following is an an excerpt from
Outwitting the Job Market: Everything You Need to Locate and Land a Great
Published by The Lyons Press;
May 2004; $13.95US/$19.95CAN;
Copyright © 2004 Chandra Prasad
What Interviewers Really Want to Know About You
by Chandra Prasad
What do interviewers really want in job candidates? The answer may be
different for every hiring manager. But first-time job hunters may be surprised
by how simple their wish lists are. We asked hiring managers from a variety of
industries to share what they look for in candidates.
Work experience is usually the first item on the checklist when hiring
managers read a resume. They ask: Where did this person work? What did he do?
And, is his experience transferable? Susan Cheng, a manager at a major
media-entertainment company, says she'll only glance at an applicant's
education, preferring to focus on whether he or she has relevant work
A Positive Attitude
A human resources manager at a federal courthouse has plenty of accomplished
candidates to choose from. He says he cares less about a candidate's skills and
experience than he does about her outlook. "The No. 1 thing we are concerned
about -- because we have so many qualified people who apply -- is: Are we sure
this person will have the right working attitude?" he says. "We just spend [so]
much time with each other, in meetings and discussing things, that we don't have
time for people with a bad attitude."
In other words, if a hiring manager has to choose between two equally
qualified candidates, the person with the better disposition likely will win
out. It makes sense. After all, who wants to spend 40 or more hours a week with
A human resources manager at a global information technology provider offers
similar testimony. "It comes back to confidence, energy, and a positive
attitude," he says. "I'd interviewed candidates a little while back for a senior
strategy position. One person had such energy, such passion. We needed a
go-getter. It was the energy and passion that impressed me." It's little
surprise that this interviewee was offered the position.
A positive attitude is reflected in not only what a candidate says, but also
what he doesn't say. Shawn Jarrett, a manager of strategic alliances for Pitney
Bowes Inc., an office technology and services company, warns interviewees
against adopting an aggressive or superior attitude during interviews. "You
don't want to interview the interviewer," he says. "Don't delve too much into an
interviewer's background. Everything you ask should be directed toward the job
or to ascertaining information on [your potential boss's] management style.
Don't try to nitpick, or try to find flaws in what people are saying.
Interviewers, like everyone else, don't want to be made to feel unintelligent."
Hiring managers are alarmed by the startling number of candidates who
misrepresent themselves. Prospective employees, they say, may exaggerate parts
of their work history or disguise aspects of their personalities. The occasional
candidate will even out-and-out lie. Yet it's the straightforward candidate who
is most appreciated by hiring managers.
Robin Pelzman, a former human resources specialist at Hewlett-Packard, says,
"There are those lucky moments when, within the first five minutes, you know
you've found the right person. This happened later in my career, when I'd built
up my experience and I knew exactly what we needed in terms of fit. One person
was memorable for his openness. He said, 'I have three other offers. Here are
the amounts they're offering, but I want to work for HP. This is where I'd like
to be.' His openness wasn't presented as: 'I'm hot, so you'd better come after
me.' It was presented as: 'My values and work goals correspond with this company
and I want to work here.' By being open about his preference for HP, he
impressed me and made me far more receptive to his other attributes."
Indeed, Hewlett-Packard isn't the only company to value honesty in its
employees. Hiring managers everywhere say that this quality is an essential. A
consultant at a recruiting firm specializing in executive placements and board
director appointments says that candidates should avoid practicing their answers
as if they're memorizing lines because interviewers want to see natural
self-expression. "I don't do a lot of prepping with my candidates, because I
want the interview to be an organic experience," she declares.
Even if you've had it up to your eyeballs with your present job, hiring
experts advise that you keep working as you search for new employment. Why?
Employers are often more inclined to hire candidates who are employed than those
who are out of work. Beth Camp, the owner of a professional placement service,
says, "Go with market value for your skill, suck it up, and stay working."
If you're already out of work, donít sweat it. Employers can -- and often do
-- sympathize with people who have been unemployed for several months or more,
especially when the economy is ailing.
This article has been excerpted from Outwitting the Job
Market: Everything You Need to Locate and Land a Great Position, Lyons
Copyright © 2004 Chandra Prasad
For more information, please visit
Chandra Prasad has written on career issues in The
Wall Street Journal's Career Journal, IMDiversitycom, and JobCircle.com,
among others. She has been quoted as a workplace expert by Black Entertainment
Television, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Complete Idiot's
Guide to Finding Your Dream Job Online. She is the former Editor-at-Large of
Vault, an online careers site that has been called "the best place on the Web to
prepare for a job search" by Fortune Magazine.