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I work at a small company with around 25 people in my division. Recently, I applied for a new sales focused position within the company which would allow me to do some things I am more passionate about, and also move closer to home. While I have some limited sales experience, I would like to learn a little more about it in this specific industry to prepare me for my next interview.

I was thinking of emailing/calling one of our current sales reps to see if they would be willing to give me some advice. However, after my first interview with my boss, he told me the second interview would include someone else on the phone, most likely one of our sales reps. So my question is: When they may be interviewing me, is it appropriate to reach out to a sales rep for advice?

Also, just to clarify: This is small and intensely private industry. The people with experience are very few, and the number of people outside our company who would be able to talk about their business is zero.

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Not only is it likely acceptable, it will likely be taken as a good sign.

In my experience, employers are often very willing to coach/guide staff who are interested in applying internally to new positions. I've often been in the position of the hiring manager who had an internal candidate reach out and ask questions before applying for a job, or before an interview. It gives both parties a way to help set the stage for a productive interview.

That said, it may make sense to run this by your manager first. You could say something like,

Hey, I was hoping to gain some insight into the job duties and skills used for this position, so I was going to reach out to X and ask these questions - does that sound okay?

Doing so gives your manager an opportunity to guide you if your questions would be inappropriate within the culture of your company, and it shows that you're respectful of their oversight and leadership.

If you're not able to ask the questions prior to the interview, remember: interviews are a two way street. You will (likely) be given an opportunity to ask questions during the interview itself. It shows good initiative to ask relevant questions.

Regardless of how this particular interview process goes, if this is a direction you want to move in your career, asking good questions will help you prepare for that - if they don't select you because you don't have the right skills now, you can certainly ask for guidance on getting the right skills for the job, in the hope of capturing any future opportunities to join the sales team.

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Certainly it's acceptable. At the moment, you don't know that this person will be interviewing you. It may be one of the others.

Contacting the sales rep will show eagerness - but keep the questions on the level of how and why they sell their product in a particular way, rather than asking for clues on how to pass the interview. You'll also get an idea of whether you'll fit in and be welcomed in that team.

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