How to Gain a Strategic Interview Advantage, Part 2
Interviewing for a job? Wish you had more information to help you prepare? The Public Speaker has more expert tips on how to turn a lack of information into a strategic advantage.
Last week I left you with a cliffhanger. I was in the middle of answering a question from a reader, Leslie, who purchased and read my book, Ace Your Interview. She wrote and asked if it was OK to ask HR for a detailed job description and to contact someone that she knows who works in the company where she’ll be interviewing.
If you haven’t read or listened to last week’s episode, you may want to do that first. In it, I said that it in everyone’s best interest—both the interviewee and interviewer—to create and provide a detailed job description for the position. I suggested that Leslie call her HR contact and ask for her help. I also advised that before she gets into the specifics of her request to take a breath and a pause, giving the HR rep the opportunity to say something, hopefully, “Of course, what can I help you with?”
Leslie, that’s the point at which you’ll need to explain that you want to provide the very best possible examples of your skill-set and that by understanding more about the position, you will be able to select the most appropriate writing samples for this particular job. Remind her again of how enthusiastic you are about this opportunity and that you want to be as prepared as possible for the interview. Explain that having more details about the job requirements would help you prepare for the interview. Then pause again, waiting for her to respond.
Be prepared, the HR person may not know the details yet. You might consider having a series of questions ready that will help you illicit the key information. She may be able to answer your specific questions, or if she can’t, she might be willing to pass your questions along to someone that can answer them for you.
Also, she might be able to simply point out examples from the company website. Of course, by the time you call, she may also have a job description ready for you and may simply forward you the description. However, if she seems open you may want to ask some more questions anyway.
The idea is to leave the door open to any kind of additional you may be able to obtain...a detailed job description with her personal verbal additions or comments on what the employer is looking for exactly would be ideal.
Regardless of the outcome of this call, I would also make contact with the person who you know in that department. Contact them by phone (or if you are local, invite them to lunch, but certainly don’t even think about emailing). Thank them for their time and say ,"I’d love to know more details about your experiences at XYZ Company.”
It is perfectly reasonable to make contact with people you know to ask them about their experiences. In fact, that is the point of networking! Keep in mind, it's even reasonable to talk to people who you don't know—that is, if they are willing to talk with you. As you know from my book, Ace Your Interview, I suggest that you use LinkedIn to find people who work at the organization—especially if you can find someone in the same position or department.
Leslie, because of your previous networking efforts you are in a great position! You found an opportunity and have access to information other candidates might not have. This is a perfect example of reaping the benefits of your earlier networking. The main point is that “insider” information is a strategic advantage in any interview situation and you should take necessary steps to learn as much as you can about the job and the culture of the organization before the interview.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication; your success is my business.
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