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How to Win Over a Hiring Manager
July 2012

It's still a tight job market and many qualified candidates are going for the same position. Winning over the hiring manager is a critical factor in landing the job. When I interviewed for my current role, I knew by the end of the first interview that I had won over the hiring manager, that he believed in me without reservation and knew I was the right person for the job. How did I do that? I understood what hiring managers are looking for, and I delivered. You can learn how to win over a hiring manager by following some of these tips:

  • Get to know the company in advance. Branch out to meet people beyond the team that will be interviewing you. Chances are you know someone in your network who works at the company. You then become a "known" commodity to the hiring manager and a candidate who is a referral stands out. When I was interviewing at TIAA-CREF, a former colleague from MetLife worked in their HR department. She had given the hiring manager a positive reference about me prior to my first interview.

  • You never get a second chance to make a first impression – so nail your first impression. Show up a few minutes early, not 30 minutes early. Dress professionally. Give a firm handshake and a smile. Hopefully you researched the people you are meeting with so you can find a commonality and connect with them during the interview. Know your elevator pitch and be able to answer the typical "Tell me about yourself" question in a clear, concise manner giving examples of how you can add value to the role/team/company.

  • Answer questions honestly. Hiring managers want to know your real weaknesses. "Working too hard" or being a "perfectionist" are typical answers and may seem like you are trying to avoid the question. You should be able to realistically assess areas in which you can improve your skills. If you can't come up with an honest answer, a hiring manager may not think you are very self aware. But another way candidates mess up during interviews is by being too honest. Just because you are looking to leave your job because your boss is an idiot does not mean you should trash your boss or your company. Keep things positive and don't over share.

  • Let your personality shine. The job interview is not just about whether or not you have the skills, ability or past experience to do the job. Much of the interview is about your personality and if you will be a "fit" for the team and corporate culture. As a candidate you won't walk into the interview knowing all the personal dynamics of the hiring manager or team, but you should show your enthusiasm and passion for what you do. Let your personality shine. In my experience, candidates that are passionate about what they do tend to excel during the interview process over other candidates who are just going through the motions.

  • Be concise. I can't tell you how many long-winded candidates are out there. While you might think that going on and on and on and on about your latest project is compelling to a hiring manager, brevity and accuracy is more important. Show clear, concise thoughts when answering questions. Think about PAR when you address any question. What is the Problem? What Actions did you take? What were the Results?

    • Be proactive, but don't stalk the hiring manager. Don't worry about looking desperate because you are following up with the hiring manager to express your interest in the job. Hiring managers like getting immediate hand-written thank you notes with details about why you are a good fit for the role. They also like candidates who follow up with interesting questions or additional information that might be helpful during the interview process. It's okay to show enthusiasm, however there is a fine line between following up and calling multiple times during the day and hanging up on voicemail. Most companies have caller-id and the hiring manager will see that you called 9 times in 2 hours.

    • Address issues on the spot. One of the final questions I ask in every interview is if the interviewer has any concerns about my background or experiences that would stop me from moving forward in the process. Asking this question of the hiring manager enables them to put any concerns on the table so you can address them before you walk out the door. I have had quite a few interviews where I was able to turn things around and address areas in which the hiring manager was on the fence about me.

If you go into the interview process prepared, show your passion and communicate your experience with confidence, you will have a good chance of winning over the hiring manager. It's a great feeling when the hiring manager becomes your advocate and is just as excited about your being a part of their team as you are!