Monday, April 6, 2009

What Hiring Managers Think About During an Interview

No matter how prepared you are, a job interview can be tough. You try to appear confident -- yet excited. You want to show you're enthusiastic -- but calm. You give answers that you hope are detailed -- but not boring.

But wouldn't this process be much easier if you could just read an interviewer's mind? While I can't give you that power, I can give you some insight into what interviewers are thinking from their side of the desk.

At the forefront of their minds is....

1. Can you can really walk the talk?

“Right now, there is a level of desperation among candidates and that means they’re exaggerating their qualifications when they apply for a job. The fear for hiring managers is that when the economy turns around, these people who are overqualified for the jobs they accepted are going to jump ship,” says Scott Erker, senior vice president of Development Dimensions International (DDI).

Q VanBenschoten, director for human resources for Intertek, agrees, saying that while her company is being presented with a lot of great talent, the dilemma is whether hiring them may be a mistake in the long run. “The question always is: Are we going to be able to keep them or are they going to get bored and leave?”

And that brings us to another concern...

2. Are they missing something important?

Van Benschoten says that there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of job applicants for positions at her company. She says she’s getting resumes from those now unemployed – and those who obviously are concerned they may be in the future.

"It’s tough. You’ve got to look at resumes quickly and start making decisions about who isn’t qualified, who doesn’t meet the minimum requirements of the job,” VanBenschoten says. “A year ago, we may have looked at people who didn’t have the exact requirements, and we may still look at them. But they’re harder to catch because we’re going through so many resumes.”

And for good or for ill, some hiring managers are relying on...

3. What is their gut telling them about you?

Recently, DDI did a survey of hiring managers and found that two out of three hiring managers fear they’re missing “red flags” about candidates, and two-thirds of them believe it will come back to haunt them.

“Interviewers have to be prepared to see through the line of b.s. job candidates will give them,” Erker says. “But to be honest, a lot of companies are relying on making million dollar (hiring) decisions based on practices that are appalling.”

Specifically, Erker says the survey found 44 percent of managers rely on their “gut” to make a hiring decision. Nearly half of interviewers reported they spent just 30 minutes or less making a decision about a candidate after the interview.

“That’s a big mistake,” he says. “Managers – especially senior managers – are overconfident regarding their judgment. Interviewing is a skill. It takes practice. You’ve got to be able to ask questions – and follow-up questions – that really help you understand why the person chose a certain path. You’ve got to go deep.”

VanBenschoten says that five years ago she was making hiring decisions based on her “gut,” but has learned her lesson even if other hiring managers have not.

“I discovered that when I went with my gut, the person I chose ended up not being the right fit,” she says. “Now I use behavior-based interviewing. I’m looking for how a person handled a problem or an issue, and if their response would fit what is required in a position here.”

Further, VanBenschoten says she often will run a job candidate’s answers by other managers as a way to check her “assumptions” to make sure she’s selecting the best person for a job.

“It’s like falling in love and everything seems so perfect. But sometimes you need to get someone else’s take on it, see how they would approach the situation,” she says.

What else may a hiring manager be considering during an interview?


Rick Saia said...

One thing hiring managers really need to examine in an interview is "cultural fit." For instance, if the workplace has an aggressive, hard-charging, make-the-sale-so-we-can-make-our-quarterly-numbers culture, do you want someone whom you might perceive as laid back, or who might take a longer-than-normal amount of time to get up to speed? Certainly, you don't want to bring someone in who walks into a cultural mismatch and winds up leaving after only a short while.

Nice post, Anita!

Anita said...

Good point -- it pays for both the employer and the employee to make sure there is clear communication about the company culture and what that means exactly.

ChowJobs said...

Thanks for advice. I will refer to it and acknowledge you in my future blog.

Unknown said...

I agree. Most people doing the interviewing aren't great interviewers. The onus needs to be on the person being interviewed to communicate the key information that the interviewer needs to hear to assess their candidacy, whether the interviewer asked the question or not. In my opinion the interviewee needs to successfully answer 3 questions: why I'm a great candidate (skills, experiences), why I'm interested in this job (do you really know what this job entails? Is this a good fit for your career experience/interests); and why I'm interested in this company (is this just another interview? do you know how 1 company differs from another in this industry).

I just wrote some career advice on this and it's top of mind.
The 3 Most Important Interview Questions