Still unclear about job descriptions after the interview
February 6, 2021 4:36 AM   Subscribe

Hi all, I’m feeling lost and would appreciate any advice you can give me. I had a job interview for a position that I thought is similar to what I’m doing now at my current job, based on the job descriptions that are posted online. I was prepared to go into the interview and letting the interviewers know about my past experiences and how they align well with the job descriptions. During the interview, they told me that the main job responsibility isn’t stated in the job descriptions and turned out I hardly have any experience in it. They definitely threw me off my game and I admitted that I don’t have any experience but I would be willing to learn. I thought I handled the rest of the interview well. However I did not inquire about the job as much as I should have because I was so nervous to show them that I have no clue what the job entails. They did briefly explain the role but I still can’t picture what a typical day would look like.

I’m not sure where to go from here. Is it appropriate to follow up with more questions? If so, is it better to wait until I get the offer? What kind of questions would be ok to ask without sounding completely clueless? I don’t want to commit to something until I fully understand the job.

Thank you!
posted by missybitsy to Work & Money (13 answers total)
I would be concerned if you take the job that you're being led by idiots who can't even write a cogent job description.
posted by phunniemee at 5:16 AM on February 6 [27 favorites]

Even if you get this job it feels like you’re being set up to fail. How can you possibly agree to a role when you don’t know what it entails?
posted by Jubey at 5:37 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]

Hi all, I’m feeling lost and would appreciate any advice you can give me.

This isn't a job you want; put it behind you and move on with your life.
posted by mhoye at 6:44 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]

This sounds like it could have been a job they have earmarked for someone specific already, but are required to post and interview for it anyway. If so, the interview doesn't really matter.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:51 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]

I once took a job where they weren’t really clear on the job description and I do think it’s one of the reasons I only lasted a few months. If the interview felt rushed, if they seemed reluctant to answer questions, then this probably isn’t the job for you.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:14 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you dodged a bullet in not getting the job. But it would have been a very GOOD idea to ask what a typical day would look like. An interview is a two-way thing, and if they can't give you straight answers about the actual job, that's a very bad sign. The Ask A Manager site has all kinds of excellent advice about this kind of thing.
posted by Grunyon at 7:21 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]

I'd disagree with the other answers, with a caveat: without more detail it's impossible for us to say. If the new task is something you think you could do, and would want to do -- great! Just ask for more details in a follow-up email, or ask for a follow-up call/meeting where you can ask a bit more.
posted by so fucking future at 7:29 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]

Having experienced HR getting all kinds of things wrong there may be a non sinister explanation as to why the job description missed critical aspects of the role. So if there were no other red flags ask fo clarification. If there were other red flags don’t give it another thought and focus on the next interview.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:35 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]

I would send a polite follow up thank you note and put it behind you.

If they want to meet with you again, ask to see a full description of the role so you can prepare for the second interview. Based on that description, either go to the interview or decline by email if it’s not a good fit.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:45 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Wait for the offer. That will be your opportunity to clarify your role, and you may also be able to use that as an excuse to negotiate a better salary.

There's no reason to ask before then, because if you don't get the job the answer doesn't matter.
posted by metasarah at 8:17 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]

The fact that they only briefly described the job to you during the interview bothers me. They knew that the job description was missing some critical information in it (which is sometimes not the fault for the hiring manager) but didn't seem to do much to try to make sure you had a good understanding of it, which I think is not great and it would give me some pause.

However, I think the fact that it sounds like you didn't ask many questions may have given them the impression that you aren't interested, which could lead to there being no offer and no opportunity to clarify.

Assuming you are not particularly concerned about how they conducted the interview and how the hiring process has gone so far, and you are interested, I think you should follow up now and try to get a better sense of what the role actually entails. Personally I think the offer stage is rather late to be inquiring further about the responsibilities and day-to-day aspects of the role. If they are reluctant or the answers remain unclear, you know that this is dead in the water anyway.
posted by sm1tten at 9:56 AM on February 6

If they contact you again, with an offer or a 2nd interview, ask for an accurate job description, and/or more details about the job and expectations. Somebody screwed up on the job description, but it still might be an okay place or play job. Employers respect you more if you ask for information. Keep in mind that all candidates, or at least external candidates, got sand-bagged the same way.
posted by theora55 at 11:00 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]

Only writing to nth koahiatamadl, metasarah and theora55. It's not great that a description was unclear or inaccurate but there are so many reasons it can happen, some of which may be red flags but many more of which reflect routine failures to update old data, overly-enthusiastic HR controls over job posting, or specific industry complexities. It bothers me that so many people are telling you to ditch this job simply for that reason - in part because it doesn't at all answer your question.

You should wait for the company to follow up with a job offer or some other indication of interest. At that point you should say you appreciate the offer but, given the discrepancies between the posting and the job as described at the interview, you would like to make sure you are the right fit for this job. If you've simply been offered a second interview or something else short of an offer, you can then ask questions clarifying what should have been in the description in the first place - skills needed, nature of the position responsibility, etc. If you actually want the job I would also reiterate, at this point, that even though you might not have tons of experience you're willing to and capable of picking things up quickly. If you get a true job offer, you can ask additional questions about things like the structure of the bureaucracy to which you'll be reporting/supervising, productivity expectations - things that go a bit beyond what you'd expect in a well-done job description but which can help you decide whether this is something you want to take on.
posted by exutima at 8:02 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

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