The Interview Lovefest –OR– Who REALLY Makes The Hiring Decision?

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Situations still exist where a hiring manager simply hires who he or she wants for the job. But this has become the exception, rather than the rule. These days, you've got to impress more than just the hiring manager at a potential employer. Hiring has become a group decision, with several interviewers involved.

And the decision to hire a particular person is often consensus-driven; in other words, all interviewers have to agree that the candidate is right for the job. In other words, fail to hit the mark with a single interviewer who has a bee in their bonnet, and they can black ball you. You're out; next candidate, please.

Why is it this way?

A bad hire can be costly to an organization. It costs serious money to pay their salary, to train them, to fix their work, and then to fund their severance package after they've ticked off their coworkers and cost the company a major client.

So, this makes a hiring manager less interested in taking the sole risk and responsibility for a hire. They want other people to play a role in making sure a potential employee fits the culture of the company and technical aspects of the role. They don't want their own career to stall if things don't work out with New Employee X. Conversely, if the individual is a superstar, everybody has a hand in bringing this new gem on board - free margaritas for everyone!

Welcome to the world of hiring by committee. Here are the players you need to impress, and what they want:

  • Hiring Manager: That you'll make them look like a genius for hiring you because of the skills you bring; you can take instruction and work independently; you'll reduce their pain by taking over what part of the workload they've been covering. Unless they're really strategic, they want to make sure you won't become their boss anytime soon (though they really should be looking for successors).
  • Peers / Coworkers: That you'll take over part of the team's workload, hopefully giving them breathing room and a bit more time to focus on what they want to focus on; you have the business and/or technical skills to keep up with the team; you won't be a threat to their own promotion opportunities; you're not a jerk.
  • Human Resources:  That you fit into the salary structure they had planned; you really, really want to work there; you're not an employee relations issue waiting to happen.
  • Internal or External Customers: That you have a strong customer-centric orientation; you will listen and respond to their needs; you're not a pain in the butt to deal with.
  • Executives: That you are as good as the hiring manager says you are.

As you can see, everybody has a bit of a different motivation during the interview process. It's entirely possible that if an interviewer does or does not like you, they will try to influence the interviewers after them to their way of thinking. And it's much easier to get everybody to agree on "No", than it is to agree on "Yes".

Here are three strategies that should help you maneuver a diverse interview panel:

  1. Do your research on the company and the division with which you are meeting. It seems obvious, but it apparently isn't. I've asked candidates, "So, what do you know about us?", and received an incredible number of fudged answers, which reflects very poorly on a candidate. Interviewers think, "We weren't important enough to research? How badly do you actually want to work here?"  Check Google News, Hoovers, and any other sources which can tell you what's going on with your potential employer.
  2. Do your research on your interviewers. If you happen to get an agenda in advance, do your research on LinkedIn as to each individual's background. You may wish to Google them as well, see if anything interesting pops up. If one of your interviewers was recently awarded a high-visibility patent, or presented at an industry conference, it can only help to know this.
  3. Be respectful to everybody you meet. From the CEO down to the janitor, be friendly, courteous, and helpful to everybody. I, personally, resent candidates who treat the recruiter as a patsy and the hiring manager with reverence - it shows a lack of common decency, and a nasty political side. Anybody who has a bad experience with you will find a way to funnel this information the decision makers.  While we're on the subject, send thank-you notes to all interviewers. Every single one. Email is sufficient. If you aren't able to get business cards for everybody, ask the person who scheduled your interview for email addresses. Send promptly. Interviewers can - and will - talk about who received a thank you card and who did not.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.