Confessions of a Hiring Manager
I love to hire new people. I look forward to hiring season every year at my university. I love to see potential and figure out who can best benefit my department to help me accomplish my goals. I’ve been hiring people through my management positions for more than 13 years. I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates and it’s amazing to see the mistakes that unprepared candidates consistently make and what the candidates I hire have learned about doing right.
I’m going to give you a hard truth – it isn’t enough just to be smart anymore. Sure that helps, but your extra-curricular activities matter. Scratch that, your meaningful co-curricular involvement matters. You need to know what I’m about to share as it could give you the boost you need for the job search. And it starts with what you’re doing right now.
You start building your resume long before you interview for a position.
You’ve probably heard it before: Want to be a teacher? Serve as your new member educator. Planning to be an accountant? Run for chapter treasurer. This may be some of the best professional advice of your collegiate career. You start building your resume long before we meet in an interview. Your co-curricular involvement matters because it social norms you into understanding how to work with difficult situations, how to manage details and how to hold peers accountable. These are all qualities I’m looking for in my employees. Every experience you have can lead to something beneficial. I served as my chapter’s social event chair – not because I was a partier (in fact, far from it), but because I loved to organize and plan events. And now, for my job that is exactly what I do. Your collegiate experience and meaningful involvement matters more than you know.
Remember, just like you are selective with your time and involvement, be selective with what you list in your resume. Yes, you should have a mega resume that lists everything you’ve ever done. But, this isn’t the one you’re going to show me, the hiring manager. Target your involvement listed on your resume to be specific to the job that I’m offering. It will make your resume more relevant and give you a better chance to be noticed in my stacks of applications to review.
Give me something to work with in your application/resume.
For each job we post in our department, I sift through between 10 and 40 applications when deciding whom to bring in for an interview. With each application, I look for something, anything that would make me want to interview the candidate. Many candidates fill out the application as required, but don’t list any additional information. Am I supposed to guess that you’d be good? Yikes! I don’t have time for guessing – file those in the recycle bin. But some candidates–who get the interview – list experience related to the position: InDesign, FinalCut or Journalism experience for a marketing position (I’m intrigued), chapter philanthropy officer experience for an event planning position (nice work), or high school sports experience for a recreation admin position (looking good).
Remember, you currently have skills that would catch my eye – as the hiring manager – effectively list this skill set in your application. Since I’m only skimming your app, your experience and meaningful involvement must catch my eye quickly and easily (and remember, I love the hiring process – so consider what happens for a hiring manager that doesn’t like to review applications!).
Show up on time, prepared and bring all items I’ve requested.
I send everyone that passes my application review the same template letter to schedule his or her interview. This letter also asks them to bring their resume and an availability worksheet (I currently interview mostly student employee candidates). For specialized positions, I also ask for examples of a candidate’s past work. If a candidate forgets any of these items; they’re at a disadvantage and we usually cut the interview short. If you didn’t give me what I want when you’re trying to get the job, what’s it going to be like when you have it? Ain’t nobody got time for that. But some candidates bring all requested items and have it professionally packaged, like a folder or a presentation cover.
Remember, I don’t ask for anything just for fun. Everything serves a purpose. I need to know you can do this job, I need to have examples of what you say you can do and I need to see that you’ve put some time into this interview in advance. Do you know who is always the best at this part of the interview? Top student leaders. They’ve managed the details of their student organization and they understand that every detail matters. When I see that meaningful leadership experience listed on the resume, I already have high expectations for the interview and I’m usually impressed by these candidates.
Relevant, professional contact is rewarded.
In the nearly 70 apps I reviewed for our most recent hiring season, do you want to guess how many candidates followed-up on their application? Four. How many of those got interviews? Yep, all four. Now, not all of them got the job – but they all guaranteed themselves a chance. Some of the candidates would have been – or were – already passed over because they didn’t list much in their application for me to work with. But I reward bold effort. If you are brave enough to email me, call me or approach me face-to-face to ask for an interview and confirm that I’ve reviewed your application, you will get an interview (with me).
Remember, you have to find a way to stand out. If you can send me information about why you’re the right person for a job like giving me your resume, availability and samples in advance, it makes me think about how you’ll go above and beyond when you’d be working for me (because yes, all hiring managers are thinking way past the interview. In my mind, you’re already working for me; the interview is just a glimpse as to what that would be like). Guess what? Fraternity/sorority officer experiences build your confidence and make you more likely to understand how bold moves can impact your chapter, your academics and your career. Get your leadership and professional experience now – as a collegiate student – so when you interact with me, you’ve got the kinks worked out.
Blow my mind.
In 13 years of interviewing candidates, I had a first this year. I had a candidate confirm an interview time by sending me a calendar invite. I was so impressed, I told my Career Services friends that same day. I can tell you right now, we knew we were hiring this candidate going into the interview – and after the interview – it was confirmed, this candidate was as amazing as I’d originally thought. She now works as an intramurals referee, will be teaching our running exercise fitness program and serves as her chapter’s intramurals chair in addition to being a member of our collegiate cross country team. Do you see the connection? This woman has it together and understands meaningful involvement, professional experience and how to stand out – and she’s a first-year college student. A calendar invite!
