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Career: Know why

Qualifications and skills are only part of the equation. Communicate your “why” in career documents and job interviews to propel yourself to the top of the candidate list.

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Golf industry job
Gain a hiring committee’s confidence by expressing why you work in the golf industry, why you want to be at their facility, and why choosing you would be best for them. Photo by GCM staff


The date was Nov. 4, 1979. Ted Kennedy was sitting down for a one-hour live TV interview to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the United States.

He was ready for this interview.

He was the youngest brother of former President John F. Kennedy, and he’d been in politics his entire life. Ted Kennedy had already served as a U.S. senator for several years. He knew all the facts and figures and had practiced all of his answers to a wide range of potential questions about policies and legislation.

But was he really ready for this interview? The first question the reporter asked Kennedy in that live-TV moment was, “Why do you want to be president?” He had no answer. Silence. Mumbling. Pained facial expression that lasted several seconds.

Ted Kennedy had been preparing his entire life for this moment, yet he was unable to say why he wanted to be president. The interview that was supposed to launch his campaign on live TV instantly turned into the demise of his candidacy.

What does Ted Kennedy’s infamous interview failure have to do with getting a job in the golf industry? I believe it has a lot to do with it. My message to you is to know why. Before you apply for your next job as an assistant superintendent, equipment manager or golf course superintendent, know why you want that job at that golf facility, and incorporate that into your message.

The first step is to include why you want the job in your cover letter. If I receive a cover letter and résumé, and the cover letter jumps right into listing skills and qualifications while never mentioning why the applicant wants to work at this particular golf facility, I’m not very interested in reading the résumé. I want to know why you are applying to be part of our organization and leadership team. If I know why you’re interested in the job, it helps to frame all subsequent information in a favorable context and tone.

During the interview, when you’re explaining why you want the job, avoid listing the same qualifications and skills that got you the interview in the first place. For example, when I served on a committee that was hiring a golf course superintendent, I began the interviews by asking, “Why did you apply for this job?” One candidate was clearly not prepared and answered with basic statistics we already knew. He said he knew we had bentgrass greens and he had experience with bentgrass greens. Really? All the other golf courses in the area had bentgrass greens, and all the other candidates had experience with bentgrass greens. I was asking why he applied for this job to find out more about him as a person and how he would fit in with our particular golf facility, beyond the facts and figures.

Use every opportunity to incorporate your “why” into your answers. Even if you aren’t directly asked questions about why you are interested in the job, weave your “why” into your story and answers.

Some ideas to consider when crafting your “why” include discovering what is unique about this specific golf facility. A good starting point is to learn the mission statement to gain insight into the heartbeat and driving force of this golf facility and the priorities of its customers/golfers/members. What are they proud of about their golf course and organization? What are the features of this particular role that interest you? What are unique characteristics of the role and golf facility that make you a great fit with the leadership team and organizational goals?

Before you apply for that next job — perhaps it’s your dream job, the job for which you have been preparing your entire life — know why. Know why you want that job at that golf facility, and incorporate that why into your message. If you know the answer to this one question, you are already well on your way to winning in your next job search.


Carol D. Rau, PHR, is a career consultant with GCSAA and the owner of Career Advantage, a career consulting firm in Lawrence, Kan., specializing in golf and turf industry careers. GCSAA members receive complimentary résumé critiques from Rau and her team; résumé, cover letter and LinkedIn creation for a reduced member rate; and interview preparation and portfolio consultation.

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