Once upon a time, I was a hiring manager. As I was preparing for a talk I delivered last week at the University of Delaware’s MBA Conference, I realized that most job hunters truly have no idea what the hiring manager is thinking during the recruitment process. I want to share some of those thoughts here, and take it even further.

You might expect that the hiring manager would be impressed by someone who has an excellent, prepared to perfection, answer to every question they ask. Or that they want to hear you talk in detail about your resume (they may even ask you that). You may imagine that the person who hires you wants you to check all of the boxes on the job description, and you might spend hours preparing exactly how you can speak to each point.

In fact, however, that’s not what the hiring manager wants to hear. Not really. 

Here’s a little known fact: If you’ve been invited in for an interview, they’ve already decided you’re qualified for the job.

So, why would you work so hard to persuade them some more? Instead, what a hiring manager really wants to see in a candidate is how you use all those skills and abilities on your resume.

In other words, they want to hear you bring your experience to life in a way that tells them what it would be like to actually work with you. And the best way to convey that is with stories.

So when you get those behavioral questions, paint a picture for them that goes beyond what’s on your resume. Add context. Show your soft skills – they are listening for how you manage ambiguity, how you get along with people, how you handle a challenge.

You think you’re nervous? How about the pressure of bringing the wrong person onto a team that relies heavily on that role I’m filling? What do I want to hear in an interview? 

  1. I want to hear that you know who you are, what you offer, and most of all, that you can solve my problems, because you’re sharp, hard-working and you’ll get up to speed quickly, because we’re already losing time!
  2. I want to hear what you know about my organization, and why you want to work here, specifically.
  3. I want to hear that you’ve got the emotional intelligence to get to know people, make connections, pick up on nuances, and that you won’t demand a lot of management from me. 

So, yes, do the standard prep, of course. But the candidate I’ll hire is the one who goes beyond that and helps me see them, immediately, as a member of the team!


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