Here’s the One Thing You MUST Say During an Interview

Skeptical Man

By the time hiring managers ask you in for an interview, they’ve already decided you’ve got the technical skills to do the job. Their purpose in meeting you is to decide whether you’ll fit with the team, gauge your soft skills and in general measure your level of enthusiasm for the position.

This last point is among the most critical. If there’s one thing you absolutely must get across during your meeting, it’s why you want the job. “Skills can be taught,” observes Jamie Shumway, Branch Manager for Ashley Ellis, an IT staffing firm in Naperville, Ill. “IT managers will keep interviewing until they find someone who can explain why they want the job and how it fits into their career goals.”

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Take this to heart. Just applying for a job and showing up for the interview isn’t enough to show real interest. Employee turnover among Fortune 500 technology companies is the highest among all industries, according to a survey by PayScale, and rising turnover is making a lot of hiring managers skittish.

“IT managers are looking for committed, stable employees with a long-term vision,” says Tom Hart, COO of Wakefield, Mass., technology staffing and consulting firm Eliassen Group. “They don’t want to hire someone who has zero interest in working for the company and will jump ship the minute a better opportunity comes along.”

That’s a particularly acute fear now as many candidates receive multiple offers and counteroffers. A perceived sense of indifference on your part is going to give a hiring manager cold feet. Whatever you do, you need to prove that you’re ready to act if you want to score the offer.

One way to accomplish that is to flat-out ask for the job. If you’re not comfortable being that direct, at least explain why you’re interested. Don’t assume the manager knows your reasons just because you’re sitting there. Again, demonstrating interest goes beyond simply showing up.

“Going on an interview doesn’t automatically convey interest,” says Shumway. “You have to speak up if you really want the job.”

Show, Don’t Tell

Of course, you should do more than simply say that you really want the job. Demonstrate your interest by researching the employer and its business beforehand, then use what you learn to clearly illustrate how you can help both the company and the manager meet their technical and business goals. Don’t be afraid to reiterate your points throughout the meeting—that will show forethought and establish your sincere interest. It will also give you an edge during salary negotiations.

Finally, make the manager do a little bit of selling themselves. Commitment is a two-way street, notes Hart, so ask how your efforts will be rewarded. Pose this question: “If I do everything you ask and do it well, how will I be rewarded? How will my role and compensation change over the next two years?”

“The manager’s answer will reveal their sincerity and interest in hiring you,” Hart says. That’s an important thing for you to consider, especially if you’ve got several serious job prospects in front of you. Just as you need to make your real interest clear to the employer, they need to make their interest clear to you.

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11 Responses to “Here’s the One Thing You MUST Say During an Interview”

  1. Joe Lemon

    Articles like this show how out of touch IT staffing firms are. Most job interviews for tech positions are done by tech people. At most companies I work for, I look thought resumes to decide who gets interviewed. I then do the interviews with other tech people. We decide who we want to hire. The hiring manager just wants to meet him, and talk salary.

    “Skills can be taught”? Seriously what company teaches. I also consider development to be more a talent then a skill. 90% of developers are Google developers, because they don’t have the talent.

  2. James Lewis

    This just demonstrates another of the ways that the hiring process is screwed up, and how managers/recruiters end up not getting the person MOST QUALIFIED for the job. Instead, the job goes to the person who knows all the gimmicks to the hiring process, who knows the right things to say.

    • @James Lewis,

      You’re assuming these companies are sincere in wanting the person most qualified and that the qualifications aren’t an ability to learn arbitrary gimmicks that let you get ahead at the company. HR can’t say some things (like admitting they are less then a perfect a company or you get promoted by kissing but, not hard work), but there’s a strong demand for engineers and tech people who will support a business agenda unconditionally simply because it came from above even it it makes no sense and/wont work to solve the problems of the end users. It’s often enough that a solution solve the business problems of the manager or boss, and how that affects end users, customers, or anyone else is largely unimportant (in some companies and in some situations).

  3. IndianGuy

    Looks like it’s the same story on the other side.

    *) Jobs come by with a lot of gimmicks.
    *) Recruiters end up not getting the person MOST QUALIFIED for the job.

    • Mark Feffer

      @Cynthia, I approach it like this: After the interview, send a thank you email within 24 hours. If a week goes by and you haven’t heard anything, give the interviewer a call to check in. If you have to leave a voicemail, send an email 24 hours later to follow up on your message. If you don’t hear back from THAT, I’d wait about five days and try either a phone call or email again. So, reach out three times after the interview. If after all that you still don’t hear back, it’s probably time to move on.



  4. It’s important to emphasize the point about being eager and wanting the job in the interview since at some companies maintaining that grateful to work here mindset is a major challenge. I like the way the article balanced suggestions for making the interviewers job easier with the interviewee’s need to find out about the commitment of the hiring company. It’s a mistake to assume all companies have a long term future for the candidate in mind. Often, companies are just looking to fill a role quick because someone left or they fired someone essential. If you’re a rebound hire, you probably won’t get much opportunity and should consider another position more worthy of your employee commitment to the company. Or if your desperate because of the economy, then you can at least make sure you project the right image of loyalty and wanting the job in the interview first and then decide if you really want the job and want to stay their after you’ve at a better time of your choosing. Bottom line is interviewers want and expect a sales pitch from you on why they should hire you and they need you to sound sincere in your interview pitch so know you can put your personal success ahead of “strait talk” that might hurt your interests or the company interests. .

  5. Mike in Seattle

    I’m appalled at the spelling and grammar of some of the commenters. Do companies really hire people like this? One guy typed “thought” instead of “through” and didn’t use a question mark at the end of a sentence. Another guy can’t spell “butt” correctly, and yet another can’t use “you’re” correctly in a sentence. You’re supposed to be hot-shot I.T. guys, and even managers? Come on! No wonder your code is blowing up all of the time.

  6. Stimpy

    Why does the hiring process always seem to me to be a personality test — you know, where the salesmen extroverts come across most positively? I am an intelligent but somewhat introverted type. I am most comfortable dealing with things more than people. I like to get absorbed in my work — I often feel like that is how I maintain my sanity. Having said all this I can imagine hiring managers shrieking and running into the night after reading this. Oh well. I’ve done OK so far but luckily haven’t had to navigate the silly hiring wickets lately.

  7. Bacon21

    I don’t understand this article — most jobs I’ve seen and had recruiters call me about are for 6 month assignments. Why would a company care about “looking for committed, stable employees with a long-term vision” for a position that is not a job, but only an assignment? You are going to get what you ask for. If you want an employee, then offer a job! If you want a job hopper that is only going to be there for a few months then don’t expect anybody who gives a flip about your company to apply.