How to be a Finalist for That Job You Want


Few employers hire with just one round of face-to-face interviews. Here’s your strategy to be invited to the finalist round.

Get Inside Your Interviewer’s Mind

The average job opening in 2020 will attract about 50 applicants, and as many as 200 or more applicants for highly desirable openings.  Typically the top five or six percent will be selected for an interview.  You got the interview because you were enough of a match for the job that HR and the hiring manager wanted to see you face to face.  You have succeeded in going from one of the very many (50-200 applicants) to one of the few (three to ten) because you meet all (or almost all) of the basic requirements for the job.  The key unspoken question each of your interviewers must answer in that first interview is, “If I hire this candidate, will he/she love the job, fit the job, and will we love him/her?”  


In order to make it to the final round of interviews where the competition for the position is intense, you’ll need a solid strategy to land your spot among the finalists and become one of the few.  You’ll need to do something that less than two percent of all applicants will do, which is to prove how you’ll succeed in the new job.   To prove you will succeed in the job, you’ll need to provide your 90-day blueprint for success.


Your 90-Day Blueprint for Success

Your 90-Day Blueprint is your specific plan to meet all goals, objectives, and expectations the employer has for the candidate they will hire.  In order to develop your blueprint for success in the job, you need to know:

  • What are the specific expectations, goals, and objectives for the job?
  • What are the principal duties of the job?
  • What are the known obstacles to success in the job?
  • How does success in this job impact the department, its goals, and its customers (i.e., the big picture)?


This information should be gathered through research, talking to the employer’s insiders such as a current (or former) successful incumbent, the hiring manager, and the department manager.  They probably won’t talk to you unless the employer sponsors your research, and facilitates your speaking to the appropriate people.


Once you’ve completed your research and internal interviews, you’ll need to develop your plan and show exactly how you’ll acquire the necessary job-specific knowledge to perform your new duties.  Draw from your experience, skills, and talents to explain your plan (or process) for accomplishing each goal and objective.  Describe what you understand to be the obstacles to success and how you plan to navigate them.  Identify how success in your first 90 days will positively impact the department in reaching its objectives.  If possible, outline your plan in bullet point form on a single sheet of paper (two at the most) – you can provide this as a leave-behind at the end of each second interview.


 Career coach Peggy McKee does a great job explaining 30-60-90 day plans in her article.

Set the Hook During Your First Interview

Your pre-requisite for using this strategy is that you want the job.  Before ending your first interview you’ll need to “set the hook” for you to return for a second interview. And you want to have your interviewer agree to sponsor your research to produce your 90-Day Blueprint for Success.  


Ask your interviewer something like, “After meeting you and others from {company}, I’m confident I could make a real difference here.  Will you give me a chance to prove it?  I’d like to chat with {name the functions you think could tell you about the job and what it is like} in order to learn more about the position and its specific goals and expectations.  Then I’d like to come back for a second interview, where I’ll present my 90-Day Blueprint for Success.  How does that sound to you?” 


If your interviewer gives you the go-ahead and agrees to have you speak to the existing incumbent, his or her boss, and other insiders, you are already on the inside track to winning the job.  Your interviewer has all but committed that you will be one of the few invited to a second interview. 


Bottom Line

This is a positive, assertive way to get a commitment to a second interview, and you will likely be the only candidate they will interview who will request this.  While it will take extra effort and time to conduct the necessary research and create your plan, you’ll place yourself on a higher career trajectory in the minds of the decision makers who will congratulate themselves for making an excellent hire.


This article was excerpted in part from Kindle downloadable  book on, Get a Better Job Faster™

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

I work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


Latest Leadership Posts


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 4 Continue Reading


Evaluating Emotional Intelligence When Hiring or Promoting People Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 3 Continue Reading