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How to Gain a Strategic Interview Advantage, Part 1

Interviewing for job? Wish you had more information to help you prepare? The Public Speaker has expert tips on how to turn a lack of information into a strategic advantage.

By
Lisa B. Marshall,
July 5, 2012
Episode #161

I recently received this email from Leslie who purchased my audiobook, The Public Speaker's Guide to Ace Your Interview. She connected with me on LinkedIn and wrote:

“I applied for a new position and received a call the very next day from a woman saying that I was overqualified but they were expecting a new, higher level position to open soon and would like to interview me. The HR person only briefly described the job. They are requesting samples of my writing, but because I don’t have a job description, I’m not sure what would be best to send. Is it Ok to request a written job description from HR?

Also, I know one of the 6 people who will interview me. She had suggested in the past that I should consider working for this organization. Can I reach out to her before the interview and ask her about the position? Or would that look unethical?”

Gather As Much Information As Possible

When you are applying and interviewing for a new job, the more information you have about it the better! A job description is a minimum requirement. In order to adequately prepare for the interview, you’ll need to not only understand the responsibilities associated with the position, but also the skills and experiences that are critical to success in the job.

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In addition, it’s best if you can also learn as much as you can about the organization’s culture, the particular group you will be working in, and of course, you’ll want to know about your potential new boss.

You may have heard the saying, “Employees don't quit their companies, they quit their bosses." Yes, the employer needs to determine if you are a good fit for the position, but you need to determine if your new boss is a good fit for you!

Request A Detailed Job Description

The bottom line is, when it comes to interviews, the more accurate, current, and detailed information you have about the position, the company, and the people, the more likely it is that you will get the job (that is, if you want it). So you should always request a detailed job description prior to your interview. Leslie, as you know from my book, for the job candidate a job description is a critical for interview preparation.

Just to clarify, in addition to it being in your interest, it’s also in the interest of employers to provide a detailed job description to potential employees. Turnover is costly. The better a manager is able to articulate his needs, the more likely the company will be able to screen candidates to ensure a good fit.

So, yes, it's absolutely OK to ask for a job description. But you should strive to gather even more information than that.

Ask For Help

In this particular case, since the company provided a detailed job description for the original job you applied for, my guess is that for the new position, the job description hasn't been written yet (or possibly the position hasn’t even been approved yet). So it’s unlikely that the HR rep was deliberately keeping it from you.  My hunch is that she either didn’t have an official description to give you, or wasn’t yet permitted to advertise the job when she spoke with you.

So how do you get the information you need before the interview?

If the HR person called you on the phone, I would guess that the telephone is her preferred communication method (or again, that the position wasn’t finally approved and she didn’t want to put anything in writing). Either way, in your case, I would call the HR person and thank her for contacting you. Say that since her call and since learning even more about the company, you are becoming very excited about the possibility of working there. Oh, and be sure to slightly speed up your voice and talk slightly louder than normal so she can detect your enthusiasm. Tell her that as you were trying to select writing samples to send her, you realized just how extensive your options are from which to choose. Then, take a breath, a noticeable pause, and ask her if she can help you. 

I am suggesting you use the specific words, "I’m wondering if you might be able to help me…” By using those words you are more likely to get a response. Most people want to help others, particularly if you’ve chosen to be a HR professional.

That’s all we have time for this week. But stay tuned! Next week, I’ll explain what to say next so that you are able to gain a strategic advantage over the other candidates. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication; the more you learn, the more you earn!

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