“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

The person who uttered that wise phrase was not a grizzled newspaper editor, but he should have been. Instead, he chose a different career path — the rambunctious and romantic field of theoretical physics – and authored what is said to be the most famous equation in history: E= mc2. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921.

less is moreNo, Albert Einstein was NOT a newspaper editor but he did seem to understand that in many cases, when it comes to explanations, less is more and that overexploiting an issue or event can confuse or bore the reader. I doubt Professor Einstein knew Johnny Boudreaux, an assistant city editor for The Houston Post when I served time there as a crime writer from 1973 to 1976. Johnny was a good and conscientious editor but he sometimes lacked Einstein’s finesse when it came to fussing about a story I had written. Brevity and clarity were part of his editing soul.

“Self, I am going to buy a case of Kaopectate for your typewriter. We don’t have room tonight for War and Peace.” When I would argue that the previous four or five paragraphs, that he had marked through with his editing pencil, provided important context, it was never a good idea to be in his throwing range. He might just decide to emphasize his point and vent his displeasure.

So where does this lead me today? I learned very quickly that Dr. Einstein and Editor Boudreaux were spot-on. Less is more. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, less actually enhances clarity and understanding. The same applies to developing your resume. Candidates who customize and focus the document on the needs of the prospective employer dramatically improve their chances for success.

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So here is today’s job search interview tip: Show up and be prepared, which means that when you are asked a question about your successes, do not act like this is the first time you have ever heard that question. Rambling sentences, like rambling paragraphs, suggest a lack of preparation, and candidates who show up for the interview poorly prepared and offer up meandering answers are losing important opportunities to score critical points necessary to advance.

There are two take aways that I think are particularly important for candidates to remember:

  1. Do your homework and be prepared to relate your successes clearly and succinctly to the needs of the prospective employer. Use information that connects with the needs of the employer.
  2. Many of the other candidates competing for the same job will show up underprepared. Seize that as an opportunity to differentiate yourself.

As three-time America’s cup winner Jimmy Spithill said, “Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy.”