What is the #1 reason executive candidates fail to win over prospective employers during job interviews?

Lack of preparation.

What?!?  That came as surprise to me.  

But it’s true, according to Korn Ferry Managing Director Bill Simon as shared by Peter Guber in Tell to Win.  This week we are continuing our exploration of the power of storytelling to achieve our personal and professional goals.

Perhaps it’s arrogance or self-righteousness that leads candidates to believe they don’t have to prepare.  

Or, perhaps we don’t know how to prepare.

According to Bill, there are two things we must do:  First, set our goals and make them clear.  And second: think of a story that has purpose, is relevant, and has a powerful conclusion.

Exhibit one: Teri Schwartz.  In 2009, UCLA was seeking a Dean for one of the country’s premier schools of film, theater, and digital media.  

Teri began her two hour interview with a story that showed she had done her preparation:  “The problem UCLA faces is obvious,” she told the search committee.  “It’s hemorrhaging funding and resources.  But, more important, your school has lost its vibrancy.  A new dean must change the culture and create a new story for the school.  Economic well being will follow collective response but never precede it.”

This vision was at the core of Teri Schwartz’s goal for her story.

She concluded her story with this analogy:  She saw the school “as a reflecting pool into which every person associated with the school would drop a new quality of diversity, innovation, and technology.  All these drops would ripple outward into the world into the future, and each ripple would reflect out individual and collective vision and participation.”


Throughout the search process and multiple interviews, Teri’s opening story and specifically her metaphor of the reflecting pool continued to resonate. 

Peter writes: “By articulating the heart of her goal so clearly in the context of our problem, Dean Schwartz established an emotional connection that served her well…  and a just a few weeks later she was hired.”


Reflection:  Consider an important upcoming project where I need to persuade others to take action.  What story might I tell to win?  

Action:  Tell it.

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1 Comment

  1. Joyce D Marino Reply

    Love it. Sounds like the article could be about me. LOL. I love telling & hearing great stories. Stories are the best way to answer any question especially interviewing questions because it catches the interviewer of guard, and a story based answer does and should involve a lot of genuine research of the company your interviewing for. It takes a lot more effort to tell a problem solving story that regurgitate an answer from an interviewing book. I can’t wait to start interviewing. Thanks Drew, such great timing and excellent information. Thanks for once again making my day a resourceful one.

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