The Two ‘Right’ Answers Hiring Managers Are Looking For

ArcherMost people miss the simple truth about job interviews: You only need to answer two questions:

  • Are you motivated to do the work?
  • Will you fit in with the manager and team?

Most people don’t realize your resume is all about getting the initial phone interview. Nothing else, just the phone interview. And during the phone interview, you must prove — to a person who does not know the job as well as you or the hiring manager — that you have the job skills to do the work. If you prove you are qualified to do the work, you will most likely move on to the face-to-face interview with the hiring manager.

The Focus of the Face-to-Face Interview is Different from a Phone Interview’s

A phone interview is all about proving you can do the work. A face-to-face interview with the hiring manager is all about showing you are motivated to do the work and can work with the manager and the team.

Now, there are a lot of people, including commenters here on Dice, that whine they are qualified to do the work, but the hiring manager doesn’t get that they are super-qualified because of their skills and experience and instead hires someone with less (fill in the blank) or the wrong (fill in the blank).

Those people miss the point of the face-to-face interview. They’re not about your qualifications. They’re about why you are motivated to do the work despite the obstacles, and whether you can work with the manager’s team. If you can’t show your motivation or if your behavior doesn’t fit, the manager won’t hire you — no matter how qualified you are for the job.

Think about it from the manager’s view: You’re a person who doesn’t work well with the person doing the hiring, and you don’t work well with the style of this particular team. Why would a manager hire you if all he sees is headaches and a ticked-off staff?

After all, managers hire you to help achieve their business goals, a hard enough objective without the burden of someone who doesn’t fit their management style and the team’s problem-solving style.

If you’re a go-get-’em hotshot looking for immediate answers, you won’t do well in a culture that’s all about consensus and collaboration.

Likewise, if you don’t like a lot of interaction and the management style is a lot of walking around and coworkers dropping into cubes to solve problems, the contact will drive you crazy, not to mention your manager and your coworkers.

That’s why the face-to-face interview is all about fit, not qualifications. Can the manager work with you or are your styles incompatible? Will you work with the team — or drive them crazy? Your style is neither “right” or “wrong,” it’s simply about whether your style of working fits in with their style of working. If it does, you’ve got a shot. If it doesn’t, you don’t.


The Face-to-Face Interview is not About Job Skills

Of course you need the skills to do the work. But by the time you hit the face-to-face interview with, it’s already assumed you do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be sitting in the interview.

What’s not assumed is that you can overcome the many obstacles to getting work done or that you will get along with the manager and the team.

So let me say it again. In the face-to-face interview, there are only two questions to answer: Are you motivated to do the work and will you fit into the organization? If you get two “yes” answers, you may get a job offer.

7 Responses to “The Two ‘Right’ Answers Hiring Managers Are Looking For”

  1. Ed Eaglehouse

    Hi, Scot, when I was the hiring manager, it wasn’t *all* about the fit. Primarily it was to find out whose qualifications matched what they put down on paper. Secondarily, yes, it was about the fit. I met many candidates who exaggerated the skills and experiences they had, but whether they did or not, some were so arrogant I wondered why they were wasting my time.

    On the candidate’s end, they should come prepared to ask questions about the company and its culture. The culture I was trying to build was markedly different from the one my partners were used to, and I eventually lost that battle. One employee in particular that I hired had good potential, but I never got much chance to help build up her skills, so she was eventually terminated for inability to adapt to our environment. That misjudgment hurt us both.

    So I agree with your final points about candidates being motivated to do the work and if they will fit into the (existing) culture. However, don’t ignore that the interview is also about instilling confidence that what your resume said was true.

    • Ed,

      I completely agree it is not all about the fit. Certainly, if the interviewer is asking questions about qualifications, it’s a flag that says one needs to show they can do the work. As well, if the hiring manager doesn’t have confidence in the people doing the screening interview about qualifications, then the hiring manager will ask questions about if you can do the work.

      On the candidate’s end, the questions they would as about the company and culture is all about them fitting into a style where they work the best (and your situation was a challenging one, for sure, as it is difficult to change a culture…). But the candidate is assuming they can do the work, so they are evaluating fit as well.

      I generally (dangerous to generalize!) think 1/4 of the interview is about qualifications and the other 3/4 is about motivation and fit within the team. If it goes a lot longer about qualifications and proving you can do the work, it’s a flag that something is missing that needs addressing.

      Good comment, Ed. Thanks for leaving it.

  2. A very good article, thanks.
    However, I wish I had read an article about teams that would fall apart, or actually, “scheduled for dismantling”, since I’ve been in a situation where the worked was being off-shored. It took time before the work was moved offshore, and many things about the team culture had little to do with the overall company’s culture…