Job seekers spend a lot of time preparing for interviews and thinking about what they’ll say. But they may not give much thought to what’s going through the hiring manager’s mind during an interview.
Still, wouldn’t it be great if you could get inside an interviewer’s head? Here are five things hiring managers may be thinking, along with advice on how to react:
- I’m not very prepared.Although you spent a lot of time creating and reviewing your resume, chances are the hiring manager hasn’t scrutinized it nearly as closely. Maybe he or she did a quick review in the five minutes before you arrived but still doesn’t have a good feel for your qualifications.
Advice: Always have an extra copy of your resume ready to put in front of the hiring manager, as well as one you can refer to. Offer to walk the potential employer through the highlights, particularly if he or she seems to need an orientation to your background.
- If I hear another predictable answer, I’m going to scream.Think twice before you fall back on tired clichés in answering common questions, such as claiming that your biggest weakness is your obsessive perfectionist tendencies or over-the-top work ethic. Most hiring managers have heard these answers so many times that they no longer sound believable. Repeating one of these predictable responses can make you sound like a phony.
Advice: A more genuine approach is to cite an actual shortcoming that you continue to work on. For example, maybe you have a hard time delegating tasks when you know it would be easier on everyone if you didn’t attempt to do everything yourself. Or maybe you’re such a good planner that you get upset with others when things don’t go as you envisioned. Whatever your professional Achilles heel, assuming it’s not something that would be too detrimental to your career, be honest about it but tell what steps you’re taking to overcome the problem. This shows candor, self-awareness and a commitment to continuous improvement.
- It’s OK to ask me questions. Interviewers are advised to let candidates do most of the talking, but the truth is many love to talk about their employer, their own career path and even personal interests. For instance, a hiring manager who has mementos from his or her participation in various marathons would probably welcome questions or comments on the subject.
Advice: Don’t be afraid to make small talk if it seems appropriate, without being intrusive. Also, ask prospective employers about their own history with the company, how long they’ve been there and the various jobs they’ve held. This can yield valuable information about the growth potential at the firm and get the conversation going. You don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions.
- I may intentionally make you uncomfortable.Silence, hard-to-read responses and curveball questions are common tools in the interviewer’s bag, and job seekers often overreact when faced with an uncomfortable moment. Hiring managers learn a lot about job seekers during these moments, especially about a candidate’s confidence level. A self-assured job seeker may be less likely to become flustered by an interviewer’s pauses or ambiguous responses.
Advice: Rather than rambling and potentially saying something you regret, keep your responses concise and on point. And don’t be afraid of a few silent moments. It’s OK to stop and collect your ideas before you begin to speak, and the interviewer may need to do the same thing. Don’t be too concerned if you’re stumped by an out-of-the-blue question either. Showing your reasoning skills – or maybe even a little humor in response – is often more important than finding the right answer.
- I’m going to ask my assistant about you.Hiring managers frequently ask others in the office about their interactions with prospective hires. It should go without saying, but make sure you treat everyone you meet with respect when you arrive for an interview. You never know who may be weighing in on the hiring decision.
Advice: If the administrative professional who greets you isn’t busy, make polite small talk while you wait. Also, avoid irritating behaviors, such as loud cell phone conversations.
It can help for job seekers to remember that hiring managers are human too. They may not be as prepared as they should be or may be overly anxious about finding the right hire. By doing your homework and remaining poised, you’ll be more likely to make a good impression – even if the interview doesn’t proceed exactly as expected.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.