Each time you interact with a hiring manager, you leave an impression. It starts with your written application and resume, and it continues through the way you conduct yourself during the vetting and interview phases. The sum of your verbal and nonverbal interactions and the impressions they leave are what will ultimately land you in the “yes” or “no” column for new hires.
Along with assessing verbal and nonverbal cues, hiring managers are looking for candidates who are informed and can articulate what they know about the organization, the role they’ll play and how they can contribute to the team.
The most memorable candidates sound like industry and company insiders. They not only read about the company from various reliable internet resources but also may have conducted informational interviews with people in the company or listened to earnings calls. They go above and beyond the basics to truly understand the challenges that keep the hiring manager up at night, so they can position themselves as a solution during the interview.
As you approach a job search and the interview process, take the time to consider the ways hiring managers might perceive interactions and communication in a positive or negative light and take steps to position yourself for success.
Leaving a positive impression
Hiring managers expect candidates to have the skills necessary to do the job. What truly separates one qualified candidate from another is likability—the general impression that you are enjoyable to interact and work with.
Let’s be clear, as a candidate you’re not going to have chemistry with every hiring manager, and you shouldn’t alter your personality to fit someone else’s expectations. Instead, you should try to personally connect with hiring managers by injecting some personality into the process and showing genuine interest in them.
Before the interview, research the hiring manager by reviewing their LinkedIn profile. Look for common interests or aspects of their background you can parlay into conversation. This helps with generating meaningful small talk and asking thoughtful questions aimed at getting to know your future boss.
Memorable candidates also bring positive energy and enthusiasm to the interview. They show up excited and eager to get to know the hiring manager and learn more about the role and team. Enthusiastic candidates demonstrate specific body language. They show attentive body posture, a warm smile, eye contact and positive facial expressions.
Sometimes nerves get the better of candidates, so they convince themselves to “calm down” to the point that they come across as indifferent. If you’re nervous, instead of telling yourself to calm down, tell yourself you’re excited, and channel that into memorable enthusiasm.
Avoiding a negative impression
All candidates want a job that meets their needs and preferences. However, some candidates are so focused on what they want to get from the job that they come across as self-centered.
These are the candidates who prematurely ask about salary, benefits and perks. They fail to ask questions about how they can help the hiring manager, the challenges the company faces and the problems the team needs help solving. They’re not interested in how they can help because they’re too focused on getting what they want.
As a candidate, you should always ask thoughtful questions that will help you determine whether an opportunity is right for you, but be tactful and balanced in your approach. Otherwise, you’ll be remembered as the candidate who wants the job for the wrong reasons.
Along those same lines, remember that confidence is a desirable trait in candidates, but arrogance isn’t. Although you’re expected to sell your strengths, you don’t want to come across as pompous or difficult to work with.
The same applies to references to a past position or company. No matter the circumstances, speaking negatively about a previous employer reflects poorly on you. It raises suspicions about your ability to establish good working relationships and doubts about your self-awareness or performance. An interview is an opportunity to talk about the future, not the past.
As you prepare for your next interview or interaction with a hiring manager, focus on your verbal and nonverbal communication. Strive to effectively represent your capabilities, potential and intentions while steering clear of bravado and overzealousness. Recognize that every interaction is an opportunity to put your best foot forward.