Interviewing Advice from Hiring Managers

It’s a new year, and we know what that means. Many of you are planning a career move. You’ve put it off long enough, and 2023 is your year. Go you! We are behind you 1,000%. Are you stressing about interviewing and wondering how to make the best first impression? We got you! Recently, we surveyed a group of hiring managers to find out what they actually care about during the interview process. Here’s what we found. 

Are You On LinkedIn?

When asked how much emphasis they placed on a candidate’s LinkedIn profile, about 65% answered positively. This tracks with other surveys of hiring managers. In fact, Forbes reported that 95% of all recruiters use LinkedIn to find applicants. More importantly, 41% of hiring managers say they might not interview a candidate if they can’t find them online.

So, your LinkedIn profile is crucial to your job search. Not only will you make yourself more visible to potential employers, but a complete and well-written profile can also be the catalyst for a recruiter to bring you in for an interview. If LinkedIn isn’t your jam, check out our blog on optimizing your profile for tips and tricks.  

The Dreaded Cover Letter

The cover letter has been the subject of controversy for decades. No one likes them, applicants and recruiters included. When asked how much emphasis our hiring managers place on a cover letter, the results were “meh.” 45.5% were neutral on the subject, and 45.5% placed little emphasis on cover letters.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that recruiters don’t expect or want a cover letter. Many recruiters still ask for one, especially for positions that attract a lot of applicants. The cover letter is your chance to stand out from the crowd. Recruiters read them to cull the herd and to find the superstars. They also use them to scan for critical keywords showing understanding and insights into the industry or business. 

Also, if you are relying on your transferable skills or unpaid experience to qualify for a job, the cover letter is your chance to tell your story more comprehensively. So, don’t sleep on the cover letter just yet. Instead, use it to your advantage. 

Asking for Sample Work

Harvard Business Review calls the next interviewing strategy “job auditions.” Providing a work sample or completing a “test project” is the norm in many industries. When asked how important sample work is to our recruiters, most said it was important or very important.

A work sample is a finished product you provide to a hiring manager during the interview process. The hiring manager evaluates your work sample according to internal criteria based on the job description and company details that determine if you would be a good fit.

As hiring costs and turnover rates increase, more hiring managers will likely ask applicants to complete a job audition. It’s not enough to show experience on a resume; employers want to see that experience in action. To get hired in 2023, applicants must demonstrate mastery of job skills AND soft skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. During a Hire Women Week panel discussion on getting hired as an engineer, we discussed how essential job auditions have become. The panel suggested entering competitions, participating in hackathons, contributing to open-source projects, and being active on GitHub. 

While some employers may try to take advantage of the process to collect “free work,” most are honestly trying to ensure they hire the best person for the job. And the try-out should be on both sides. Think of the job audition as an opportunity to determine if the company would also be a good fit for you. But if the request feels unreasonable, don’t be afraid to push back. Just know that it might push you down to the bottom of the candidate pile.

College or Nah?

When asked how much emphasis our recruiters place on traditional education when evaluating applicants, more than 63% reported very little or none.

The Burning Glass Institute analyzed millions of online job listings and found that 51% of the positions required a four-year degree in 2017, but by 2021 that number had decreased to 44%. This illustrates a shift from tradition in hiring best practices. We mentioned this phenomenon in a recent blog about transferable skills. According to the Harvard Business Review, more employers realize that hiring workers with specific transferable skills will benefit the company more than hiring those with higher education or work experience. In other words, hiring managers place more importance on evidence that applicants have mastered teamwork, decision-making, and communication skills than a college degree. 

What else?

We asked our recruiters what other details they look for in interviews. Here are some of the nuggets of goodness they gave us: 

“Professionalism in an applicant’s communication, promptness, and overall eagerness during the recruitment process”

“I look for the applicant’s preparation for the interview (asking good questions, providing thoughtful responses, research on the company/interviewers), confidence, and personality/cultural fit.”

“I’m always looking for a match between the candidate I have mentally created and the actual human person in the seat across the table from me. I will always favor someone honest about their experiences and skills in an application over someone who exaggerates their actual abilities on paper. Teaching and training are always easier to manage than missed expectations.”

“Communication! Respond in a timely manner, proofread your emails, and always thank your interviewers for their time.”

We co-sign all of this excellent advice. The interview is your time to shine. Prepare, be prompt, be present, and be professional.

What is your best advice for job seekers in 2022?

At the end of the survey, we asked the recruiters what their best advice for job searchers in 2023 would be. Without a doubt, they agreed that the advice was this:

Take the time to find the right culture fit for you.

Remember that the interview process is your opportunity to try out an employer. The hiring managers reported they expect applicants to tell them if they felt unsure about the fit of a role or a company. They want to hire employees that will stay with the company, not leave in six months. They advise applicants to take the time to get their questions answered before making any decisions. 

Here’s a quote, “If you feel a timeline is moving too fast, talk to your recruiter. If you feel unsure about the fit of the role, talk to your recruiter. If you feel like you don’t have enough information about the company’s culture, talk to your recruiter. Recruiters are your advocate, and they want you to find that perfect next job.”

Here’s the bottom line for you, “Give the interviewer the same critical questioning they give you. If they can answer your questions with a level of clarity…that’s a good sign.”

TL: DR

There’s no doubt about it. The job market is tightening. However, there are still available jobs, and recruiters are looking for you to fill them. You just need to be more savvy and strategic in your job search. The best way to do that is to receive advice from the people you need in your corner, hiring managers and recruiters. And we did just that for you.

Here are the deets:

  • Optimize your LinkedIn profile
  • Send a customized cover letter highlighting why you are the best fit for the job
  • Create a portfolio of sample work or be ready to complete a sample project
  • Highlight your transferable skills instead of traditional education
  • Prepare and be present for every interview
  • Assess each employer during the interview process for culture and team fit. 

2023 is your year! We feel it. Don’t forget that Lady Bird Talent is here for you. If you need support or guidance, sign up for our newsletter to receive our job search and interviewing insights and for opportunities to connect with employers looking for accomplished and hardworking women like you.

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