Preparation = Prosperity

Adam Kaplan '95

Two sales executive candidates walked into an interview with the CEO at one of my client companies. The first candidate was in the prime of her career, boasted strong credentials and had a dynamic presence. The second was in the latter stage of his career, had lesser accomplishments (proportionally to his tenure in the workforce) and was a focused but not captivating individual. Both were very motivated to get the position.

You may be surprised to hear that the second candidate got the job offer – by a wide margin. Here’s why.

The second candidate came to the CEO with many prepared questions. He was familiar with the industry, and leveraged that knowledge to dig into the nuances of the role. The CEO saw him as a stabilizing figure in a rather young, six-person sales organization. The dialogue was like a conversation among peers, almost like the second candidate already had the position. When the CEO suggested that he “cold call” his partner to see if the candidate could “get an interview” with him, the candidate jumped at the chance – and landed a 30-minute conversation.

The first candidate did not grasp all of the nuances of the role. She had not done enough research about the company, and was unable to effectively answer questions that the CEO considered “basic.” When questioned about this later, she replied that “I didn’t understand what he was looking for.” Her interview with the CEO lasted 20 minutes, while the business owner spent nearly an hour with the second candidate.

In short, this candidate lost any chance at a job for which she had the experience and qualifications – on paper – because she had not sufficiently prepared for the interview. Today, information is available like never before for job candidates researching a potential employer. Websites, social media profiles, blogs, news articles and press releases are a treasure trove of content at every job seeker’s fingertips. It never ceases to amaze me how many people do not take advantage of these readily available resources.

In today’s competitive job market, you wouldn’t have made it to the interview stage unless your professional credentials met the requirements of the job. In other words, you’ve already edged out 99 percent of the competition. You owe it to yourself to take the next step and do what’s necessary to secure an offer. Use those research skills we all honed at Williams to learn everything you can about the company – and then make a compelling case for why you are not only qualified, but would complement the existing organization perfectly.

If you’re a prospective employee, preparation really is the key to prosperity. Good luck!

Adam Kaplan ’95 is a Retained Search Consultant and Founder of Kaplan Executive Search, located in Southfield, Michigan. He can be reached at [email protected]. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.