How to Land That Big Job

Job—How to Land the Big One

Now that the economy is getting better, you may be ready to move up to a significantly bigger job—either in your present company, or a new one. You may have had to put up with stagnant pay raises, the worry of downsizing and burnout from handling two jobs because of productivity demands. So how do you increase your chances moving up, and landing a really great job?

According to a recent survey by Novations Selection, Development and Communication, a performance improvement firm, nearly half of U.S. companies now face an employee exodus. Several other surveys back them up, as well, and the reasons given are similar to yours: dissatisfaction with pay; burnout; pent-up demand. So this is probably a better time than ever to try to land your next big job.

Provided you can trust your boss, my first suggestion is to talk to the boss and express your concerns. An honest, ethical boss will respect your feelings and guide you to the best possible move—whether that’s inside or outside the company. If your decision is to build your career with another company, start by learning all you can about it. Check out several web sites (like Hoover’s On-Line.) Use your professional network to contact anyone in that company to learn more about the position. In either case, try to get a job description to target your campaign.

Prepare a cover letter that introduces yourself, summarizes key results you’ve accomplished in your career, and highlights to specific features of your resumé. Prepare a resume that presents a clear, relevant, persuasive picture of why you think you’re the best candidate for the position.

Then try to phone the decision-maker for the new job and ask about the process for applying. (I don’t recommend sending out unsolicited resumes; many just get tossed out. And some may wind up back on your boss’s desk.) It’s so much better when you’ve showed enthusiasm as you talked to the right person, then followed up with a personal letter and powerful resume. That way, your name may be more familiar when your resume arrives. You might have an added advantage by writing on the envelope, “As we discussed.”

Make sure your resume has key words that are linked to the job description and your level of management or technical expertise. Today, many companies use computer programs to scan resumes electronically and select only those that match the criteria for the job.

Prepare for the Interview

Once you secure an interview, plan to talk about how your up-to-date skills would match the needs of the job. Show that you’ve read widely in the field and are current with the cutting edge of what’s going on in your field. Plan your answers to potential questions, like these:

• Walk me through that (situation, meeting, discussion, etc.).

• What happened then?

• How did you feel about it?

• What would you do differently if you had to do it again?

• Can you give me a specific example of a time that you acted unwisely?

• What was going through your mind at the time?

• How did you get involved in your last team assignment?

• What was your last big challenge?

• What role did you play?

• How did you get that role?

• If I were a fly on the wall, what would I have seen taking place?

• What other key things happened?

• How do you make decisions?

• How did you feel about the decision process you usually use?

• Tell me about one of those times when you were especially frustrated.

• Especially proud?

• What did you do in each situation?

• What were the critical points that stick in your mind?

• What kind of thought and planning was involved in your last major decision?

• What do you regret most about your career?

• Tell me when and how you first became interested in _______(discipline).

• What were your thoughts that led you to major in (college major)?

• What courses were most challenging? Why?

• With (work experience), what were your typical duties and tasks?

• In what area did/do you spend the most time?

• What are your most significant skill areas?

• How did you gain that knowledge/skill?”

• Tell me about the equipment, tools, machinery with which you work?”

• What has been your most challenging technical project?”

• You have seen the job description; what seems to interest you the most?

• How is it appealing?”

• Tell me about your specific experience with (equipment, technology, etc.).

• How do you assess your skills in relationship to this position?

• Where are you strongest technically? How so?

• Where would you say you are you the weakest in relationship to this position?

• How has technology affected the way that you work?

• Tell me about your short and long term career goals.

• Why do you want this job?

Level and complexity of previous work

• What did your job at Acme Company consist of?

• Could you describe a typical day on your job?

• What sort of things took up most of your time on this job?

• What kind of decisions did you typically make on this job?

Extent of job responsibilities

• Could you explain just where you fit into the organization?

• Could you tell me a little about your boss’s job?

• How much contact, typically, did you have with your boss?

• In your contacts with your boss, what kinds of things went on?

• To what extent did your boss leave you alone?

• What kind of decisions did he/she expect you to make?

• What kind of staff assistance did you normally get?”

• In what areas?


• How did you happen to go into that job in the first place?

• What attracted you to that kind of work?

• Why did you decide to make a change?

• What are some of the things that kept you working at that job?

• Describe what you would consider to be the perfect job for you—

disregarding any past jobs you’ve had.

Attitudes and feelings

• What did you like best about the job

• What kind of things didn’t you like about the job?

• What, in the job, did you find particularly satisfying?

• How did you feel about the company as a whole?

• What did you like about the company?

• Was there anything about the company or the manner in which they

operated that you didn’t particularly like or agree with?

• How would you describe the kind of company it is?

• What kind of atmosphere or climate would you say it has?

• How much of a challenge did you find the job?

• What aspects of the job were challenging?

• How did you feel about the progress you made?

Questions That Probe More Deeply

• What caused you to consider leaving your present job?

• Describe for me a typical day on your present (last) job.

• What particular part of your job did you like best? Least?

• How did you like working in that department (assignment, office)?

• If you could have changed things, what would you have suggested?

• What’s the most difficult situation you have ever had to work in?

• If you could write you own job description, what would it be?

• This new job I’ve just described to you–what about it is most appealing?

• How does this job compare with others you are now considering?

• What do you eventually want to do? Five years from now? Ten years?

• What has been your greatest creative achievement?

• Tell me about your most recent creative disappointment, when you just

couldn’t get the job done in your own way, on your own terms.

• What additional information do you think I should have about you?

• Where do you want to wind up, professionally, at the height of your career?

• Tell me why you prefer to work alone (or, in a group).

• Why do you prefer to work in a structured (unstructured) situation?

• How do you respond to criticism?

• How do you respond to strong creative direction?

•Tell me why you like specific directions (non-specific assignments).

What you the candidate should ask–

• Why is the position available?

• What happened to the incumbent?

• What are some of the primary objectives of the job?

• What are you looking for in a candidate?

• What type and how much training will be provided?

• What is a typical workday like?

• What are the skills and abilities considered necessary?

• What does it take to be successful here?

• What do you like best about _____?

• What do you like least about _____?

• How is performance evaluated?

• What are key priorities for the company/ department/job?

• What’s the process for making decisions here?

• How much independence of thinking and acting do you look for in an employee?

• Where will this job lead to?

A final thought: Follow up every interview with a thank-you note briefly noting why you’re excited about being considered for the position. It’s a great opportunity to re-sell yourself by recalling two or three key points you made in the interview. Good luck!

Professional Background–Bill Repp

Bill is president of Working Best, an employee and management development firm in Rochester, NY. He has extensive experience in creating and delivering programs in leadership, management, marketing, communication, team building, and business writing. He is a seasoned manager with more than 20 years’ experience supervising people.

He currently writes a weekly newspaper column, Working Best, published in 12 papers nationally. Prentice-Hall published Bill’s first book, Complete Handbook of Business English, and he wrote and published several more, including Why Give It Away When You Can Sell It? He has published more than 80 articles in publications such as AMA Management Review, The Toastmaster, Supervisory Management, Personnel Journal, and 20/20 Magazine. He was noted in USA Today and Reader’s Digest for his unique approach to time management. Bill has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Education.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter