Interview tips: What do hiring managers really want to see in an interview?

Your job search has led you to the perfect role, you’ve applied by sending a great cover letter and CV, and good news; you’ve impressed the hiring manager enough to secure that all-important interview!

With hiring managers sometimes receiving hundreds of applications for the same job role, just getting through to the interview stage is something you should be very proud of, as it shows the company has a genuine interest in you, and feels that you could potentially be a good fit for the job.

However, your hard work isn’t over! As many of us know, interviews can be daunting, and they can go wrong for a number of reasons. The most common being that you’re late, you’ve let your nerves get the better of you (leading you to forget the answers you’ve prepared in advance), and sounding unsure of yourself because you’ve not done enough research on the company and the role you’ve applied for.

But despite this, simply having the rights skills and looking the part won’t necessarily land you the job. Although it’s vital to present yourself well, and explain how your experience is relevant to the job, that isn’t the only thing that matters. In fact, most of the time it isn’t the most qualified candidate that gets the job offer.

So, what other things do hiring managers really want to see in an interview? We’ve asked the experts, and some of their answers might surprise you…

Show you’re a good fit for the company

You may think your experience is the most important factor when making a hiring decision. However, making sure you’re a good fit for the company is one of the main things a hiring manager will look for.

Managers are people too, so they’ll want to ensure that they and their colleagues will enjoy working with you. Unfortunately, this is something that’s tricky to determine from even the most well-written CV and cover letter.

Davide Dabramo, Director at digital marketing agency, Traffic Jam Media, says: “During the interview, the candidate should be able to talk to me like a human, not a rehearsed robot. They need to engage with me at a personal level. I’m interested in hearing about their everyday life, such as the things they love to do outside of work. This helps to build a better picture of whether they fit our ethos, and if they’d get on well with the rest of the team. This will also give me a good indication of whether I’d enjoy working with them.

“Additionally, we like to see that someone has strong ideas to bring to the table, regardless of the type of role they’re interviewing for. This indicates that they’re passionate about the job and our company, as they’ve already envisioned themselves being a part of the Traffic Jam Media team.”

This is something that Paul Solicari from SweepSmart agrees with. He says: “A collaborative company where everyone is passionate, helpful, and is able to get on well with each other equals a happy one. I want my employees to enjoy coming to work each day, so I feel that the interview process is a great way to gauge people’s personalities and working styles, as well as their skills and experience, to ensure they match up.”

Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses

Hiring managers also want to know that you’re a positive person, and that you’re honest- yes, even if you have gaps in your CV or you’re lacking hands-on experience in one or two areas. One of the most important things to ensure is that you’re able to explain how your existing skills can be utilised instead, though any experience you share should be relevant to the role.

This is something that is vital for Dean Van Es, the CEO of Fast Cover, who has recently been recruiting for a new Customer Service position within his company. He says: “you should be as honest as possible, and stick to mentioning only the skills and experience that directly relate to the job you’re interviewing for. We don’t want to know about your past relationship history, any accidents you’ve had, or anything else that could be interpreted as ‘too personal’.

“It’s also important to remember that if you don’t know the answer to a question, just be honest and say that you don’t know. If you make something up on the spot, the interviewer will spot this instantly.

“It’s perfectly okay to not know something, and saying so shows honesty, and a willingness to learn.”

Being able to communicate in an open and honest way is half the battle. The communication experts at Telco Solutions are well placed when it comes to getting across the right message, “to effectively communicate, you must realise that everyone is different in the way they perceive the world and you must use this understanding as a guide to your communication with them”.

Convey the right attitude

Most of us are aware of standard interview etiquette, such as shaking the interviewer’s hand(s) at the start and end of the meeting, maintaining eye contact and smiling as much as possible. It’s also a given that you should avoid crossing your arms, or fidgeting to the point that you seem disinterested and in a hurry to leave the interview!

However, although they say that actions speak louder than words, what you say, and how you phrase your answers to the questions you’re been asked is also extremely important.

Mike Irving is the founder of Advanced Business Abilities, and he has been recruiting for roles for over 20 years. He advises: “The one thing I’ve found to be most important is character and attitude. These matter more when hiring than pretty much anything else, including skill level, so I pay attention to the way the candidate speaks. For example, are they highly critical of previous employers or colleagues?

“My advice is to ask about a time they faced a real challenge or problem, without specifying that you’d like to hear how they overcame it- just ask about a problem they’ve faced. Leaving that question open ended might leave you surprised by what you hear from them, and it can give you insights into how they think and what their real attitude is.”

Davide from Traffic Jam Media also adds that candidates need to be way of asking the right questions. He says: “Only being concerned with the length of your lunch break, attitudes to lateness, and whether the job comes with a laptop can all give me the wrong impression.”

Neil O’Conchuir, holistic coach believes the right attitude is needed, “PMA, positive mental attitude. In any aspect of life and of course the workplace, a positive mental attitude is required. If you can keep your focus, then you will be on the right path to success”.

Clean up your social media profiles

When hiring managers are asked about the first thing they do when recruiting new staff, many of them admit that they look at candidates’ social media profiles, which can make for some awkward questions if you’ve posted things you’d rather a potential employer didn’t see.

Dean Van Es from Fast Cover offers the following advice to candidates: “Google yourself and clean up your public social media profiles. Your prospective employer will almost certainly check you out online before booking in an interview, so make sure nothing comes up that could affect your chances.”

Felicity Law, HR Entrepreneur at Felicity Law, strongly agrees with this. She says: “We know everyone has a personal life, but if you don’t think to set your privacy settings so that we don’t see that you can drink two bottles of beer at once, then chances are, you’re not suitable for the job. This is more about having common sense than having a social life.”
Nonetheless, it’s not just your personal social media accounts that can get you in trouble; Felicity also adds that your LinkedIn profile should be consistent with the information on your cover letter and CV; otherwise, it’s a big warning sign.

Keep to your agreements

Finally, don’t think that your work is done because the interview is done and dusted! As well as sending a follow-up email to thank the interviewer for their time and ask if they need anything else from you, you should complete any additional requests the interviewer has given you.

For example, many hiring managers will ask candidates to carry out a creative task after the interview, so make sure you do this in a timely manner! This not only shows that you can be trusted to complete given work, but it also reiterates how much you want the job.

Mike Irving from Advanced Business Abilities concludes: “In the recruiting process, I’m looking for the candidate to make agreements with me on the next steps, and then checking to ensure that they keep their agreements. So, it’s not one interview and then they’re hired; there will be a process with certain steps to take, and we will both be making agreements and demonstrating to one another that we keep these.”