Most hiring managers have inside knowledge they won’t share with you until you’re further along in the hiring process—if ever.
Getting a handle on what your interviewer’s thinking will significantly up your chances of arriving at the interview primed to meet each item on your hiring manager’s mental checklist.
Assume the following during your next interview, and find out what you can do to come out on top:
1. “If you arrive late, you may as well take yourself out of the running.”
Whether you’re five minutes or 20 minutes tardy, you’ve just wasted your interviewer’s time—and right there you’ve started off on the wrong foot.
“Life happens,” says Vicki Salemi, HR consultant and career expert for Monster. “In many instances, it’s better for candidates to postpone the interview than arrive late—or be punctual but not perform their best because they’re distracted by whatever else is going on in their life.”
Your move: Allow an extra 15 to 30 minutes of travel time in case of traffic. And if you foresee something that could affect you making it to the interview on time, reschedule.
2. “I’m going to talk to people you’ve been in contact with at the office.”
Don’t be that person who thinks she can get away with being dismissive of the “little people.” Often, it will bite you in the rear.
“Be aware that everyone you come in contact with can and will offer their input when asked,” says Salemi.
Your move: When you enter an office for an interview, treat everyone you encounter, from the security guard to the stranger riding with you in the elevator, with professionalism and courtesy.
3. “I’ll take your appearance into consideration.”
Recruiters and hiring managers also want to know that you will fit well into the company or brand’s image, especially if the job you want is in sales or deals with clients.
“If you’re not going to look your best during a job interview,” says Salemi, “that’s a sign you don’t take yourself or your career too seriously.”
Your move: Check out social channels to see how your future colleagues dress. If you’re applying to a boutique agency, a more creative ensemble might be preferred to a suit. But never go too casual.
4. “I’m looking for reasons to put you in the ‘no’ pile.”
Hiring managers may vet 10 to 20 candidates for a single role, so it’s a process of elimination to get their top two or three. When there’s a strong candidate pool, even minor mistakes could move you to the reject pile.
Your move: Be as prepared as possible for the interview and perfect your response to the ever-popular, “So tell me about yourself.” Give them plenty of reasons to say “yes.” And then give them a few more.
5. “I want to know how much—or little—you know about the company.”
Hiring managers want to see you have researched the company, its C-level employees, the industry, current trends and more. And they may not ask you how much you know, but wait for you to bring these topics up.
Your move: Get a sense of the company’s history and check out what press the company has had and what recent accolades it’s received. Casually insert your findings into your interview: “I read that your CEO, Joe Blow, has implemented a companywide training program. I think that’s fantastic; how’s it going?”
6. “When you’re relaxed, I’m relaxed.”
If you psych yourself out by thinking about how the interviewer has the upper hand, it can affect your demeanor, and be off-putting.
Your move: Focus on knowing your story, what you bring to the table and your knowledge of the company. Keep rehearsing until you’re able to address common interview questions like you’re discussing what you did over the weekend.
7. “If you keep interrupting me while I talk, I may resent it.”
Talking over someone—especially a hiring manager—is inconsiderate and makes the person feel you don’t think what he’s saying is important.
“If you continue to interrupt recruiters and hiring managers during the interview, they may think that’s how you’ll communicate on the job,” adds Salemi.
Your move: Be a good listener. Use verbal cues like nodding your head to indicate you have something to say on a point, but speak only after the manager has finished his statement.
8. “I will hold you up against your predecessor.”
If the last person in the role you’re seeking was a go-getter, the person hiring for the position is going to want someone who fits that mold. If the person was sloppy, the hiring manager is going to want someone who’s on point.
Your move: While your interviewer is discussing job responsibilities, or when you’re asked what questions you have, ask: “What are valuable qualities in this role?” And follow that up with a brief example of how you possess them in spades.
9. “There’s an internal candidate vying for this position.”
There’s often someone who has an edge on other candidates: someone on the inside who knows the company, knows the culture and likely knows the hiring manager. But this doesn’t mean the person’s a shoo-in; he still has to interview, just like you, and earn the spot.
Your move: Bring your usual confidence, eloquence and enthusiasm, and be prepared to impress your interviewer with what you bring to the table that an internal candidate does not: the fresh perspective and new skills that come with your outside experience.
10. “It’s OK to follow up after the interview—just don’t make it a daily habit.”
If a week passes and you’ve heard nothing from the hiring manager who interviewed you, she could just be backlogged.
Salemi recalls that at one employer she was typically working with close to 150 candidates at the same time. “It was extremely challenging to follow up with ones who interviewed recently and hadn’t heard back yet due to stalled hiring decisions,” says Salemi.
“I really didn’t want them calling me because I spent so much time conducting phone screens,” says Salemi. “Their calls nearly always went to voicemail and I’d have to call them back, leading to a game of phone tag that usually resulted in an email anyway.”
Your move: Check in once a week or every two weeks, not daily. Also note that most hiring managers prefer email over phone calls.