How to avoid getting pipped at the post

Q: I’m in an unusual position. A job has come up in the place where I’ve been freelancing / working on a temporary basis for several years. The reality is that I am the leading contender. But there are several others who have also been freelancing here. They haven’t as much experience as me and all the talk is that I am the favourite, particularly as I have good relationships with some of the key senior personnel within the company. However, I want to make sure I don’t get pipped at the post. Any thoughts?

A: Your caution is well placed. I have seen cases where a well-timed run has taken out the leading contender. Interview panels sometimes make surprising decisions and your job now is to ensure that your name gets to the top of the pile.

In one case of a well-timed run, the ante post favourite took things for granted. Another candidate put in a few great weeks around the time of the interviews and had one notable success that caused talk around the company. Perhaps the interview panel fell victim to recency bias – whatever it was, the less-fancied candidate overtook the favourite in the closing stages and landed the job.

Here are some tips to help you over the coming weeks:

  1. In your application, and in the interview, be very clear about your achievements as a freelance / temp in the company. List them. Elaborate on them. Show pride in them. People forget things all the time and you are obliged to remind them.
  2. Highlight the quality of your relationships with personnel at all levels within the company. Talk about your vast experience of the company’s systems and procedures. Let them see that appointing you will bring about the least disruption to service. While interview panels will occasionally take a punt, they do tend to have a lot of faith in the tried and trusted – push them that way.
  3. Aim to do something of note in the coming weeks. For example, can you engineer a notable success? Can you expedite the completion of a certain project so that it lands at the right time?
  4. Think of yourself as the second favourite – somebody who could win the race but who has a bit of work to do. Favourites often succumb to complacency.
  5. Make sure your application form is detailed and persuasive. Do mock interviews and ask for honest feedback.
  6. In any instance where a company is taking on somebody already within the circle, it is vital for the winning candidate to show the difference they will bring to the company. Hiring decisions are big events for companies. While you can and should promise continuity and the guarantee of hitting the ground running, you should also have ideas for how you can improve the company’s operations. More importantly, don’t just undertake to keep things going nicely: offer difference too.
  7. Let the company see that you are working hard to get the job. Don’t transmit the air of someone who believes it’s their entitlement to be staffed up right now. Aim to get the job on merit. Honour the process by giving it your best shot.

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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