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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

5 Things a Hiring Manager's Probably Thinking During Your Interview (and What to Do About It)

hiring manager during an interview

Whether you’ve interviewed over one million times or can count on one hand how many times you’ve been face-to-face with a hiring manager, the process is always stressful. Not only are you trying your hardest to present the very best version of yourself, you’re also attempting to read your audience and gather as much information as you can about the role, the company culture, and the organization itself. No pressure.

Ask any manager what it’s like to make a hiring decision and she’ll most likely tell you that it’s no easy task for her, either. Making the right choice can be difficult–especially when she’s choosing from a group of well-qualified applicants. So how can you tip the scales in your favor? In addition to coming to each and every interview well-prepared, try putting yourself in the shoes of the person sitting across from.

Last time I checked, no one has yet figured out how to read minds, but we can get pretty close by addressing the five common thoughts almost every hiring manager probably has during your interview.

1. Can I Manage This Person?

A supervisor isn’t going to hire someone that he doesn’t believe he can work with. Managers come in all shapes and sizes–some are hands-off and expect their employees to do what they need to do with little or no supervision. Others like to receive daily updates, religiously review timecards, and schedule regular check-in meetings with their staff. If you like to get regular feedback and crave facetime with your supervisor, a laid-back person may not be the best fit for you. Conversely, if you’re an independent operator who relishes autonomy, a hands-on supervisor probably isn’t a great match for your work style.

So when your potential future boss begins thinking about your match as manager and employee during your interview, what can you do? To start, you can show that you are a great listener by making eye contact, taking notes, asking questions, and giving thoughtful answers. Mention that you pride yourself on taking accountability for your workplace contributions, appreciate constructive feedback, and are excited about continuing to grow your skill set. Demonstrating a willingness to own your work, listen, and learn will definitely score a few points in your favor.

At some point during the meeting, you should also get an opportunity to pose a few questions. Try asking your potential supervisor how she would describe her management style. If her answer is in line with your preferences, say, “That sounds great! I find that I work really well with managers who are hands on and provide lots of detailed feedback,” or “That is very much in line with my work style. Having a certain degree of autonomy to get my work done helps me to maximize my productivity.”

If you discover that your future boss’ leadership style isn’t one that works for you, it may be time to evaluate whether or not this is the job for you.

2. Does This Person Truly Understand This Role?

Interviewers want to be sure that you not only know what you’d be getting yourself into, but that you’ve done your homework. Be sure that you’ve thoroughly reviewed the job description before your interview, and make an effort to relate your existing experience back to the responsibilities you would have in the role you’re being considered for.

Most hiring managers typically start off with a couple of simple questions like, “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you interested in this position?” These are perfect opportunities to demonstrate your understanding of the role. Say something that indicates you get what the job entails and why your background is a solid match, “I have four years of production management experience and specialize in vendor relations. I know vendor management would be an important component of this role, which is why I am particularly excited about this opportunity,” or “I am passionate about social media and am specifically targeting opportunities that will allow me to grow my expertise in this area. I know one of my primary responsibilities in this role would be writing and scheduling tweets for the company’s Twitter account, and I have some great ideas for how I can help you to grow your followers.”

Another great way to show that you understand what you’re interviewing for is to ask questions about the role once you’ve demonstrated that you’ve done more than just read the job description. Saying, “What kind of traffic goals do you have for Twitter, and what resources do you think will help you reach that goal?”

Whenever you can go beyond the job listing to show an impressive grasp of the role’s responsibilities, you should do so. It’s a waste of both your and the recruiter’s time to only rehash what’s involved in the position.

3. Is This Person Actually Excited About Working Here?

Similar to having an in-depth understanding of the potential opportunity, it’s important to show that you are genuinely excited about the organization as a whole. Of course, not every interview is going to be with your dream company, but try your best to find something that is interesting to you.

Was the company recently named one of the best places to work in your area? Is the department you’d be working in creating innovative new products? Was the CEO recently mentioned in a well-respected publication? Spend some time researching and reading any recent, relevant articles that you can reference during the interview.

Along with wondering if you’re truly excited about the opportunity, an interviewer will want to gauge whether you’re a good fit. During the meeting, take the opportunity to ask about the team, their work style, and the company culture. Not only will this show that you are genuinely engrossed in learning about the organization as a whole and not just focused on the position you’re applying for, but it will demonstrate that you, too, care about being the right person for the job.

4. Will This Person Make Me Look Good?

To a certain degree, an employee’s performance is a reflection on her supervisor. Your potential future boss wants to be sure that if she takes a day off or can’t make it to a meeting, you’ll still be on top of your game. If you do superb work and present yourself well, she looks good too. If you’re goofing off while the boss is on vacation or don’t proofread that super important email, the person she reports to probably won’t be too happy with either of you.

What is the best way to assure your future manager that you are totally trustworthy? Find out what she values in a team member. Try asking, “What traits are most important to you in an employee?” or “What are your expectations of the person who steps into this role?” If her answers line up with your work style, be sure to tell her that. For example, if your interviewer says she values clear communication above all else, say, “I couldn’t agree more. I am always striving to keep my team and my manager looped in on my progress, workload, and availability. I’ve found that maintaining open lines of communication goes a long way toward optimizing productivity and teamwork.”

At the end of your interview, when your future supervisor asks if you have anything to add, try leading with, “I really appreciate all of the information you’ve shared with me about what it’s like to work here and your expectations for this role. I think that my experience and work style would be a great fit for this team. I want you to know that as an employee, you can expect me to be proactive, responsive, and deadline-oriented.”

This type of response shows that you’ve been paying attention and is a good indication of your professional demeanor.

5. When’s Lunch?

Interviewing can be grueling for the people on the other side of the desk, too—especially if the hiring manager is meeting with multiple candidates back-to-back. This doesn’t happen during every interview, but sometimes an interviewer’s mind will wander. He might be hungry, he might be tired, or he might be distracted by a looming deadline, but regardless of the reason for the distraction, it does happen.

Obviously you can’t control the external factors that may be affecting your interviewer’s state of mind, but you can work on becoming the most interesting and engaging interviewee you can be. Recruit a friend to help you practice some commonly asked interview questions and ask for feedback on your body language, eye contact, tone of voice, and the content of your answers. Are you looking down when you talk or speaking in a dull, monotone voice? If you don’t seem interested in your own answers, you can’t expect anyone else to be either.

Another key trick to remember? Keep your answers short and sweet. A lot of people tend to ramble when they’re nervous and that can make this meeting feel like it’s dragging on and on. Try crafting exceptional responses using this simple formula: answer + example + result. For example, in response to, “How do you manage your time?” say, “I manage my time by prioritizing my responsibilities. For example, if I’m working on two projects simultaneously, I will always tackle the one that is more complex or due sooner first. This has helped me to be very effective in my past roles. In fact, I regularly get compliments on my ability to juggle a large workload without missing deadlines.”

Keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to simply tell your interviewer what you think she wants to hear. The goal is to proactively address questions she’s probably asking herself during your meeting. The purpose of an interview isn’t to land a job, it’s for you and your potential future employer to assess whether or not you’re a fit for each other. Coming well-prepared and playing an active role in your interview will serve this purpose while making you look like an all-star in the process.