I am interviewing in a few days for a position requiring some skills I am currently missing. This can be solved by reading one of their manuals, which are supposed to be for sale as far as I understand but the full pdf appears in the very first google page when I search for the document.

I cannot just read it and pretend I got this knowledge from my studies or during previous employment because I cannot prove it and my previous experience has nothing to do with this field. On the other hand, I do not want to lose the opportunity to show motivation and especially learning ability, which is one of my strongest points.

Is there a graceful (and hopefully legal) way to support my action?

  • 3
    It would help to know what country you are in, and also if these are skills specific to this company, or are they widely-used skills that are just neatly presented in this document? – Wesley Long Jan 30 '15 at 17:52
  • The country is Germany and the skills are widely used and neatly presented. – FlatronL1917 Jan 30 '15 at 17:56
  • 3
    If it's for sale, why not just buy the manual? But either way, I'd use the knowledge, and not mention where you got it from. My personal experience is people won't think to question where you got knowledge from unless it's way out of bounds of what you have on your resume. If they do ask, but the manual is indeed available to purchase, just say you read their manual. – Kai Jan 30 '15 at 18:03
  • I did not buy it because it is quite expensive and it makes no sense if I don't get the job (it is a totally new field for me). "just say you read their manual": this leads to the question "where did you find it?" and the question is whether "online" is an acceptable answer. – FlatronL1917 Jan 30 '15 at 18:08
  • In English a sentence like "I read the manual that is available in your store" covers this without inviting further questions about where the information came from. Not much help if the interview is in German though. – Myles Jan 30 '15 at 18:22

Let's assume that there is something which can only be learned by reading this documentation. And, let's also assume that the online PDF is recent and contains the right information.

Your choices are.

  1. Buy it and read it. If you don't get the job, you've wasted some money.
  2. Read the online version. If they ask - say that you bought it, or borrowed it from a friend, or your last workplace had a copy, or it was in a library, or - if you want to be radically honest - tell them you found a copy online.

Personally, I'd say read it online & tell them. Explain that they need a better approach if they want to keep their manuals secret and discuss how you would go about solving the problem.

  • 1
    Might be hard to remove something from the internet after it reaches #1 on Google – user2813274 Feb 3 '15 at 18:10
  • @user2813274 Perhaps. But presumably there will be future manuals? At least future iterations of this manual? – nhgrif Feb 5 '15 at 1:25

This can be solved by reading one of their manuals, which are supposed to be for sale as far as I understand...

Is there a graceful (and hopefully legal) way to support my action?

The obvious way to legally and gracefully deal with this is to purchase the manual, study it well, and convey what you have learned during your interview.

You would demonstrate both motivation and learning ability.

You could be proud, instead of being concerned.


Is this a skill that can only be found in the manual? In other words, could you know about this skill or have this skill without having ever looked at their manual on that skill?

If not, then you have nothing to worry about - they aren't going to question where you got this knowledge or that skill, they're just going to see that you have it. If they demand to know how you learned that skill, then just say you did some personal research for your job. That'll look impressive, and you don't have to tell them that you got it from their manual unless they specifically ask, which is very unlikely.

If it's a skill that could only be acquired or known about by being an employee of that company, then don't mention the skill at all because they should not expect you to have that skill already when it isn't available to the public. When the question comes up, just say that you would like to learn the skill, researched it, and found that it could only be learned within that company.

It's very, very unlikely that there's a specific skill that can only be learned by reading that company's private documents, unless it's a job-specific, company-specific client, which in my experience is rarely something the employer expects you to know how to use before joining the company.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .