Interview Tips From a Hiring Manager

I’ve been on interview teams at my company so, having gone through a number of interview rounds, I thought I’d share some thoughts on do’s and don’ts to help you navigate your own job search.

  • Don’t send a form cover letter: If you really want the job, craft your cover letter to sell yourself as a natural fit for the position. A generic cover letter just makes you one of a large and lazy crowd.
  • Make your name part of the file name of your resume: Hiring managers see a lot of resumes, and move them around on their computers. Application_Developer.doc or CurrentResume.pdf just don’t cut it for personal branding. Make it easy on the hiring manager and make sure your name is part of the file name. For example, Chad_Broadus_Resume.doc, although long, is very descriptive.
  • Be on time: Nothing says poor ability to estimate and plan like being late to an interview. If you can swing it, always shoot to be 20-30minutes early. That allows for bad directions and bad traffic.
  • Err on the side of dressy: Let’s face it, there are still a lot of old school hiring managers out there that consider you to be a total nogoodnik if you show up in anything less than a suit. A collared shirt and slacks are the bare minimum here. And please, if you freshen your breath with a piece of gum before the interview, get rid of it before the start. A gum chewing Burt Reynolds isn’t all that appropriate.
  • Do some rehearsal interviews with a friend: You may still be nervous during the real thing, but like practicing karate moves over and over, you’ll build up “muscle” memory, and coherent answers will just come out automatically. (Here are 50 questions to practice with.)
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you don’t know something: There’s nothing uglier than a candidate BSing their way through an answer. If we can’t trust you to be honest during the interview, how will we be able to work with you?
  • Relax and be yourself: Once the interviewers figure out that you can actually do the job, it’s all about personality and fit. The more of the real you that comes through, the better.

Originally published June 23, 2009

7 Responses to “Interview Tips From a Hiring Manager”

  1. I am a web development consultant in Austin, TX . As a consultant, I go through more than a few interviews every few years. I agree with erring on the side of too dressy; I am a bit old school myself. The interesting point I want to bring up is that, in my interview adventures, I have actually been asked to dress down. One time I was explicitly asked to not wear a suit and instead to just come in slacks, shirt, and tie–not too bad. Another time, however, I asked to just come in slacks and a polo-style shirt. Yet another time when I was not told about dress code, and I did not think to ask, one of the interviewers asked me to take my jacket and tie off. He was very pleasant about it, but, I was caught by surprise. I landed all the contracts and declined one, but, I was taught something new in my 16+ years as a developer. Every employer is different. (continued in next comment)

  2. My suggestion on this point, therefore, is that if the employer does not mention dress code, you might want to ask in some way, lest you end up in a little bit of an awkward situation. I agree with the gum point above too and would add that if offered a beverage and/or snack, I usually make sure I accept at least water. It might be considered rude to decline your hosts’ hospitality. Sweetened drinks tend to dry out your throat, so, I would shy away from those, but, coffee/tea without sugar/cream is also good in my opinion.

  3. Nadia P.

    Another one to remember: Never, ever take a cell phone call during the interview. Better switch off that phone before stepping in the company premises.

  4. Arnold Aubee

    I find that in order to land a $100k job, you need to look the part, so apart from a smart suit, a manicure, or at least filed and cleaned finger nails is a must.
    Polished black shoes are a must and a copy of you resume (not folded) is also advisable.
    Remember not to park in a “reserved” parking spot.
    You don’t want to be paged to move your car in the middle of the interview!

  5. Erick

    These are all very good pointers, but I have a point that I’m sure many people may need. There are tons of apps out there to “help build a resume”{yahoo, careerbuilder, etc,} but nothing says you like good old formating and bulleting{optional} in a word processor app. Not only does this give you the power to shape your resume the way you want, but it gives you your own personal style. And even after you’re done putting your resume together, try it out on friends, family, or other colleagues. There is always another way to turn the same bolt. You may have to be open to criticism, but it will only make your resume stronger.

  6. “Don’t send a form cover letter: If you really want the job, craft your cover letter to sell yourself as a natural fit for the position. A generic cover letter just makes you one of a large and lazy crowd.”

    I don’t have time to customize a cover letter for each job that I apply to any more than the hiring manager has time to respond to each resume sent to them.

    How about lazy hiring managers who don’t bother to look at my resume or website before I go to interview?

  7. Corporate IT Recruiter

    Most are good pointers except for the cover letter. As an IT Recruiter I look at dozens, if not hundreds of applicants for each role that I recruit for. I do not have time to read each cover letter, I go straight to the resume and look for qualifications I need to fill the position, otherwise I move on. The same goes for hiring managers, most could care less about additional information regarding your background, they want a qualified individual to fill the position.