand:

  1. Understand your value proposition — What do you enjoy doing, what are your best skills and are you good at them?  If you are being laid off or terminated every two or three years, STOP!  That is the market telling you to rethink who you are and what you want to do (read: should be doing).  If your passion is to be a hospital executive but you keep stumbling, then be honest with yourself and look for a new future.
  2. Build your case — Today, more than ever, when a candidate claims to be good at something, employers want to see the evidence.  Yes, your experience is important, but your value and your specific contributions, are more important.  Employers want to see specific relevant and quantifiable examples of your success.  Your resume must be stellar AND it must be focused on the needs of the potential employer.  Your LinkedIn profile should reflect the value documented in your resume.  You should have a first-rate photo and you must have an online presence through participation in various professional groups.
  3. Be prepared to tell your story effectively — A great many highly qualified candidates fail in a job search because they do a poor job communicating their story — their experience and their value.  Successful candidates are prepared with carefully crafted (and accurate) answers to explain any career setbacks. Answering tough interview questions on the fly — making up the answers as you go through the interview — is a really dumb idea.
  4. Manage your references — Develop a master reference list that is large enough so that you do not have to use the same references over and over.  The average candidate today is involved in multiple searches before they land the right job.  Do not wear out your references.  Brief your references regrading each search and remind them of your successes that are relevant to the prospective employer.
  5. Be purposeful in your approach — The job market has significantly changed. There is more and better competition.  Hope, a wish, and a prayer are a non-existent substitute for a purposeful approach to the fundamentals of the job search.