Help! I Have A Job Interview…But No Job Description

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Today’s Ask Victoria question comes from a job seeker who was approached for an interview with an organization but was not provided with a job description!

Hello Victoria,

I am scheduled to appear for a personal interface with a company for a prospective employment opportunity. I am scheduled to meet a line manager and likely a couple of more people, including from the HR team.

The challenge is this—I have not been informed about the role/ function/position for which my candidature is being assessed. Hence I do not have a structured “job description” either. I have sought these details from the person who I am supposed to meet, but there is silence on this.

How do I overcome this problem of sharing a resume/profile for an exploratory interview in the absence of a job description for the position for which I am being assessed?

Many thanks in advance,

P.

Dear P.,

I first want to say “congratulations” on securing the interview…but this scenario actually surprises me! After making allowances for the employer such as “maybe they were busy” or “maybe they didn’t see my email” ultimately they are acting in an unorganized fashion. It makes me wonder about the way the organization is run as a whole.

Even if it’s an exploratory conversation, most organizations will have you in mind for a specific role when they interview you, especially if they have scheduled you to meet with several key players. If they don’t provide you with a job description, or an outline of the need they’d like you to fill, they are, as you’ve alluded to, making it very difficult for you to present your transferable skills in the most relevant way. I’d almost ask whether it’s worthwhile to go through with the interview at all. Without providing the necessary details in advance, I could imagine this interview going around in circles.

While I don’t want to jump to conclusions, if they don’t have a job description for you, I would wonder how serious they are about hiring. There is certainly room for changes to responsibilities in any job description as you evolve in the role. However, you want to have one at the start to provide a basic framework of what the job entails. An organization without job descriptions may have a lack of structure throughout the organization. It may be in a period of uncertainty and revamping the way it does its work. I would take that into consideration when assessing whether this is an organization in which you will thrive.

If you are one to appreciate structure and transparency, this organization may not be a good fit for your needs. That being said, there must have been something about your resume that attracted them to you. If you do decide to go on the interview, be sure to ask them which of your strengths they feel are most important for the organization and in what departments they need the most leadership.

Some other steps to take pre-interview:

Research the organization

You’ve probably heard this advice a lot. And sure, if you’re not familiar with the organization already, you definitely want to know its mission, a little bit about its history, and how it does its work. Aside from that, do a thorough search to get more details that will help you assess whether there might be other reasons why they haven’t provided a job description. Is the organization or its leadership in flux? Are there complaints or pending lawsuits? If you can locate employee reviews, what have they said about the organization? What does the media say about it and its work?

Also look into the location for your interview. If it’s not an organization you’re familiar with, what is the address and what type of neighborhood it’s in: business district, residential, industrial? Will you be meeting at a coffee shop or other public place, or does the organization have a physical presence in an office, co-working space, or manufacturing facility?

Research your interviewers

If you know the names of your interviewers, Google them to find out more. How long have they been with the organization, what roles do they play, and what was their prior work history? This may give you a clue as to how the organization places talent and what skills are high priority.

Talk to employees

As you’re sleuthing around, try to locate people who have worked or currently work at the organization. Ask them for a few moments of their time (informational interview style) to give you a lay of the land and whether it’s typical for applicants to not receive job descriptions before their interviews. Who knows? It might be common practice at this particular organization! If you find former employees, ask what prompted their departure, what they thought about the organization, and if they would say “yes” to another job there if the opportunity presented itself. Their responses can be very telling!

Ask one more time

Make one last attempt at getting the job description (or, at the very least, some context about the role and why you’re being brought it). Explain that by gaining a firm grasp of their immediate needs, you can better illustrate the impact you can make if you take the job. If you can find a diplomatic way to say that it seems disorganized of them to interview without a job description, by all means, do so!

Make a decision

Based on your findings, decide if you feel comfortable going on the interview. If anything feels “off” or makes you question the legitimacy of the organization (or the job), go with your gut instinct!

I’m really curious to hear the outcome of this one! Please do keep us posted.

To your success!

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About Author

Throughout my 15+ year career in resume writing, career coaching, higher education, and working with nonprofit job seekers, I’ve used an approach that is nurturing yet practical and driven to achievement. As Audience Development and Content Manager at Idealist for our online publication, Idealist Careers, I bring relevant tips to today's social impact job seekers and career changers with sensitivity towards the challenges they face. I also am the writer of our career advice column, "Ask Victoria". Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I share with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Have a question? Ask at askvictoria@idealist.org. Follow me on Twitter @_AskVictoria.

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