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Interviewing 101: The Hiring Manager

Interviewing Tips

Part 1A: The Hiring Manager’s View

 There’s not a lot of fun going on in hiring these days. Managers hate hiring above all things but firing, and most people would rather eat worms than to be the candidate in an employment interview.

Why is this?

In future posts I’ll talk a great deal more about the interview itself, including preparation for the interview, controlling the interview, and answering the difficult questions, but today let’s stay at the conceptual level to establish a baseline.

Let’s start with the hiring manager. Why talk about the hiring manager?

Because, in what most people see as an adversarial process, the hiring manager is the adversary! The famous Chinese general, Sun Tzu, said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” So, let’s know the enemy!

As the manager, I am now evaluated on my leadership skills, and the proficiency and productivity of my work group, no longer on my individual technical ability.I am the hiring manager, not because I’m good at hiring, but because I was good at what I did before I became the hiring manager. I have had little to no training, and certainly no good training, in how to hire, but my performance metrics depend on quality hires and leadership (in which, if I am typical, I also have had precious little training). I hire for one reason only: I have a problem. If I have no problems, I’m certainly not going to spend money to hire someone! So, the bedrock foundation of employment is this: all hiring is done to solve problems.Why is this a problem in itself?

As mentioned earlier, as the hiring manager, the only thing I hate more than hiring is firing. Why? Because when I hire, I’m at risk. People at risk procrastinate. Hiring always goes to the bottom of the pile, simultaneously increasing the stress level. What is going through my head? Sure, if I hire a good employee, life will be fine, but what will happen if I hire Dumbo? I know what will ultimately happen to Dumbo, but by the time I can get rid of him, it may be too late for me to recover. What about me? A bad hire could ruin my career! It is this thought that puts me at risk.

This isn’t a new concept. David DiSilvo, writing about hiring in Psychology Today back in 2011 did a good job describing the anxiety of the typical hiring manager. (

But it gets worse. It is also a fact that we tend to more thoroughly understand what we don’t like than what we do like. When you go to a restaurant, you typically rule out the stuff on the menu that you don’t like, and pick from what’s left. So, when I’m at risk, do I play offense or defense? When I ask the question in workshops, the vast majority of people say defense. Kill’em all and let God sort it out!I’ll hire the survivor! This, in turn, means that when I’m interviewing you, I have to find something wrong with you, so I don’t have to take the risk of hiring you, so I can get on to the next candidate for employment, and not hire them either! Brilliant!

This is not something typically going on at a conscious level in the minds of most hiring managers. But deep down, in places they don’t talk about at parties (I love that line), it is constantly lurking when hiring becomes necessary.

So, I step outside my office to greet you, and we shake hands. Think you’re going to enjoy this?

Now let’s talk about you—the candidate for employment.

Why do you hate interviewing so much? Probably because, as the candidate for employment, it feels like you’re showing up for the interview wearing only an open raincoat and telling the hiring manager, “Take your best shot.”

Very few people go into a job search with their self-confidence intact. The application process intensifies this. If you are like most job seekers, you spend hours per day online, filling out applications and sending out resumes.You apply for jobs you are absolutely certain you can do successfully, and you hear . . . nothing. It doesn’t take long for you to start wondering what’s wrong with you. You can’t even get interviews for jobs you could have done five or 10 years ago!

People take this very, very personally, never realizing that, in pursuing this online path, they are playing a game with the cards totally stacked against them! Enough people find employment this way to seemingly validate the myth that this is how you get a job in the early 21st century.

You must understand something. Technology hasn’t improved hiring. It has just made hiring easier—for the employer. Play this game at your peril!

Okay, more on that later. Back to the subject.

So now, having run that particular gauntlet, you’ve got an interview. But the stakes, and therefore the pressure, have increased now, given the ratio of interviews obtained to applications completed. You’ve got to get this job!

You may have heard that getting a job is a sales process, and you are the product. So, in this interview, you’d better be a nice shiny product that the hiring manager will want to buy!

If you are like most people, you have just shot yourself in the foot. Why? You have just given the hiring manager power that he or she didn’t have until you came along and handed it to them! And now, in what most people see as an adversarial process, you have to fight against the power that you just gave them! And they’re trying to kill you! Brilliant!

This interview is obviously a disaster just waiting to happen. Why?

Read the next post where we talk about you—the candidate for employment HERE.