How to get ahead in the race for ‘the big job’
Sean Browne, Career Coach


Q: The big job – and I mean ‘the big job’ – has come up in my company. About six people are now chomping at the bit. I’m one of those chompers. It will be advertised externally too, and some good candidates will come around sniffing. How can I gain an edge? I’d love to get this job and know I can do it well. (FT, email).

A: I love when the big job comes up, writes Sean Browne, Career Coach, Slí Nua Careers. Game on. Come out now to play…

An internal candidate can be complacent and/or bashful. Don’t be that internal candidate. If you succumb to complacency or bashfulness, you leave the door open for others to overtake you.

The external candidate may be disadvantaged by not knowing everything the internal candidate knows. Firstly, they can’t match your level of knowledge of the company’s operations and plans. However, they have the advantage of being able to promise the sun, moon, and stars without anyone wondering why they haven’t implemented all these great ideas in the company before now.

You’ve got to appreciate that now is not a time to be overly cautious. Prepare to stand out from the crowd, not meld into it.

Put your best foot forward. For example, if there are weaknesses in how the current incumbent runs the role, you’ve got to make it clear that you will offer difference, without running down the departing person.

Even if the previous incumbent has done a brilliant job, it is highly unlikely you will get the position by just promising to continue things as they were. ‘Keep it going, Patsy’ is not a sustainable strategy.

Ask yourself key questions

Every person in the big job must put their own stamp on it. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you prepare for the coming weeks:

  1. What does the company need right now? This might be a fresh commitment to innovation, stronger management, or a solid understanding of how a hybrid working model might unfold for the company.
  2. What did the previous incumbent do that frustrated the people above them? Nobody has everything. If you can discern the weaknesses the previous incumbent possessed, particularly in areas where you are accomplished, you can present yourself as somebody with strength in those areas. Do this subtly but do it.
  3. What are the key benefits of appointing somebody from inside the company? In this way, you may be able to convince the company of the desirability of staying in-house, first of all, and then, in tandem with that, show them that you are the best in-house candidate. Again, subtlety is critical here, but ‘in-house versus newcomer’ is a very real debate for them. Help them along…
  4. Where is the market going? This is a time of unprecedented change in the world of business, and it is likely the owners are struggling to chart a new way. Your ability to be strategic in how you offer direction will be vital.
  5. What have been your biggest achievements in the company? Where have you already put your stamp? When you identify those, prepare to showcase them in the interview. Don’t fall into the trap of presuming that they know. In an interview, it is vital to be explicit. Don’t rely on clairvoyance or faulty memories.


Sean Browne is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.

Make a booking HERE for CV Preparation, Application Form Writing, Interview Training and Mock Interviews.


Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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