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Five things hiring managers won't tell you

By Robert Half, CareerBuilder.com
updated 12:09 PM EST, Tue November 29, 2011
Hiring managers are skilled at masking what they're thinking during your interview.
Hiring managers are skilled at masking what they're thinking during your interview.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Find out what hiring managers are thinking, but not saying to your face
  • The hiring manager may not have had time to review your résumé in great depth yet
  • Job seekers often forget that they aren't the only ones on display during the interview

(CareerBuilder.com) -- Boy, wouldn't the ability to read minds come in handy during the job interview? At the risk of stating the obvious, who wouldn't love to know what hiring managers really think about your qualifications or what they consider the perfect answer to a certain question? Armed with this information, you'd be a step ahead of other job applicants.

Unfortunately, none of us have this skill. But you can get a peek into the minds of most hiring managers. Read on to find out what they're likely thinking but won't admit.

1) 'I haven't had time to prepare.'

Chances are you aren't the only person with which the potential employer will be meeting. The hiring manager may have a dozen or more interviews lined up. And between those meetings, he or she has everyday job duties to tackle, too.

The truth is the hiring manager may not have had time to review your résumé in great depth before sitting down with you. He or she might not even have a copy handy. That means you should bring extra copies with you, printed on high-quality paper.

Also, make sure you are familiar with your résumé. When was the last time you looked at it? This is especially important if you've sent different versions of your résumé to various employers. If necessary, you want to be able to summarize your work experience and main qualifications within 30 seconds to help guide the interviewer.

2) 'What you wear matters to me.'

First impressions count, and the way you dress significantly impacts how you come across to the hiring manager. Show up wearing a T-shirt and jeans, and the person will likely wonder about your professionalism and true desire to land the job. Make the best impression by donning a clean, well-fitted suit or similar outfit.

3) 'I've heard that one before.'

Saying that your greatest weakness is that you "work too hard" or "can't help but be a perfectionist" can set off warning bells to a hiring manager, because these types of responses are clichéd. Not only will you come across as insincere, you run the risk of being quickly forgotten thanks to your generic answer.

Before the interview, consider how you will answer routine questions such as, "What's your greatest weakness?" and practice with a friend to help hone your responses. You don't want to be so forthright — "I've never met a deadline I could keep!" — that you harm your chances of landing the job, but you do want to seem genuine. Cite a real weakness that won't cause the employer to question your ability to do the job, and note the steps you are taking to overcome it.

4) 'I may try to make you uncomfortable.'

Hiring managers know all the tricks in the book. And they use them to make you uneasy. The reason? Not to torment you. Rather, they're hopeful that being knocked off your game a little will help elicit more insight into how you handle challenging situations.

So, what can you expect? Off-the-wall interview questions, for one. If you're asked how many Ping-Pong balls it would take to fill a jumbo jet or why manhole covers are round, don't panic. Take a moment, and walk the interviewer through your thought process. He or she wants to see if you can think on your feet.

Another tactic hiring managers use is to stretch out the pauses between questions. We all know how awkward they can be. Resist the temptation to fill the dead air. If you're satisfied with the answer you gave, wait for the employer to make the next move. Over-answering is a great way to put your foot in your mouth.

5) 'I'd like to impress you.'

Job seekers often forget that they aren't the only ones on display during the interview. This meeting is also a chance for the hiring manager to convince you that joining his or her firm is the right choice for your career.

When given the opportunity, ask questions that will allow the employer to open up about the company and his or her time there. For example, you might inquire about the person's own career progression. This can yield valuable information about the growth potential at the firm.

© CareerBuilder.com 2011. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority.

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