7 Interview Tips: What Hiring Managers Really Want From You

It really shouldn’t be this way, but interviewing is as unpredictable as New England weather. In article written by the staff at PongoResume.com, Interviewing Tips: What Hiring Managers Really Want from You, hiring manager Michael Neece was interviewed by the staff for his take on what he looks for in job candidates.

The answers he gives to Pongo’s staff are honest and revealing. They reveal some of his strong feelings about candidates and, not surprisingly, the importance of being the “right fit.”

For example, here’s the answer he gives to the question: What are the “hidden hiring criteria” that can’t be written in a job description?

Want to know a secret? The most qualified candidate never gets the job. You may match the job description perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you’re the best candidate or are entitled to the job. The job description is only a small part of the hiring decision. “Fit” is probably the most important hidden criterion.

An employer wants to know that you can do the job and do it well, but they’ve asked you in for an interview, so they probably already think you can do the job. What they don’t know until they meet you is whether you’ll be an effective addition to the organization.

Read the article to get the answers to the following question:

  • What do hiring managers really want to hear when they use the standard line, “Tell me about yourself”?
  • What would you say is the single most impressive thing a job candidate can do in an interview?
  • How do you determine “fit?”
  • What’s the most memorable thing a candidate has ever done in an interview you conducted?
  • What’s the most incredible blunder a candidate ever committed in an interview you were conducting?
  • What’s the best way for a candidate to address employment gaps in their résumé during an interview?

Interviewing for a position can be stressful, but there are some important points Michael makes, namely being prepared and cognizant of the impression you make, that. You’ve been selected to be interviewed based on what’s on your résumé—you have what it takes in the technical realm—so now you have to come across as someone who can work well with others and add another dimension to the position. If you can do this, the rest is history.


When you can’t tailor your résumé to a particular employer, try the Target Job Deconstruction technique

The reason you’re told to tailor each résumé for every job to which you apply is because you need to speak to needs of the employer. Further this will impress the employer with your research of the position and demonstrate how you can solve problems. This makes darn good sense.

But let’s be realistic; this is not possible for every résumé you write, particularly if:

  • you’re posting your résumé on a job board where it will be stored in a résumé bank among millions of other résumés;
  • you don’t have a descriptive job ad and/or;
  • there’s no one to network with to find the real deal about the job for which you’re applying.

So what’s the solution?

In his latest Knock ‘Em Dead series, Knock ‘Em DeadSecrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, Martin Yate offers his Target Job Deconstruction (TJD) method as the next best thing to a tailor-made résumé. You can also read about Target Job Deconstruction on his blog.

“Your résumé,” he writes, “will obviously be most effective when it starts with a clear focus and understanding of a specific job target. TJD allows you to analyze exactly how employers prioritize their needs for your target job and the words used to express those needs, resulting in a detailed template for the story your résumé needs to tell.”

There are eight steps Martin describes when writing your TJD (they can be found in his book), but I’ll talk about the most immediate steps for creating your résumé template.

Your first task in creating your résumé template is to collect approximately six job ads for a position you’re seeking. Use websites like Indeed.com or Jobster.com. They use spider technology pulling from other job boards and deliver a plethora of positions from which to choose. The locations of the jobs matter not.

From there, you’ll note a requirement (skill, deliverable) most common for all six positions. Next, identify a common requirement for five of the six positions, and so on and so on, until you have a list of the most common requirements in descending order.

As Martin states, this will give you a good understanding of how employers think when they determine who they’d like to hire. It will also give you a foundation to write a résumé template, which you can modify whenever you send your résumé to a particular company.

Let’s look at a Market Communications Specialist position in the Boston area. I managed to find six job descriptions by using Indeed.com. Listed below are the six most common requirements for this position.

  1. Common to all six companies is writing copy for direct mail and electronic distribution, including web content.
  2. Common to four of the companies is managing relations with appropriate departments.
  3. Common to three of the companies is coordinating projects with outside vendors.
  4. Common to two of the companies is researching competitors’ websites and reporting activity.
  5. Common to two of the companies is coordinating trade shows.
  6. Another notable duty is Photo shoots/animation development – Webinars - Product Launch planning, which drew my attention, as I enjoy, but have limited experience, in doing webinars and photography.

Now write your résumé. Given this information, your new résumé should first verify in the Professional Profile your qualifications for the most common requirements listed. (Notice that many of the requirements are transferable skills, e.g., written communications, managing others, coordinating projects, researching, and your motivating pressure points. Others speak to your technical skills.)

You will next extract all the key words that apply to you and create a Competencies section including those key words, as your résumé might be scanned by large and even midsized companies. Don’t forget the strong transferable skills you possess.

Finally, you will prove in your Employment History what you have asserted in your Professional profile. Try to prove your assertions with accomplishment statements that are quantified. For example, Produced technical documentation, brochures, and flyers which were distributed via e-mail and the company’s website, contributing to a 56% increase in revenue.

