10 secrets of hiring managers

Ever wonder what the hiring managers who are screening your resume, interviewing you, and – maybe – making you an offer are really thinking throughout the hiring process?  Here are 10 secrets that most hiring managers share.

1. Most interviewers aren’t very good at interviewing. You might be going into interviews assuming that your interviewers know what they’re doing, but in fact, many interviewers are inexperienced, unskilled, unprepared, or otherwise unable to conduct effective interviews. Some of them are even nervous. Most interviewers don’t get good training on how to interview well, and a lot of them are winging it.

2. We want you to talk about salary first for exactly the reason you fear. Salary conversations are frustrating and nerve-wracking for job-seekers because they risk low-balling themselves by naming a number first. And that’s exactly why employers push candidates to throw out a number first. In an ideal world, employers would simply let you know the range they plan to pay, but in reality, plenty of them take advantage of the power disparity by making candidates talk money first.

3. We’re being really friendly because we want you to let your guard down. Good interviewers will do everything they can to put candidates at ease – partly to be nice, of course, but also because they want candidates to let their guard down. Not only do we want to know what you’re really like (as opposed to your formal “interview face”), but we also know that you’re more likely to reveal something unflattering if you feel comfortable.

4. Fit really, really matters. You could have all the qualifications an employer is lo4oking for, but if they decide that you wouldn’t mesh well with the manager, team, or office culture, you’re probably not getting the job. Employers aren’t just looking for specific skill sets; they’re also looking for people who will thrive in their specific environment.

5. Saying you can start sooner than two weeks when you’re currently employed is a huge red flag. If you indicate that you’d leave your job without giving your current employer proper notice, we’ll take note of that and will assume that if we hire you, we’ll be on the receiving end of that kind of treatment too.

6. Employers always underestimate how long it will take to fill a position. They might tell you they’ll be scheduling interviews next week or making a decision by the end of the month, but chances are high that it’ll take longer than that. Timelines get derailed by all kinds of things: higher priority work that comes up unexpectedly, a decision-maker who’s busy or out sick, a budget question that needs to be resolved before they can make the hire, a reference check process that takes longer than expected, and so forth.

7. Rejection letters are intentionally vague. Don’t read anything into them. Most rejection notices are standard form letters that are sent to all rejected candidates, using the same language for everyone. Don’t try to figure out if they really mean it when they say “you were a strong candidate” or “your experience didn’t fit our needs.” The only real meaning a rejection notice has is “we’ve decided not to hire you.” (The exception to this is if the employer has added an obviously personal note to the letter.)

8. “We’ll keep your resume on file” rarely means that your resume will be looked at through next time that employer has an opening. Employers keep resumes on file because the law requires them to, not because they regularly sort through them for candidates.

9. “We’ll call you” might mean “you’ll never hear from us again.” It’s increasingly common for companies to never get back to candidates after interviewing them. This is rude and inconsiderate; candidates are often waiting anxiously to hear back, and have often taken time off of work to interview or even traveled at their own expense. But unfortunately, this “out of sight, out of mind” behavior has become commonplace.

10. The way you approach your job hunt will affect how happy you are in your new job. If you use gimmicks and aggressive sales tactics instead of standing on the strength of your own qualifications, you’re likely to end up working somewhere that rewards that behavior, rather than merit. And then you’ll be complaining that the promotions and raises all go to the flashiest employees, instead of those with the best work. Hiring managers who are good at what they do and are rewarding to work for don’t need you to use sales tactics or gimmicks in order to stand out, because they know how to identify the best candidate for the job all on their own.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I bring up salary first so everyone can walk away if it doesn’t work. I have a set figure without room for negotiation. I’d rather make sure it works before moving on!

    I do keep resumes on file- though I don’t go through them all, those that made a great impression get a call before we post the job. I also keep them in case something comes up that I think would be a great match. Again, they have to make a great impression, but I have passed on resumes when I hear of an opening. Honestly, I am sitting here right now thinking of three candidates that I would hire if a suitable position opened, or would gladly pass on to someone else. The flip side is that I have several that I have in the “do not hire” category, and I would caution others against.

    1. JT*

      Do you share that set figure, or keep it secret to maintain leverage while asking the candidate his/her requirement?

