Get Inside Hiring Managersí Minds to Land an Interview!

by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

You may not think you want to get inside hiring managers’ minds, but if you can anticipate the reaction your resume is likely to receive, you will be a star player in the job search competition! Put these secrets in your play book and you may just hit a home run and score an interview.

1. Your resume is only “read” for a brief 20 seconds - make the most of it!

Twenty seconds is enough time for an initial impression, and if your resume is too wordy, you are unlikely to make the first cut. To make sure you advance to the next stage of the screening process, be certain your resume is concise and uses powerful language. Resumes are not written in the same way as business letters or traditional reports. Remove every unnecessary phrase. Make your resume lean, specific, and powerful. Show your accomplishments right up front or those few brief seconds may be the end of your application. Highlight your strengths and unique work experiences by using action verbs. Keep the reader interested!

2. Highlight your specific skills, rather than presenting yourself as a “jack-of-all-trades.”

In today’s job market, you need to tout the specialized skills and training that make you a perfect fit for the open position. Some job seekers choose to develop a personal brand to convey these unique strengths. If you develop a brand, be consistent in the points you emphasize throughout your resume and in the cover letter. Review sample job descriptions for your dream position and align your skills accordingly. The more closely you fit the opening, the sooner the hiring manager will schedule an interview with you.

3. Be clear about your direction without stating an old-school objective.

Almost everyone is able to anticipate the typical interview question of “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Don’t sell yourself short by discounting the value in your answer. If you respond with an “up-the-career-ladder” answer, you have become just as predictable as the question. Think in terms of industry standards, trends, and leadership when you create your long-term career strategy. Emphasize what you can offer the company. By making your vision broader than just your own personal goals, you are setting yourself apart from the rest of the applicants who are looking for financial security or a job from which they can retire.

4. Hiring managers notice what you say and how you say it.

Of course, you must pay attention to the basics of good grammar and good manners when communicating. However you also must be prepared with key points that you want to convey. Identify your strengths and work experiences that most closely align with the needs of the open position and be prepared to discuss those in all forms of communication with potential employers. Phone interviews are much more common early in the screening process. Prepare your key points and keep them handy for that unexpected first contact. Try to be conversational yet professional in sharing your strengths.

5. Hiring managers are impressed by straightforward explanations.

Prepare to speak about potentially uncomfortable parts of your work history. Greater mobility is often expected in some fields, such as IT jobs. Or your position may have been affected by corporate decisions based on the economy. Although it is best to exclude reasons for termination on your resume, you must be prepared to discuss transitions clearly and openly with the hiring manager. Practice explanations for gaps in employment, including the types of career-related activities or volunteer leadership roles you held during those gaps.

6. Hiring managers easily recognize fluff or even “BS.”

Ever try to “snow” the professor when doing a rush job on an assignment? Most hiring managers are also able to easily identify fluff or padding in your resume. Don’t let a negative impression linger in the hiring manager’s mind. Be honest about any employment gaps, as well as the scope of your responsibilities. As mentioned earlier, prepare a response with which you feel comfortable. In essence, any area of your resume which causes you discomfort actually represents an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to be upfront, professional, and mature about the challenges you have faced. These are all qualities that employers value. You want to be the one to bring these things up, rather than let the hiring manager find out on the basis of their own efforts.

7. Hiring managers do get outside the office.

If you believe that the only source of information the hiring manager has about you is what you provide to him or her, then your name will never make it to the short list. Employers who search on social media are the norm these days. Any careless tweet, incomplete LinkedIn profile, or informal Facebook posting can completely sabotage your search. Instead of being your own worst enemy, carefully review your online presence across social media and career posting sites, such as CareerBuilder or Monster. In addition, review your profile on professional association websites. Use these as opportunities to present additional information about yourself that couldn’t fit on the resume. In other words, emphasize your brand online!

Getting inside the minds of hiring managers gives you an advantage in the competitive job search market. Understanding what and how the hiring manager thinks helps you anticipate and prepare for critical interactions during the screening process. Leverage your insight into the hiring manager’s mind to stand out from the competition!