What Makes the Real Difference for Hiring Managers

August 6, 2010 at 2:04 am Leave a comment

Recently, I was asked to help diagnose what went wrong for two job candidates who didn’t get a  job they thought they were about to land. Their resumes and cover letters got them in the door, their interviews seemed to go well, and while the situations were obviously somewhat different — one was seeking a journalism job and one a policy position — each felt they stood a good chance of getting an offer.

And then, for whatever reason, the job apparently went to someone else. (In one case, the applicant believes they were the No. 2 choice, having been told that by a “source” in the organization.) Their obvious question: What happened?

While they may never know exactly why they didn’t get these jobs, it gave me an opportunity to check in with some hiring managers and ask this basic question: What makes the real difference, especially in a competitive environment between equally qualified candidates? And while different hiring managers have different lists, all included this: someone who seems truly interested in the position — those who appear likely to enjoy this job and therefore will give it real effort and energy. If a candidate isn’t qualified, this won’t matter, but then, they wouldn’t have gotten this far in the hiring process.

So here are some tips for impressing a hiring manager with your interest:

*Show, don’t tell. As with many things in life, words only go so far. Don’t just say you’re interested in the position, but demonstrate it. Research the company and the division or group you’d be joining, and show that you’ve done your homework through the informed questions you ask in the interview. If they have a publication or Web site (and what D.C. organization doesn’t?) study it and be prepared to provide a well-informed critique — warts and all. Be open to tryouts and free-lance or consulting work as a form of a tryout. Ask questions that show you’re curious not only about parts of the job that any candidate would be interested in — especially as they would affect them — but demonstrate a broader interest in the organization’s pasts, goals and challenges.

*Ask the interviewer questions about their experience at the company. I’m surprised how few job candidates do this, especially as it’s often an effective technique for drawing out the hiring manager and demonstrating your interest. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their careers. If asked in a polite, conversational fashion (you don’t want to seem like you’re cross-examining the interviewer) most hiring managers would be happy to talk about what led them to join the company and to describe their career path there. Not only will you gain important knowledge about how people get ahead at this organization, but you may make an impression on them as someone who really wants to know about them and the company.

*Demonstrate that you’ve been interested in and passionate about your field for some time. That’s why it’s important that your resume and cover letter not just be a recitation of the positions you’ve held and the duties you’ve handled. Your materials should show dedication to your career. On your resume, you should have a section for awards you’ve won, positions you’ve held in career-oriented organizations, and any teaching you’ve done. These are the kind of things you should also emphasize in a cover letter and in interviews, as they indicate a record of involvement and interest not only in the jobs you’ve held but in the career you’ve chosen.

*Indicate interest through your voice and your body language. In an interview, slumping in your chair, mumbling or failing to look the interviewer in the eye and directly address him or her doesn’t communicate interest or involvement. Look and like you care a great deal about this interview and that you want it to go well — that in itself indicates to a hiring manager that you are someone who really wants this job, and isn’t just saying so.

*For the record, this is my 200th dcworks post since beginning the blog in October 2009 — thanks to all the great contributors out there, and please keep those ideas and leads coming!!

*A few things came in over the transom the past few days that I’ll pass along. First, I’ve been told about Job Rapido, a new, free search engine that its founders say allows job hunters to search more than 5 million U.S. jobs. Check it out at the link below:


*And the folks at Bryant & Stratton College are holding a series of career development Web seminars, starting next week. They are free, so if the topic interests you, check it out. The information and links are below:

“Jumpstart Your Career”
Date: August 11, 2010
Time:  Noon to 1 p.m. EDT
To Register Visit: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/719530984

There are many actions students can take to position themselves with potential employers and job opportunities while they’re still in school.  This webinar will identify those actions as well as steps students can start taking today to build their post-graduation career opportunities.

“Build Your Professional Brand”
Tentative Date: August 24, 2010
Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT
To Register Visit: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/135369880
Your professional brand is simply all the ways you showcase your professional strengths, attributes, interests and experience to the world.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to start building the professional brand that will make you stand out as a strong contributor to any company – even if you are a student, unemployed, or don’t yet have work experience in your chosen field.  This webinar will teach participants how to build a professional brand and how to showcase their value to potential employers.

“How to Build a Resilient Career”
Tentative Date: September 16, 2010
Time: Noon to 1 p.m. EDT
To Register Visit: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/651626593
To build a resilient career, one that will sustain you over the decades of your working life, you need to make smart choices, take responsibility for outcomes and be able to figure out your best options when things don’t turn out as planned.  The good news:  there are solid strategies for dealing with career opportunities (and disasters).  Knowing these strategies will help provide the confidence needed to be a truly independent professional, regardless of what’s going on in the job market.

*Here’s a good batch of leads to check out — looks like folks are gearing up for a wave of fall hiring in social media, communications, public policy and journalism:

*Sprint in Reston is looking for a communications program manager to focus on social media engagement:

Sprint – Reston, VA
Experience writing communications • Experience in communication project planning, and implementation • Experience with multiple communications media…
From Sprint

*Lockheed Martin has an opening in Alexandria for a communications and marketing manager:

Communications and Marketing Lead
Lockheed Martin – Alexandria, VA
with the overall strategic Communications Plan •Work with Communications Group to develop and publish a… communications •Executive communications &…
From Monster

*The American Council has an opening in D.C. for a program manager for its African Overseas Flagship Program:
Program Manager, African Overseas (NSEP) Flagship Program

American Council – Washington, DC
in managing study abroad programs desirable; • Excellent written and oral communication skills; • Excellent spoken and written language skills in one or more of…
From American Council

*The American College of Radiology in Reston is looking for a Web editor/Web content manager:

Web Editor/Web Content Manager

American College of Radiology Reston, VA

*Here’s an opening that doesn’t come up all that often — the AP is looking for a Washington bureau chief:

Chief of Bureau The Associated Press


*Aerotek Professional Services in Fairfax has an opening for a senior staff writer:

Senior Staff Writer Aerotek


*The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine in Rockville is seeking a proposal editor/specialist:

Proposal Specialist (205742
Henry M. Jackson Foundation Rockville, MD

*And to wrap up this week’s leads, a specialty newsletter in Gaithersburg is looking for an experienced banking reporter:

Banking Reporter Wanted

I’m searching for a banking reporter to work on a specialty newsletter in the DC area (Gaithersburg, Md.) My ideal candidate will understand the following terms: CAMELS ratings, Call Reports and consent orders. I want someone who isn’t afraid of investigative reporting and can master a beat fast. Our publication has a track record of breaking national news and leading the mainstream press on the financial crisis. If you’re interested, send a resume, three clips and a short letter telling me why I should hire you. I can be reached at lgetter@ucg.com or at 301-287-2514.


Lisa Getter

Editorial Director, UCG

Happy hunting, and have a relaxing weekend. And after 200 blog posts, I need a break — so am heading to the beach. I’ll be back with you late next week…but send along ideas in the meantime!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

When You Think You’ve Made a Big Mistake How to Handle Screening Interviews

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