Don’t Go In Blind

Let me give you a taste of a conversation I had today with someone looking for advice on an upcoming interview. His name isn’t really Tony, by the way.

Me: “Tell me about the job you are interviewing for.”

Tony: “From what I can tell (insert some guesses). It seems reasonable they would want (insert some more guesses). What’s likely happening is (yes, more guesses).”

Let me start by saying Tony is a great candidate with a lot to offer an organization. He is making a common mistake, however. Instead of nailing down the exact job description with the company, he is doing his best to guess what the job is from an internet job posting, word of mouth and intuition. Guessing isn’t good enough. To adequately prepare for the interview Tony needs a clear understanding of the job. That can only be accomplished by asking the company to provide whatever information it has on the job’s scope.

Through the years I’ve met many individuals with a sketchy idea, at best, of jobs they were preparing to interview for. Some only knew the title. Others had a few lines from a newspaper ad or internet posting to work from. When I’ve challenged how much they’ve left to guesswork, they’ve pushed back that they’d get more information during the interview. Guess what? That’s too late! Your chances of pulling relevant information out of your brain on the fly, while under pressure, aren’t good.  Nope, the ideal situation is to know what you are attempting to sell yourself to ahead of time so you can have a plan to cover key aspects of your background.

Back to Tony. When I suggested he contact the hiring manager and request a job description, his response was that he’d thought to do that, but didn’t want to rock the boat with the employer. I understand not wanting to be a pest, but candidates having the job description actually benefits the employer. It helps ensure the candidate is actually interested in the job, allows the candidate to come prepared with all relevant information and spares the interviewer the task of outlining the job during the interview. Never mind it helps cement the impression the candidate is the type to look before leaping. Businesses lose so much in time and productivity because employees don’t bother identifying the true scope of a project or problem.  Showing you recognize the importance of proper preparation is a plus.

So, what did Tony do with my suggestion? He acted on it. He immediately saw the benefit to both parties in him having the information. He contacted the person coordinating the interview, made the request and is now in possession of a detailed description. His odds of selling himself appropriately in the interview have gone up substantially.  Good for Tony! I’ll still cross my fingers for him next week, I just won’t have to cross them so hard since he won’t be relying as heavily on luck.

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