Changing the power differential in an interview

There is an important power differential that exists in every interview, whether that is with HR or with the hiring manager. Here are two instances where you can correct that very easily– understanding the job and answering the salary question.


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I'm Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter. When you're on an interview, inherently, there's a power differential that exists between you and the interviewer. After all, they know the details of the job, they know the headaches of the job, they know what they need someone to do and you really don't even if you've seen an ad or a job description. Why do I say that? Because job descriptions are at best 80% accurate. Ads often are not rewritten either. Let me explain.

Most job descriptions are pulled out of a computer system, have been used for years and are never updated. Same thing with the ads. Someone's given notice and as a result, the hiring manager calls over to HR and asks, "you got that job description, we use the hire Jeff? Yeah, he just gave notice. Do you think you can get it to your various resources, put it up on the website, put it on LinkedIn and see who can get onto my calendar on Tuesday?" No one ever updates these things. And thus, you may think you're looking at the right target and what they're looking for. But you really don't.

How do you level the power differential? Real simple. You start the conversation by saying this-- they call you on the phone and schedule a time to speak with you or over video. And this is the way you start. "Hey, thanks so much for making time to reach out to me. I recall the position description (or I saw the ad, or I read the job description or the recruiter [it could be a third party recruiter who scheduled this, or the corporate recruiter, and you mentioned them by name]), told me about the position, but I want to get your take on the role. Could you tell me about the job as you see it and what I can do to help""

And what that does is give you the current thinking about the role which may be slightly different than what you've read. And this way you can talk about what you've done that matters to them, and not just talk about what you've done.

Now, the other place where there's power is in the compensation conversation. And the first time they are asking you how much you're making, or they're asking you how much you're looking for, they are negotiating. And most people don't recognize this. But that's where the negotiation begins, not at the time that the offer is extended. But at the time they first asked you about comp. And you don't have enough information to really answer the question.

So when HR (because it's often HR that raises the subject), asks you about how much you're looking for, what you're making and how much you're looking for, depending upon the locale, and which questions are legal, your response is to say, "You know, I really don't know enough to answer that question. You know, I'm talking to you first time but this job may be easier or harder. I may learn a lot from this position, or working with this team. And I don't really know enough to answer the question. And depending upon the opportunity, I may be more flexible or less flexible. So can I come back to that later on."

And if they press you, you can really say, "I don't know how to say this differently. You know, I can tell you what I'm earning and I'm gonna look for something in line with market conditions. Because it's very obvious what the markets paying for this kind of role. You can go online and look at it, too. But again, for this job, in this organization, for this manager, I don't know enough yet. We're on a first date and you're already negotiating the dowry. Way too early."

So the idea is push it off and thus, you're not getting boxed into a corner. And they'll come back to it later on after you've had more information.

I hope you found this helpful. I'm Jeff Altman. My website is Go to the blog there; go exploring. There's just a lot there to help you. In addition, I'll simply say, if you're not ready to do that for some reason, put the address in your phone because there may be a time you need to come over. And I've got courses there. I've got the blog, there's a lot of great information to help you.

If you're interested in one on one coaching or, advice for me, I can . . . you can schedule time through the website to connect with me. Connect with me on LinkedIn, by the way, at Hope you have a terrific day and, most importantly, be great. Take care.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes.

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