Remember, I want to know that you can handle your own business, because you’re getting ready to be a stakeholder in mine. Impress me by going above and beyond to prove you can handle my business.
Prepare to speak about yourself professionally.
I start every interview with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” And I’m always surprised (well, not really surprised anymore) by people who respond with, “I don’t know, what do you want to know?” What I’m thinking: Well, I’m not your mom or your best friend – but I could be your future boss! Tell me why I want to hire you! Tell me about your relevant experience! Tell me about skills you possess that set you above other candidates! Tell me about your involvement and how you’ve learned as you’ve grown and changed in your leadership development! And tell me, for goodness sakes, that you really didn’t just ask me – the hiring manager – this question! You should know this stuff already! Interview over and you didn’t even answer the first question.
Remember, most hiring managers have baseline questions that are pretty standard across the board (my favorite is “describe yourself in 3 words“). Look online for interview questions about yourself and questions to ask about job or company and PRACTICE IN ADVANCE. If nothing else, be confident about yourself and your skills in your interview, this can often save you when answering questions.
Don’t be full of issues.
Know those people in your chapter that show up drunk to class in their letters? Share this with them. If you are full of issues now, you won’t get hired by me. Get your act together for goodness sakes. If you have to re-schedule your interview because you forgot it conflicts with a class? Over it. You forget required paperwork in the interview? Good luck. You’re not available during business hours for an office job? Seriously! In 13 years, I’ve noticed something pretty consistent. If you are trouble in the interview, you’ll be trouble on my staff. Get yourself together before you come to me or you won’t stand a chance. I don’t want to deal with someone who has a high-maintenance personal life, because I don’t need that drama in my professional life.
Remember, I am judging you while you are interacting with me. I’m comparing you to the other candidates. And if all other things are equal and you have tons of issues, you won’t get the job. Sure it can be the only time you’ve ever been late or the only time you’ve forgotten your materials. But guess what? We’ve only met one time–so your issues record is 100% in my book. Come prepared and be prepared to make me think you’re easy to work with–then you at least will have an equal chance.
Learn about me in advance.
You’ve color-coded your availability worksheet? I’m probably excited to hire you. Your resume is well-written and the design is delightful? Congratulations, we’ll probably be working together. You specifically reference the job description and match it to your skill set? Bravo, you’ve improved your chances. You’ve taken time to learn about me as a supervisor, really reviewed the job you’ve applied for and researched details about the company you’d represent–you’re already putting yourself ahead of most candidates. Great job!
Remember, you’re always going to have an advantage by researching in advance. You should go through the job description line-by-line and match it to your skills, and it’s fine to bring that list with you to the interview. You should read the company’s mission and expectations and how you can see yourself as part of the company. You should ask other people you know about me and make sure you can keep me interested through your actions as much as your words.
Recommendations make a big difference.
If I know you, our interactions have been more of an interview than your formal interview. But if I don’t know you and I get a good recommendation from someone I know and trust? I immediately feel like I know and trust you because of what they’ve said about you. However, if I get a bad recommendation from someone I know and trust? Your job chances were over before they really even started. Recently a colleague came in to ask about hiring fraternity members as summer employees. I wasn’t listed on any of their applications as references, but as the Greek Advisor, he knew I’d know each of them. And yes, my recommendation made a big impact on whether they got the job. I interacted with most of the students regularly and could discuss their successes and opportunities candidly with him.
Remember, you never know who I know and will ask about you. And this person may be the difference between your job and no job. Live a life of integrity and be a reliable, confident employee, friend, student or customer. You never know who is watching you – and someone is always watching.
Thank you letters will drastically improve your chances.
Fifty interviews and how many thank you notes do you think I received? Two. One from the guy that missed his interview (much more interested in him next time) and one from a student leader that I’ve worked with for 3 years (she’s also the same one that wrote this thank you note earlier). Think a thank you note is no big deal? Guess what–it is a really big deal. If you’d been interviewing for my department this time, it would have put you in the top 10% immediately.
Remember, NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE WRITE THANK YOU NOTES. Set yourself above the rest. Collect names and contact info of EVERYONE in the interview room (Pro tip: Asking for business cards is a great way to do this) and write EVERYONE in the interview room a thank you note that reminds us why you are awesome and grateful for the opportunity. These notes come so few and far between, that it will make anyone take notice. Anyone.
You deserve to get the job you want. You have the power to make that happen. Think about how you can improve your communication in the interview (practice), improve your skill set (experience and attitude) and make sure that I love you when I review your application, interview you and have to make a hiring decision. Remember you are a valuable resource that I need to improve my department; you are not someone who is desperate for a job. You can do this.