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Here are three takeaways for executives in the job market:

Here is your first brand differentiator –

A recurring theme in career management literature is the lack of candidate preparedness.  They go to the trouble to pursue a new executive leadership position and then show up for interviews firing blanks.

differentiateProspective candidates are busy.  Got it.  But potential employers, today more than ever before, are more interested in their challenges, their needs.  Candidates who fail to recognize this important shift in the job market are facing a costly, time wasting experience.

Poor candidate preparation is a huge problem in the search for leadership talent.

This is certainly not a new theme for this blog but clearly it is an issue — an issue with some urgency — that needs more attention.

The candidate who believes that he or she need not prepare for an interview by conducting research on the company, their issues relating to the search, or about the person they are interviewing with, fit in to one of three categories:

  • UNAWARE — The executive is simply unaware of the changing demands of the current job market
  • LAZY — They do not feel the need to exert themselves. They have a lot of experience and held good jobs.  That should be enough.  Yes, there are some very qualified people who have fallen into this very deep career trap
  • ARROGANT — They do not understand that the process is all about the needs of the client, not them which, of course, it isn’t.  For candidates it is an ego boost when a recruiter calls about a new job.  Stop!  They are looking for leadership talent, not prima donnas.  Candidates that understand, will check their egos at the door and come prepared.  Those who don’t are a pain in the…

Be competitive.  Be prepared. these two go hand in hand.   In the past, talking about your experience and where you worked was good enough.  Not anymore.  We need candidates who can connect their experience and relevant accomplishments with the specific needs of the prospective employer.

Here is your second brand differentiator –

Be prepared to tell your story — answering questions in a way that ties them to the prospective employer’s mission vision and values.  Here is the important part: not the employer’s mission, vision and values draped on their website or all those posters attached to the walls.  Unfortunately there is usually a big gap between the written word and an organization’s day-to-day culture so some basic research is required.  Talk to people who have worked there in the past (LinkedIn contacts and other sources) or individuals in your network who might have important relevant insights.  In other words, find out how things really work.  Take this business intelligence and construct answers to anticipated questions using your experience and accomplishments, inserting these relevant examples in your answers in a way that will connect you with the recruiter, and later, your future boss.

Finally, your third brand differentiator –

Be self-aware.  Everything you do or say during a site interview — and I mean everything — will be part of the evaluation process, from the manner you addressed the front desk receptionist to the waiter at lunch who (deliberately) fouled up your order so that the prospective employer could see how you would react.  Being self-aware will help you avoid a multitude of silly or unenforceable errors, to borrow a sports term.

Your preparation, your focus, your engagement, how you treat people and all of those little things in betwixt and between, are critical.  As a candidate this is why you are successful or frustrated.