Your Career Q&A: When a Job Opportunity Rises from the Dead

 

February 5, 2019
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Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.

Nine months ago, I was recruited for a new position. I went through three interviews, and then they said they were rethinking the job's scope. I heard nothing further from them until a couple of days ago, when I got a call saying that they'd like me to come in as one of two final candidates. I kind of want the job and kind of don't because I felt they wasted a lot of my time. I already have a good job. Do you have any suggestions, Martin?

Always accept any opportunity for a job interview, even one you're not sure about. Of all the professional skills you need for a successful career, your ability to turn a job interview into an offer is almost certainly your weakest—you just haven't done it that often. You need the practice, and because you don't have to accept the job and can turn it down professionally (without burning bridges), go for the interview. It's good for your ego to be called in and proof that you are improving a critical skill.

Reply to the invitation with a request for a quick phone conversation to confirm the interview and to ask a handful of questions:

  • Can you send me a copy of the revised job description?
  • How have the deliverables of the job changed?
  • What are the most important first projects and challenges to be tackled?
  • What is it about my background that made you want to see me again after all this time? 

The answers to these questions will give you a good idea of the likely topics of discussion during the interview. Asking beforehand gives you time to think through what skills and experience you have in each of these areas.

Once you've thought about the topics and refined your responses to any questions, think of additional questions you can tag on to the end of your answers to demonstrate that you understand what it takes to achieve the deliverables and how you will handle the challenges along the way. Never forget that any job is ultimately about preventing and solving the problems that keep your department from contributing to the company's profits. 

Also ask about the people you will be meeting with and what their titles are. With this knowledge, you can think about how your position interacts with various roles and help your potential colleagues understand how your skills, understanding and attitude can contribute to meeting or even exceeding their departments' needs. 

One Goal in This Interview

You have only one goal for this interview: to get an offer on the table. With an interview that has dragged on for ages, like this one, when there are two final candidates being re-evaluated, treat it like a championship fight. In this situation, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so know the job, the likely interview questions, your responses and how you want to be perceived as a potential colleague—then go in there and hit hard. 

The interviewers are likely to re-visit all the major issues that were addressed in earlier meetings, so go over everything that happened in the previous rounds of interviewing. Identify what went well and how you could make your responses even better, and work on those responses you know you could improve on. Important tip: Never tell interviewers what you don't know, because you are offering them a reason not to make you an offer. 

Once you get an offer on the table, you'll have plenty of time to further evaluate the job. The 32nd edition of The Ultimate Job Search Guide (Adams Media, 2017) has over 100 questions to help you determine if the position is the right fit for your goals—all in the chapter on negotiation.

We form our opinions of fellow professionals based partly on what they say and partly on the questions they ask. By regularly adding questions to the end of your answers, questions that are specific to the job, you'll be saying just as much about your suitability for the role as you do with the answers you give. That's because asking intelligent questions about a topic the interviewer is interested in shows real understanding and engagement with your work. It will also turn a one-sided examination of skills into a two-way conversation between two committed professionals with a common interest. Implement these ideas, and that job offer is yours to lose. 

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter. 

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!

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