I am frequently asked, “What do hiring managers want to hear?”
Essentially hiring managers access candidates based on three things:
- Are you capable of performing the duties of the position?
- Are you interested in the type of work required by the job?
- Do you fit their management style, team, and organization?
Therefore, employers want to hear:
- Your results
- How you achieved your results (stories), and
- How you work
These are the basics you need to communicate at every interview, hence why having well-prepared STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) stories is crucial.
Of all the job search strategies at your disposal, telling your interviewer what they want to hear is the most effective. I am not just talking about telling riveting STAR stories. I am talking about communication nuances that affect the level of engagement between you and your interviewer.
Using their name.
“A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie
Besides sounding “sweet,” a person’s most significant connection to their identity is their name.
Using your interviewer’s name, casually and naturally, creates a bond between you and your interviewer; hence I cannot overstate the importance of using your interviewer’s name. Furthermore, by saying your interviewer’s name, you create familiarity and subtly communicate that you are already part of the team.
Hiring managers do not hire candidates who do not appear to want the job.
Enthusiasm—genuine enthusiasm—is a critical component of job search success, which you can display through the tone of your voice and your words. (It is not just what you say, it is how you say it.)
Expressing your enthusiasm reassures your interviewer that you are genuinely interested in the job and not just looking for a paycheck. However, be careful not to be overly enthusiastic. Excessive enthusiasm will be taken as evidence that you cannot control your emotions and are unable to “manage stress in the moment.” Hence, pay attention to another aspect of your communication, your nonverbal communication.
If nonverbal communication (eye contact, posture, gestures, intensity, mannerisms) were not important, employers would not take the time to interview candidates in person. They would only select candidates by their resume and LinkedIn profile. The purpose of asking you “to come in” after your phone or Zoom interview is to assess your nonverbal communication skills; therefore, be cognizant of how you communicate non-verbally.
Ask great questions.
Hiring managers love great questions.
You can ask cliché questions such as, “What would you want to see me accomplish in the first six months?”, “What do you like about working here?”, “Are there any growth opportunities?” or you can differentiate yourself by asking creative questions.
Because they have been few and far between, I still remember many of the creative questions I have been asked and the candidate who asked the question.
- “If you could travel back in time and give one piece of advice to the company’s founders, what would it be?”
This question demonstrated the candidate’s curiosity about the company’s history and invited me to reflect on the company’s journey and what I thought of its values, and where there could be areas for improvement.
- “If you could compare the current team to any group of fictional characters, who would they be and why?”
I enjoyed answering this question—I thanked the candidate for asking it—because it made me pause to reflect on my team’s current ‘team dynamics.’ My answer was M*A*S*H. Despite their dysfunctional relationships outside the operating room, the moment wounded soldiers arrived, the characters (Hawkeye, Margaret, Radar, BJ, et al.) immediately worked in unison to save the wounded. Working in unison to get the job done, despite differences in personalities, described my team perfectly.
- “In my previous line of work, trust and confidentiality were paramount. How does [company name] prioritize customer confidentiality and data security, and what measures are in place to ensure the protection of customer information?”
This question emphasized the candidate’s understanding of the importance of trust and confidentiality. Also, it showed interest in the company’s—a payment processor—approach to safeguarding customer data.
- “If employees had a superpower related to their job here, what superpower would be most useful for my role?”
I liked how the candidate used a creative question to gauge my expectations and what qualities and skills I value most. What impressed me more than their question was that, unlike most candidates, they used my answer, not simply acknowledged it, to discuss how their background aligned with my expectations.
Ask for the job.
One of the easiest ways to demonstrate you are serious about the job is to ask for it, or at the very least, tell your interviewer you are excited about the company and position. Is there a hiring manager who would not like to hear an interviewee say they want the job? Asking for a job shows interest in the position and your commitment to succeeding.
Finally, and I believe I speak for all hiring managers, I want to hear the truth.
_________________________________________________________ Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to email@example.com