  2. Just Me*

    Thanks for that article. It helps a lot to at least put things in perspective. It is hard to get a rejection and not think about all the things you did wrong when it could have very well just been a unluck of the draw. Or in an interview you think you are the one not doing well when in fact it could be the interviewer not as proficient as they should be.
    Both parites, interviewer and interviewee are responsible for their own part in the success of the process. Not that one will get the job but I look at it that if I got the call, at least my cover and resume was OK. Something I did was right.
    I am currently looking and read all this and the rest of your advice as well as other posters and really do take this to heart when I do a cover, resume and get an interview.
    Hopefully one day it will pay off !!

    1. Anonymous*

      Keep in mind you can both have success – but there might just not be fit. I’ve got through three interviews where it was a tremendously difficult decision. “I wish we could hire them all” having been said – and had we the budget we would have. We tried to get a second one a few times but we are pretty tight on the budget.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Cool! US News often sends content to Yahoo, so sometimes it ends up on Yahoo’s home page. (And let me just say that Yahoo commenters are VERY different from AAM commenters.)

      1. bob*

        I saw your link on the Yahoo front page also *yay* More page views!!

        Yes, as much as I hate to admit it after using and loving Yahoo for 10 years, most of the commenters are pretty much bottom of the barrel, cheap shotting, uncivil idiots who like to hide behind internet anonymity.

  3. Anonymous*

    My state is a “at will” state which I really hate. I was fired from my very 1st job that I was at for almost 5 yrs. I don’t know what I did. One of the bosses just told me to get my stuff, that it was ok to file for unemployment, they handed me a letter that stated that I was a very good worker that went above and beyond my job duties, and told me that I fired and told me to leave and not come back. What did I do to deserve that?

      1. Anonymous*

        yes and they would not give me a answer why. I talked to the Work Force Development Center and was told that the employer can do and say anything they want since my state is a at will state. I really want to know what I did to get fired.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You probably need to let it go, unfortunately. You can’t make them tell you the reason, so the best thing you can do for yourself is to move on. You can tell future employers that you weren’t given a reason but were told that you had been an excellent worker.

  4. Kedmond*

    I enjoyed your article about hiring managers’ secrets. I would love to see an article about getting past web-based job applications. My daughter has applied at several entry level positions online (Starbucks, Smoothie Planet, Old Navy, Nordstroms) but never heard ANYTHING back. She has no work experience, but lots of leadership experience through sports and missions work. She also has a fairly “ethnic” first name. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  5. Tony*

    #1: terrible generalization of hr folks. really erodes this bloggers credibility
    #2 applicants typically have a idea of the range an Arby’s manager job pays. Haggling over $500 and an extra sick day is .. well… why they work at Arby’s. Measurable salary negotiation doesnt occur for folks in salary bands who have time to read blogs.
    #3 Again, awful generalization of hr staff. Yes they want to put applicant at ease but.. assuming they are ONLY being nice to this end..? ludicrous
    #4 Totally agree and accurate . Credibility has a pulse
    #5 Agree
    #6 More generalizations. 3 strikes and you are out credibility
    #7 agreed . first sentence may actually help a few folks back off the ledge sometime
    #8 true
    #9 very true. best point of the blog
    #10 doesnt your statement “hiring managers are good at what they do” contradict points 1, 3, 6, 8 and 9.

    Glad I own my own company

  6. Anonymouse*


    To address a few of your points…

    1. She wasn’t generalizing HR folks. She was generalizing “interviewers”. HR (presumably) has training and experience at intervieiwing. Functional managers outside of HR who are intervieiwing candidates may interview candidates only rarely, and sometimes have to wing it. I’ve been the candidate in that situation more than once, and rolled with it.
    2. Two things – first, you’d be surprised at the variations in salaries in Arby’s managers. (In another life, I did the payroll for Arby’s restaurants, so I know for a fact there was a healthy variation.) Secondly, in a lot of other jobs/fields/industry, there is a lot of wiggle room. What is a state and local tax manager worth in Chicago if they have a law degree? What is a podiatrist worth in Peoria? Etc.
    3. Of course HR and hiring managers (which are different things, btw) want candidates to let their guard down. Who doesn’t want to get past the candidate’s interview persona and find out who the real person is? Someone making a hiring decision wants someone who will do the job well and fit in, not just someone who interviews well. (*There’s the human resources function, which handles all HR functions, of which hiring is only one. They often do the screening interview and bring candidates on board once they’ve accepted, but in between there are often functional managers who hire. The people that do the work that the company does as a business, and decide who they want on their team. In a small business, this may all be one person, but in larger organizations, people specialize, and people in HR may be managers, but there’s still a difference between HR and hiring manager.)

Comments are closed.