How to Get a Job by Thinking Like a Hiring Manager

get a job think like a hiring manager

Make the job of a hiring manger easier by learning to understand what is most important to them.

Someone out there is in control of your employment future. You don’t know them yet, but I promise you, despite your concerns, they are human.

They too have had sleepless nights worried about an interview, sweaty palms while waiting in some nondescript lobby and walked out thinking they “blew it” more than once.

At some point they nailed it, and now they are the gatekeeper to your dream job. So how do you impress this better known as a hiring manager? Learn to think like they do.

Skill vs. Will

As a News Director, my boss, the General Manager, used to tell me often that the most important part of my job was hiring a great staff.

I had come up the ranks as a producer, writer and editor, so I had literally no experience in hiring. He taught me this simple matrix that has stuck with me throughout my career, and it asks a simple question, what is more important….skill or will?

get hired by thinking like a hiring manager

  •  10% of the people you interview over your entire career will have both a high skill level and a high will to succeed, when you find these people hire them immediately.
  • 10% of the people you interview will have both low skill and low will, those people you move on from immediately.
  • 80% of the people you interview will fit into the two remaining categories – high will/low skill or high skill/low will – so which do you hire?

He didn’t tell me his belief, he wanted me to figure it out for myself. I naturally gravitated towards people with high will, yes they had to have a level of competence in our industry, but with the right attitude anything can be taught. This one foundational belief has served me very well when hiring.

Thinking Like a Hiring Manager:  Aim for the top category with the right attitude and a high level of skill… but most importantly have the right attitude, it will take you far. Be open to learning, take on challenges, help other employees, avoid gossip and do your job to your best. Good things will come.

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Self-Analyze and Be Honest

8 mile how to think like a hiring manager

This is probably the only blog you will read this year that references 8 Mile. That’s why we’re a little different.

Ever seen the movie 8 Mile? (yes, I’m referencing an Eminem movie) In it, our hero is about to engage in a rap battle with local legend Papa Doc (stick with me here, I have a point) when he starts his freestyle rap he answers every insult that Papa Doc could possibly come up with so when it is Papa Doc’s turn he is left speechless, without any material to battle on.

Eminem’s character owns who he is and basically says “so what?” (I’m not going to link to it since it’s beyond vulgar, but you can find it on YouTube if you really want to see it.)

The point is, you have shortcomings, don’t hide from them, address them. Understanding your flaws and presenting them honestly with a vision of how you can improve on them, shows maturity and a level of analysis most people are not willing to undertake.

“Claiming that your biggest weakness is perfectionism and you work too hard is disingenuous. It looks like you’re avoiding the question” says US News & World Report Ask a Manager columnist Alison Green.  “Candidates who can’t or won’t come up with a realistic assessment of areas where they could improve make me think they’re lacking in insight and self-awareness.”

Thinking Like a Hiring Manager: Study the job description, know what is required for the job and be ready to address why certain parts are your strengths and others may not be. A job description is always a “dream scenario”, if you have the majority of the competencies, show enthusiasm and can really discuss your weaknesses with a plan to overcome, you’re going to have a real good chance.

Every Moment Counts

I had this trick I used to do in order to find out what interview subjects were really like.

As a hiring manager you get bored reading the same basic resume over and over, laden with complex adjectives that all say “I work hard”. And you get bored during the interview when you hear for the tenth time that day, “I just want a chance to come in and learn everything there is to learn”. Yawn.

To break from the cliches, I would take the interview subject out into the newsroom and then I’d have something “come up” where I had to step away. Then I’d sit back and observe for 10 minutes. Some people would watch TV or play on their phone, some would engage with employees, some were a wallflower and others became the life of the party.

This let me see who they really were and if they would be a cultural fit. Often, I learned more from the 10 minute “break” than I did during a 2 hour interview.

Thinking Like a Hiring Manager: When you are in the building every moment counts, you are always being evaluated, so don’t let your guard down. Do not pull out your phone and start texting the second you think eyes are off of you, for that day focus only on the goal in front of you, making the right impression to get hired.

Enthusiasm Never Gets Old

I’ll make this really simple; enthusiasm, passion and soft skills are an important part of the hiring puzzle.

“The world is full of moaners and the last thing a hiring manager wants is another stinker on their team” says former recruiter Jorgen Sundberg. “If you are able to lift the moods of your intervierwers by way of charisma, humor or any other magic, you stand a lot better chance of being considered for the next round.”

Thinking Like a Hiring Manager: Don’t confuse passion with desperation, we’re talking about spirit, zest, excitement…give off the vibe that this isn’t just a job it’s a career that you’ll be excited to contribute to.

What have you learned from your interview failures?

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


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