Editor’s Note:  John is taking off from writing the blog and hosting the podcast for the month of August.  During his absence we are reposting select blogs from the archives where there are more than 1,000 columns on such subjects as career management, managing your brand, leadership,  the resume and interviewing skills. This post originally appeared in July 2013.

Attention candidates. It is not nice to bore the pants off the executive recruiter who is interviewing you for that next great job. Really.

Over the past 20 years, I have sat through – endured – more than 4,000 hours of interviews.  Far too many were painfully difficult.  Why?  Because far too many of the candidates were painfully bad at interviewing.  That is not to say they were duds, bozos of the first water.  Hardly, most were successful executives who assembled solid careers with upward growth in title and compensation.  The problem is that they were terrible at telling their own personal and career stories.

Why?  Poor preparation, as surprising as that may seem. Over the last 20 years, our research has confirmed the national norm – that the best-qualified candidates get the job only 35 percent of the time.  The people who were hired were nicely qualified but simply did a better job telling their story, connecting with the client.

Here are three tips to prepare for interviews:

  1. Be prepared. Do your homework.  While it is unfortunately true that many executive search firms provide only the basic information regarding the position and the client, there are a host of Internet resources and commercial contacts that can help you fill in the blanks. Do not assume that you do not need to go to those lengths and that everything will work out, that you will win the day with personality and sheer skill.  If only it were true
  2. Understand your value proposition. With a large tip of the hat to my (former)colleague Nancy Swain of Strategic Intelligence, who specializes in helping corporations and executives understand their true value thereby differentiating themselves in the market place, a well prepared candidate who has the advantage of winning the job is the person who understands her or his value – strengths supported by quantifiable accomplishments that are relevant to the client’s needs as outlined in the recruiter’s “overview” or a more detailed Position Prospectus similar to one (our firm) provides each candidate.
  3. Practice your responses.There are certain questions you know that will be asked – short tenures, strengths and weaknesses, leadership style, most significant accomplishments and why you want to work for this new company. Most of these are softball questions that you should effectively hit out of the park, but only if you prepare what you are going to say.  Tweak the answers to make it interesting.

Recruiters are looking for a reason to advance your candidacy.  Give them several, through detailed preparation and by demonstrating your potential value for the client by providing answers that are engaging, knowledgeable and relevant to the client’s needs. 

Connect the dots, please.