JACKSON, Mississippi — There are two ways to approach an interview — with a messaging plan that is based on an understanding of what the client is looking for and the client intelligence to successfully execute, or a more passive approach, simply responding to questions as asked without working in your strengths in your value proposition.

If you feel Plan “A” is the best choice – albeit the option that requires considerably more effort – you would be correct.  You stand a much better chance connecting your prior success with the needs of the client if you take this approach.  You also will be in the minority, believe it or not.

executive interviewingIn a competitive market, where the number of qualified applicants for the best jobs can exceed thirty or forty candidates, why would you opt for an approach that places you at a considerable disadvantage?  Let me be honest, there are not any good reasons I can think of, and the ones that do come to mind all reflect negatively on candidates who do not come prepared.

Over the years I have interviewed thousands of candidates.  Some I know, most I do not.  Either way, I am always amazed when candidates fail to mention important relevant experience and accomplishments.  On occasion I have picked up some exciting information that was not even included on their resume, even when they have had coaching from outplacement consultants.  When this happens, for me, it is a reflection of poor preparation.

When you do not communicate your story — your relevant experience and quantifiable accomplishments — your chances of advancing in a search drop by as much as 75 percent.

Where you went to school, that you made good grades, your prior employment, or even if you have Fellowship status with your professional credentialing association are no substitute for a gold-plated performance in the interviews.

This is not a hard problem to fix.  Simply do your homework.  This means reading what you find on the Internet, and reaching out to colleagues you know who may know someone with valuable insight on the employer they can share.  Moreover, having 500 or more LinkedIn contacts is a total waste of your time if you do not leverage them for this purpose.

If you attend the ACHE Congress in Chicago, consider attending the session on interviewing at 2:15 PM on Wednesday, March 16.  My colleague Nancy Swain and I plan to cover getting prepared for the interview as a component of this 90-minute workshop.  If you are in the market, or you are concerned you could be in the market within the next 12 to 18 months, now is the time to get prepared.