A job interview can be a very stressful life experience. You have a short window of time to make the case for why you are amazing at your work and to convince a panel of interviewers to offer you a job. But sometimes it may feel like you keep getting passed up for jobs that are perfect for you. What could be the issue or the big secret? What are hiring managers really looking for when they interview job candidates?
When in the midst of job search, this can seem like a mystery. But no matter what the job, hiring managers are essentially looking for three things:
Read on to find out more about what hiring managers really want to hear in a job interview.
A job interview is your opportunity to showcase your talents, history and career objectives. You have a limited period of time, so it’s not the time to give your life story. You need to focus… but on what? The hiring manager wants to hear that you are capable for the job, so this should always be your guiding principle.
To demonstrate that you are capable for the position, at your job interview you need to show that you are confident, you are knowledgeable and that you have ample and relevant experience. You need to clearly highlight the relevance — don’t make the hiring manager have to guess.
This is where that open question “Tell me about yourself” often comes up. The question is incredibly broad, but your answer should be focused. Starting with the most recent, talk specifically about the skills and experiences you would bring to the job. These skills and experiences aren’t limited to what you did at your previous job — transferrable skills gained through volunteering, hobbies or in another industry are also important. The hiring manager is not so much interested in whether you did the same job in the past; they want a picture of what you can do going forward.
Just as important as whether you can do the job is whether you really want the job. Your job interviewer wants to see that you are passionate about the organization and the subject area. They want to see that, if offered, you would accept the job.
A number of things will demonstrate your interest at your job interview, both in terms of what you say and how you say it. First, you need to show that you are prepared. Let them see that you’ve done your homework and researched the organization. Show that you know the organization’s goals and have learned about the people that work there. The hiring manager wants to see that you’ve thought about what you can bring to the position, envisioned yourself within the role and thought about how you would contribute.
The enthusiasm in your voice (or lack thereof) also impacts your evaluation. Your interviewer wants to see that you have a genuine interest in the role, that you wouldn’t just be there to collect a paycheck. And, unless you have a telephone interview, your body language will also impact whether or not the interviewer judges you as interested in the job. Are you making eye contact with your interviewer? Or are you constantly looking at the clock or the door, making it seem that you can’t wait to get out of there? All of this affects the impression you make with the hiring manager
Finally, the hiring manager will be using the interview to try to determine if you would fit. Do you complement the team? Do you believe in the organization’s mission? All else being equal, “fit” is the deciding factor in whether or not you will be offered the job.
To demonstrate your fit for a job, you need to show that you understand and fit within the culture. Your research into the organization will help here. What is the organization’s raison d’être? Is the organization formal or casual? What type of image does its employees project?
Fit doesn’t mean that you need to be a carbon copy of everyone else that works there. Rather, the hiring manager is evaluating how you would complement the team. Different skills, perspectives and ideas add to a team, enhance its abilities. At your job interview you want to show that you are comfortable voicing your ideas and, at the same time, that you are a team player and will work cooperatively with the various people who already work there.
Whether or not you fit within an organization isn’t necessarily something you can control. Chemistry plays a large part. But being authentic, showing you understand the organization and letting the hiring manager know how you see yourself within the team will help you put your best foot forward as they consider this critical factor.
Now that you understand what interviewers are looking for, you are all set. Focus on showing that you can do the job, that you want to do the job and how you would fit within the team. You may not always get the job, but you will be well placed to get the one where you are the best fit.
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