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November 28, 2012

What Hiring Managers Want From a Job Interview Candidate

By Interviews

Managers (interviewers hereafter) who conduct interviews come prepared with a mental checklist for any interview they conduct. The checklist contains a set of mandatory items and some that can be overseen.

The checklist is generally not mandated by organizations or the HR department. Instead, it is an outcome of sheer experience and the skills that management obtains while running and managing teams.

In this article, I will define the items that make up this invisible checklist and how an understanding of these requirements could prepare you for coming interviews.

Primary Talent – Your Professional Forte

One of the mandatory items on the checklist is something called primary job specific talent. It is everything and cannot be compromised. An interview candidate must always ensure that their primary skill stays at a competitive level to be considered for selection.

For example, if you are applying for the position of incident manager and you fail to define the objectives of the incident management process, you blew your case. It doesn’t matter if you’re top of your class and have an array of certifications under your belt, you will not land the position.

The primary skill can be either one stream or multiple. If it’s one, then it must be your strongest point. If there are multiple facets to a role that you are applying for, some weaker sections could be overlooked on pretext that you would pick them up with time.

If you have tons of experience on a particular skill it is possible that you may forget a few theoretical aspects, so come prepared. Take a day or two off and go through the theory that stands as the foundation of what you work on. As an interviewer, I often break the ice by asking the definitions of basic concepts, and you don’t want to land up in bad books right from the beginning.

Willingness to Learn – Can they?

People in any profession must be constant learners, especially those in the IT field. Constant learning ensures whether people move up the ladder or not, hold onto their jobs and don’t stagnate in the same role.

During an interview, managers like to see the urge to learn and explore new areas. A role might ask for ten discrete set of skills. A candidate might have eight of them. All managers understand that new hires can never fully fit like a hand in glove. Instead, they look for the closest match and hope to cover the pending skills through learning and experience. They need to see that you can learn, you can motivate yourself in understanding new concepts and apply it in the job you are going to be offered.

Curiosity – Like the Cat

Managers are weird animals. They are an egotistical breed who know what they want in a person and at the same time, they expect candidates to ask questions on what the job entails.

Accepting the role without asking a single question (or more) about the position raises an eye brow or two.

Interviewers don’t like to feel that the candidate is desperate to jump ship. They like to see that he or she is weighing their options by trying to understand the intricacies of the job that he or she would be entrusted with.

References – Adding More Weight

A job candidate is a complete stranger sitting in front of an interviewer, and the interview can last anywhere from minutes to a couple of hours. The hiring decision depends on the exchange of words during this time.

It would definitely help if the interviewer had some help in influencing the decision, like a recommendation from a highly placed individual. If the candidate was interviewing for an internal position in an organization, the interviewer can make a couple of phone calls and find out everything there is to know about an individual but in an external interview, it is a different ball game.

Honesty – State the Facts

Experienced interviewers can smell honesty in a candidate even if the conversation is over a telephone. They need not sense it only in your physical presence!

Honesty, as defined by the interview process, means that an interview candidate is expected to state only facts and not concocted stories. Mention the projects you have worked on and your actual participation. Interviewers are skilled interrogators and can circumvent a statement that you make from multiple angles. Discrepancies, if any, will spell doom to your chances.

Be smart and state only your achievement as you see it.

Killer Question – No Right Answer

Now the killer question – why are you quitting your present company and why would you like to join our organization?

There is no right or straight forward answer to this question. Your skill in dealing with this question lies in not raising alarms but moving forward by throwing weight behind other greener sections of the interview.

Let’s consider a few illustrations. To the dreaded question, if you answer lack of challenging opportunities, interviewers may justify not hiring you because of a lack of patience in waiting for the right role to come along. If you state financial compensation as the reason, another red flag pops up – there would always be a good chance that you may quit this company and hop onto the next for better pay.

No matter what reason a candidate provides to this question, I can find a good reason to doubt him/her and therefore stall the hiring decision. Most interviewers can sense this given the people management experience under their belts.

Unless desperate to fill a vacancy, interviewers do not overlook the answer to this killer question. It tells a lot about the candidate – attitude, patience, candor, flexibility and other unstated qualities.

Play the devil’s advocate in coming up with the possible retorts and practice how you could successfully slip by this tricky question.

Hiring Decision – Not in Control

Even as a perfect interview candidate you must remember the sorting hat, as in Harry Potter’s first encounter at Hogwarts. The sorting hat, in this case, is the gut feeling that an interviewer experiences.

Interview candidates are not in control of the hiring decision, but they can positively influence the direction which it needs to point towards. Follow all the points that are mentioned in this article, and there is a very good chance the gut feeling can work in your favor.

About the Author

is a veteran in service and in project managements. He advises businesses, organizations and enterprises on how to build service management framework and deliver value. He is currently penning a book on communication in organizations, specifically aimed at IT departments. He holds PMP, ITIL© V3 Expert and Cobit 5.0 certifications and is an accredited ITIL© trainer.

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