When you can’t send a tailor-made résumé to an employer, or have to post it on the Internet, your résumé template puts you well on the playing field. Give your TJD a chance, and check out other valuable advice Martin Yate provides in his new book.

Sometimes the truth hurts when it comes to interviews

People who proclaim that most interview advice is simplistic irritate me. These are people who view advice on eye contact, handshakes, how to answer difficult questions, and avoiding smoking before an interview, as obvious and unworthy of  mention. Their “expert” advice is often sarcastic, blunt, and insulting.

But the fact remains that occasionally some of these know-it-alls speak the truth, and the truth sometimes hurts. Let’s face it, although eye contact and the handshake need to be in check, there are more important things to consider at an interview.

Charles B is one of these people who warn jobseekers to be aware of more pressing issues at an interview. At the behest of a customer of mine, I read an article by Charles entitled Why I Won’t Hire You. It’s quite good, albeit abrasive. For example, he writes:

“When you first walk in to my office, I am expecting you to be one of the 99%+ people who I know I won’t hire in the first 5 minutes. I am hoping I will be proven wrong, because I really want to hire you and be done interviewing. Unfortunately, most people looking for jobs don’t deserve them….”

Don’t pull any punches, Sir Charles.

Charles goes on to address some of his pet peeves, those that will certainly prevent job candidates from getting hired by him. I see truth in all of them, and have my own comments to add.

You send me a stupidly long résumé

Bingo, the shorter the better. If you’ve read his article in full before reaching this point, you’ll note that he’s a bit hypocritical, as his article is quite long. But his point about writing a résumé that addresses the requirements he lists in his job ads is spot on. In the hiring manager’s mind, it’s all about her needs, not a candidate’s desire to pontificate on irrelevant skills and qualifications.

You can’t tell me why you like your current job

That’s right, be specific and sound enthusiastic about what you did at your last job. Generic statements like, “I enjoyed the challenges” are seen as avoiding the question. Someone who’s serious about working for a company will see this as an opportunity to talk about responsibilities and challenges that exist at the perspective company.

No career plans or vision

As Charles says, “If you just want a job, why should I care? Someone else will come to me with their vision. Eventually.”

He states as a valid reason being disappointed with the lack of growth opportunity at one’s former company and an opportunity to advance at his company. Why would an employer want to hire someone who doesn’t know what he wants? Failure to express career direction at in interview indicates a lack of focus on the job.

No Skills

This is a common complaint among recruiters and hiring managers; people apply for jobs they’re not qualified to do. Charles says to not waste his or others’ time and be honest in your written communications about how you’ll need to learn the required skills. For example, he accepts someone who writes, “Looking to grow skills in Unix administration from a project background.”

Answer my questions with conjecture

Here he’s saying don’t bull s_ _ _  me. If he asks a questions that calls for an example, job candidates better have one, lest Sir Charles loses his patience. I see his point. Interviewees who are dancing in circles come across as desperate or unsure of themselves. Just be honest and say you can’t provide an example.

How to Win the interview

There are five specific traits Charles is looking for:

  1. Show me you can get things done.
  2. Show me you are intelligent.
  3. Show me how I fit into your vision
  4. Be highly skilled.
  5. Be Passionate.
  6. Don’t let me see you sweat. (This is my suggestion.)

The bottom line is that Charles B is telling it how he thinks it is. Jobseekers shouldn’t discount other information given by job search experts, but they should heed what this hiring manager writes. The truth sometimes hurts. But isn’t it better to know the truth than go to an interview with blinders on? Incidentally, Charles B might not like what I’ve written, but the truth is that I don’t care.

PS. Since I wrote this a few days ago, I visited Charlie’s comments and was amazed by the positive and negative…downright nasty…comments he has received. I urge you to read his article.

Make your résumé easy to read if you want to be considered for an interview

I don’t know what’s worse, a résumé that is so dense that it looks like something James Joyce wrote, or so sparse that it looks like a Haiku.

Look, one of the golden rules of writing your résumé is that it has to be easy to read…yet sells you with accomplishments and relevancy. I know this is a tall order but it can be done.

You’ve been told over and over how your résumé is your marketing collateral. Consider reading a brochure that takes you longer than three minutes to complete during the busiest part of your workday. Consider reading a product flyer in a crowded retail store with your kids screaming to leave or wandering off. You only have 30 seconds to get the gist of the product before you decide to explore further.

This is how the employer feels when she reads a résumé to decide if you’ll be considered for an interview. On average an employer will take 15 to 45 seconds deciding whether to invite you in for an interview. The first phase of the résumé review is a quick scan, which means you must make the scanning process as easy as possible for her.

Capturing important information. Keep this general rule in mind when crafting your résumé: do not exceed 4-5 lines per word block. When possible include accomplishments that are quantified with dollars, numbers, and percentages. As quick scans go, these quantifiers will surely draw attention from the employer and entice her to read further. Just glance at the text below to see if it’s something that would be easy to digest in a 15-30 second scan.

