A reader writes:
I have a second-round interview coming up for an in-house legal position. This round of interviews is with senior management and will include the chief legal officer.
My contact person is the HR manager in charge of legal recruiting. I am wondering what type of information I can request of her about the folks with whom I will interview. In other words, may I ask for bios of these people? Or LinkedIn profiles? May I ask whether she has any advice for the interviews? Or whether there are particular topics I should be prepared to address? Those last two feel unprofessional, so I’m inclined to just ask for biographical-type of information, but is even that inappropriate? Many thanks in advance for your assistance.
Opinions probably differ on this, but I’d say not to ask for advice for the interviews. It risks coming across as if you’re asking for inside information to help you do well, which makes you look … not especially confident and even a little bit supplicating. I wouldn’t even ask if there are particular topics you should be prepared to address, because — unless you have some reason to believe otherwise — it’s likely that the answer is going to be the standard interview stuff: your experience, interests, skills, etc.
It’s not that the HR manager would gasp in horror if you asked or anything like that, but it’s going to come across as a little unnecessary and probably not garner you any information you don’t already know anyway.
There are times when someone will divulge some advice — “Jane really likes to hear about experience in area X, so make sure you emphasize that” or “Bob can be a little intimidating, but that’s just his face,” or whatever — but it’s better to let them volunteer that than to come across as if you’re looking for a cheat sheet because you don’t trust the process to work well on its own.
After all, remember that you are supposed to be interviewing the employer right back and working to figure if this would be the right fit for you — it’s not just a one-way assessment. So you don’t want to come across as if you’re just interested in impressing them at all costs. It’s about talking to them like normal people, being whoever you are naturally, and figuring out if it’s the right fit on both sides.
I also wouldn’t ask for bios or LinkedIn profiles, because you should be able to find those items yourself online; asking for them will probably make you look unresourceful. That assumes you have their names, of course; if you don’t, you can certainly ask for the names and positions of the people you’ll be meeting with. From there, you should be able to research them yourself. (If for some reason you don’t find information about them online, I wouldn’t go back and ask at that point either; it’s not so crucial that you have their bios that it’s worth asking the HR person to collect them for you.)