Do you wear the same outfit to a phone interview that you do to an onsite interview? (I’m hoping not, as one of the only luxuries of phone interviews is being in your PJs.)
Just as you’d wear different outfits for different occasions, the same approach is true for interview tactics.
I’m not talking about what to wear, but rather the way you approach interviews. The way you interview with HR should be drastically different than the way you approach interviews with the hiring manager. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
These people are seeking different things. And unless you present yourself in a pretty little bow from their perspective, you won’t get a job offer. Heck, you probably won’t even get past the gatekeeper (HR).
Typically, when you walk into an interview, you want to prove your worthiness immediately. You want to, in essence, jump up and down shouting about how you’re perfect for the position and why you must be hired. But not only does that come across as desperate (hint: stop doing this); it also fails to take into account what the interviewer needs to see or hear to pass you on to the next step.
Understanding your audience will go a long way towards your success.
When Interviewing with Recruiters/HR…
So, if recruiters or HR (interchangeable for our purposes here) are considered the gatekeepers, it’s important to understand the levers you need to pull to get them to say “open sesame.” Recruiters are not subject matter experts for your position –- they’re the experts at identifying potential talent.
Trying to “wow” them with the technical aspects of your skill set will go right over their heads. (Think: eyes glazed over.) Instead, you need to focus on what they are interested in hearing about.
Keep these tips in mind:
They want to see that you’re truly interested in their company and the position you applied for. You can easily show this by understanding the job description and speaking to as many bullet points in it as possible.
What’s outlined in the job description are the items the recruiter has been told are important for success in the position. Focus on specific examples that demonstrate your expertise in these items.
Stay high-level. Keep to the big picture, or “helicopter up” if you’re into corporate jargon. Strategic responses win more than tactical ones here.
Be concise, and listen more than you talk. Recruiters speak to 10 or more candidates a day. Make their lives easier.
The recruiter is trying to figure out if you’re a cultural fit and a personality fit for the company. Be honest about the type of work environment you thrive in (and loathe). Be the best version of yourself, and likeable; don’t be fake.
When Interviewing with Hiring Managers…
Hiring managers are the people you will report to. They are the decision-makers and the subject matter experts. What they really want to know is: If I hire you, will I have to babysit you all the time, or can you deliver what I need?
Plain and simple. They want to know your actual capabilities within the role.
When interviewing with a hiring manager, keep these tips in mind:
Hiring managers want to know all of the nitty gritty details. They want to know you can deliver on a strategic vision, but what they really care about is if you actually understand the tactics and if can you deliver on them. Focus on all of the things you wanted to jump up and down about before. Provide specific examples, and use language that demonstrates you’re an expert in your field.
Be brilliant, but not SO brilliant. People have egos — even the people who think they don’t. Most hiring managers are concerned with job security and may have a touch of panic when they find a candidate who may know more than they do. Yes, it’s their own insecurity, but it’s critical that you present your expertise and knowledge in a non-threatening way. Dial back your own ego, ensure your tone is friendly and always look at ways to give your previous team or manager credit when providing examples.
Ask questions that allow you to showcase your expertise and also show interest in the hiring manager and the company. The hiring manager may not be totally into the Kool-Aid, but they are invested in the company and are seeking other people who can jump onboard with that vision.
Your likeability factor needs to come out here, even stronger than when you were interviewing with HR. You need to show that you’re a team player, that you want to follow the hiring manager’s vision, that you’re willing to take one for the team and be a collaborative partner and so on. Your personality is on the line, big-time. The hiring manager will be questioning whether or not you’ll be easy or difficult to manage– in other words, how much time and work they’re going to have to invest to get you functioning the way they want you to be functioning. Don’t complain about your previous boss, don’t be unsure about your own capabilities (own them -– good, bad and ugly), and be sure that you show an openness to feedback and direction.
- They can easily see through your B.S. So don’t even bother.
Interview success has many components, but understanding what your interviewer is seeking will eliminate a lot of clutter and red tape during the process and keep you in contention for the position you want.
Be sure to customize the experience for HR and for the hiring manager so that together, they’re able to get the full-scope picture of who you are and what you can actually bring to the position.
Have you been interviewing for your audience? How can you put these tips into practice to boost your job search strategy?
Melissa Anzman is a former human resources leader and founder of LaunchYourself.co, where she helps people fall in love with their jobs and understand how Human Resources works. She is the author of two books, How to Land a Job: Secrets from an HR Insider and Stop Hating Your Job: How to Be Happy at Work Without Quitting, and can be found at @MellyMelAnz.