Complacent candidates risk missing the boat

Q: I’m going for my boss’s job. It’s okay, it’s not a coup d’etat. She’s going peacefully – off into the comforting hands of retirement, three mornings a week on the golf course and a few summer weeks in Alicante. The best of luck to her. I’ve worked closely with her for six years and we’ve got on grand, and kept the show on the road pretty well, it must be said. When she goes on holidays, I cover for her. How do I go into the interview and spout a load of nonsense when they all know that I know the job inside out? I’d be afraid I’d start laughing. (TG, email)

A: TG, it’s excellent that you will be going into the interview knowing the ins and outs of the place. It’s definitely an advantage. Nevertheless, there are a few things about your position that I’d be cautious about. I’ll organise my thoughts into six points to make them clear, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers

Liam Horan, BALLINROBE Tel: 094 95 42965
  1. It sounds like you’re the favourite. Well done to you, you’ve earned it. But I’d warn you that favourites sometimes fail because they take it for granted. Shakespeare wasn’t far off when he described complacency as mortals’ chiefest enemy. And he never even saw the World Cup on the box, let alone in the flesh. I’d take this thing seriously and get your preparation done. Do you want to miss the boat when you know you could so easily have caught it?
  2. You sound like you’re readying yourself for the ‘keep ‘er going, Patsy’, style of interview. Steady as she goes. Aren’t we all doing grand? And won’t it be there long after we’re gone? It might work out for you, but it’s a chancy approach. I’d urge you to have ideas about how you see potential for expansion, new ways of doing the job and – without doing down your current boss – how you can tie up loose ends that have been flowing in the breeze for a while.
  3. Make them give you the job for other reasons than the fact that you’re still there. Let them get excited about what you will bring: a mixture of knowing the run of the place and the prospect of making things better.
  4. One candidate’s nonsense is another’s gold dust. External candidates will come in and have a right rattle at getting this job. They will talk themselves up, make all sorts of promises (some grandiose, some practical) and, if you’re not tuned in, they will steal the job out from under your nose.
  5. In the interview, be the boss in all but name. You’re not the number two when you go in there: you talk and behave like you’ve stepped up. Look to the future rather than dwelling wholly on the past (forgive me my Blairism). Have you seen the film, ‘The Englishman who went up a hill but came down a mountain’? Be the TG who went in a door a number two but came out a number one.
  6. They probably want to hire you. But they also probably want to see you earn it. “Oh, I see you’re still knocking around here” is not the ringing endorsement you’re looking for. Give them reasons to be happy that they’re making the right decision.