Walking in a Hiring Manager's Shoes

by Bob Hoffman

One piece of feedback that we hear from candidates is that they find portions of the screening, interviewing and decision-making process to be confusing, illogical and frustrating. Questions that we hear are:

  1. Why such lengthy and complex interview processes involving some combination of 1-on-1 interviews, panel interviews, technical skills assessments, personality tests, role plays, etc.?
  2. Why do interviews sometimes include bizarre questions, which appear to have very little to do with the responsibilities of the position or my ability to perform them successfully?
  3. I had all of the technical skills and experience that were required for this position, but I didn’t get the offer. Why?

When faced with these questions, we counsel our candidates to put themselves in the shoes of the hiring manager and analyze the process from their perspective. This begins by appreciating the challenge that these managers face, which is to answer the question:

Given the available talent, which ONE individual brings the most to the table and offers the best prospect for a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship with my organization?

One must also appreciate that the hiring manager—while handling their own responsibilities—must answer this question in a short timeframe using a multitude of criteria. These extend well beyond whether or not the candidate possesses the technical skills and experience required to do the job. These criteria consist of, but are not limited to:

How well is this candidate prepared to perform the responsibilities of the job?

  • Do they have the required technical skills and experiences?
  • Do they have a strong work ethic, and are they capable of working not just HARD, but also SMART?
  • Do they solve problems with the right mix of logic, structure and creativity?
  • Can they focus on the details without losing sight of the bigger picture?

How well will this candidate fit with us?

  • Will their personality mesh well with that of existing team members?
  • Do their values match the organization’s?
  • Will there be a cultural fit between the candidate and the organization?

What “soft skills” and personal qualities does this candidate possess that will help them be successful in this and future roles?

  • Do they think well on their feet?
  • How resourceful will they be in achieving their goals?
  • Will they take calculated risks?
  • Will they learn from their mistakes?
  • Are they likeable?
  • Are they easy to work with?
  • Do they have a sense of humor?

Does this candidate possess the character desired by my organization?

  • How will they react when faced with an ethical dilemma?
  • How will they handle adversity or opposition to their momentum?

How will this candidate serve, and be perceived by, my company’s customers, employees, partners, and suppliers?

  • Do they naturally project the image, reputation, and values of my organization?
  • How does this candidate carry themselves and interact with others? Confident or timid? Humble or arrogant? Serious or easy-going?
  • Do they create a positive impression?

You’ll notice that most of these criteria can be difficult to assess without the benefit of getting to know someone over time. This highlights the true challenge of the hiring manager—to assess all of these criteria, in a short period of time, with the benefit of only a few brief interactions with each candidate. This also highlights the reason that the interview process can include some interesting questions and exercises—because they have been specifically designed to draw out information that will allow the interviewer to evaluate the candidate against these criteria.

So the next time you find yourself questioning the need for that fourth interview with a six-person panel, or wondering why you’ve been posed a question by a hiring manager that seems a bit off-the-wall, put yourself in their shoes. Remind yourself that they have a great deal riding on their decision, and try to determine which of these criteria they are attempting to evaluate. By appreciating the challenge they’re faced with, and understanding the lens through which they’re evaluating candidates, you will be able to better prepare for the interview process, which will in turn reduce confusion, frustration and stress.

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