How To Be Interesting To Hiring Managers

How do you make a great impression on a hiring manager?

A question I saw recently on a message board asked what to do when you are able to network effectively enough to take someone out for coffee, someone who could potentially hire you in the future for their organization.

There were some great answers about how to display your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. Those are good things that you should be prepared to be able to demonstrate to a potential employer, whether out for coffee or in an interview setting.

They are necessary, but not sufficient.

Trading Places

Imagine you are a hiring manager. You’re on your 6th interview with candidates for a project management role today. In any process to get someone new on board, there will be a range of candidates.

From my experience, some will have made it to the interview stage because they look good on paper, but you find out they don’t really meet the expectations the paperwork or initial screenings set. Some will be so-so, and some will be people you think could do the job well.

You are very cautious though, because you’ve hired some people in the past who you thought were great hires at the time, and now you rue the day you brought them on board. I mean, you hate working with these people.

Others have worked out great and become star team members.

Either way, your guard is up.

Tough Crowd

How do you win someone like this over?

Let me tell you something. Making a great impression with a hiring manager isn’t as much about accomplishments and showing how smart you are. Not as much as you think it is.
Just like networking, an interview is about relating to another human being.

Do you know who hiring managers want to hire yet?

People They Want To Work With

That’s right. If a hiring manager can’t feel good about the thought of seeing you every day, trusting you with important projects that will reflect on them, they won’t hire you.

It won’t even be conscious usually. Subconsciously, human beings start finding ways to get away from people we don’t like. I don’t care how many degrees and certifications you have, if you are obviously going to be painful to work with, you don’t have much of a chance.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of success you must realize one thing.

It’s Not About You

Luckily, there are some really simple things you can do to help hiring managers like you. Different lines of research show there is a critical point within 6-10 seconds and also within the first 90 seconds of meeting someone new that can help predict whether they end up having an affinity for you or not.

Ask a Question

You’d be surprised how many candidates don’t ask a question. There’s no better way to show interest in a person in the first few seconds than with a sincere question.

It’s more common to get a ‘nice to meet you’ which doesn’t have the same impact unless it’s used alongside a question.

  • If it’s a Monday, ask them how their weekend was.
  • If you’ve networked like I teach, you probably know something about their interests outside of work. Ask an intelligent question about them, especially if it’s a shared interest. – “So Jane told me you like to golf. Been out lately?”

It may just be nerves, or you may not naturally do this when you meet new people. Start today, with hiring managers, people at the grocery store, everywhere you meet new people. At the very minimum you can ask “How’s your day going?”

Ask More Questions

When asked specific questions in the conversation you should of course be prepared to answer them. But you should also seek the opportunities to interject your own questions into the mix. The smartest questions to ask show your interest in them as individuals, the team and/or department they work with, and lastly the company as a whole.

After answering a question they’ve ask you, related questions should be popping into your head if you are truly interested in working for this person and this company. The candidate who asks me insightful questions, especially one that asks me about what I’m interested in, gets my attention.

  • “That reminds me, I was going to ask about how projects are generally managed on the teams. Have you got some Agile or Lean going on out here?”
  • “I’m curious about the organizational structure. Can you tell me a little more about your role in the department?”
  • “What would your ideal hire do after coming on board? What challenges would I have the opportunity to tackle?”

I could go on and on, but this is all situational. Don’t fake it either, sincerity is a must. All of these questions have one thing in common. You are showing interest in them. You are showing an interest in solving their problems, in the work they do, in the work their teams do.

If you sit there and go on bragging about how great you are the entire conversation, what do you think is going to happen? Would you like the person on the other side of the table who can’t stop talking about themselves?

How do you impress hiring managers?


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