Hired to revamp marketing department and turn around declining revenue. Managed 4 employees, including marketing communications writer, graphic designer, and webmaster. Interfaced with members of the media, partners, and consumers; recognized by many for providing excellent customer service. Oversaw more than 10 tradeshows, both organization and attending. Increased number of media contacts from 30 to 6,000 at ABC company within only 4 months. Overall contacts exceeded 30,000. Garnered 20 awards in major trade journals, including “Data Storage Product of the Year,” (5 years in a row) “Product of the Year,” “Editor’s Choice,” and other honors from top trade publications. Placed more than 50 reviews and articles in trade magazines. Designed a 60-page Website and maintained it, while maintaining role of public relations; thus saving the company more than $25,000. Received “Outstanding Employee of the Year” for volunteering to take on this endeavor.

I recently critiqued a résumé that look similar to the above. Now read the same paragraph divided into short word blocks.

Hired to revamp marketing department and turn around declining revenue. Managed 4 employees, including marketing communications writer, graphic designer, and webmaster. Interfaced with members of the media, partners, and consumers; recognized by many for providing excellent customer service. Oversaw more than 10 tradeshows, both organization and attending.

Accomplishments

  • Increased number of media contacts from 30 to 6,000 at ABC company within only 4 months. Overall contacts exceeded 30,000.
  • Garnered 20 awards in major trade journals, including “Data Storage Product of the Year,” (5 years in a row) “Product of the Year,” “Editor’s Choice,” and other honors from top trade publications. Placed more than 50 reviews and articles in trade magazines.
  • Designed a 60-page Website and maintained it, while maintaining role of public relations; thus saving the company more than $25,000. Received “Outstanding Employee of the Year” for volunteering to take on this endeavor.

Do potential employers a favor when crafting your résumé; make it easier to read. Density is one reason employers may decide to place your résumé in the…circular file cabinet.

Get rid of the clutter on your résumé

I hate clutter. If I could get rid of half the stuff in my house, it would take two dumpsters and five days of work. As I clean my house—the kids and my wife at the Fine Arts Museum in Boston—I’m throwing away every useless item I see on the floor.

All this clutter makes me think of the clutter some jobseekers have on their résumé. And I imagine the employers feel the way I’m feeling right now.

I met with a customer the other day to critique his résumé. It was four pages long; but that’s not what made critiquing it difficult—it was wading through the clutter on it. Here are some examples of duty statements, plus one accomplishment.

  • Managed a group of 25 sales people and 10 office staff. (And?)
  • Responsible for hiring and firing employees. (So what.)
  • Led meetings on a weekly basis. (And?)
  • Wrote articles for the company’s monthly newsletter. (So what.)
  • Spearheaded the company’s first pay-for-service program which increased sales 30% and earned the sales department an Award of Excellence. (Okay, now we’re talking.)

The first four duty statements were clutter; they added nothing to his résumé. The last statement, a quantified accomplishment, said something worth reading. It talked about his ability to lead, which effectively covered the first two bullet points.

I asked him about the newsletter to which he contributed articles. He told me it was initially sent via e-mail to 60 partners and customers, and in six months time the readership had grown to 12,000. As well, he wrote two, sometimes three articles a month for it; in which he talked about product releases, offered tips on data storage, and announced tradeshows. He often received favorable reviews from customers, OEMs and VARs.

I suggested that he keep the first duty and elaborated on his group’s productivity, stability, and endearing affection for him. He admitted that 10 of the 25 sales people and half of the office staff had to be let go because of downsizing. However, productivity wasn’t affected; rather the reduced team maintained and even surpassed projections set by upper management by 25%.

The bullet points on leading meetings and hiring and firing employees were clutter, much like the coffee cups sitting beside me on my office desk. Trash these, I told him. A bazillion managers lead meetings, and many are responsible for hiring and firing employees. So what.

He was fine with getting rid of the meetings’ duty statement but was reluctant to let go of hiring and firing employees. I asked him how many employees he had to fire, aside from the ones that were let go because of downsizing. He told me, a lot. “Well, doesn’t that mean you made poor hiring decisions,” I asked him? He didn’t respond.

What we had remaining of the original four duty statements and one accomplishment statement was:

  • Reduced sales force by 40% due to budget restraints, while surpassing productivity expectations by 25%.
  • Spearheaded the company’s first pay-for-service program which increased sales 30% and earned the sales department an Award of Excellence.
  • Authored articles for the company’s monthly newsletter, announcing product releases, providing tips on color management, and promoting tradeshows; increasing readership from 60 to 12,000 in just six months.

He was still a little bummed because he wanted to demonstrate that he had hired and terminated employees. Isn’t that what managers do, he asked me? Yeah, I wanted to say, but they don’t fire people because they made bad hiring decisions. So unlike the clutter that occupies my house, the clutter on my customer’s résumé was drastically reduced.

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