What recruiters won’t tell you about hiring managers

Corporate recruiters (R) gesture and shake hands as they talk with job seekers at a Hire Our Heroes job fair targeting unemployed military veterans and…
Corporate recruiters (R) gesture and shake hands as they talk with job seekers at a Hire Our Heroes job fair targeting unemployed military veterans and…
Image: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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You think recruiters have your back. They do. But they also know plenty about hiring managers that they keep to themselves. Here are some of the dirty little secrets about hiring managers, the gatekeepers who stand between you and your dream job.

  1. Appearance matters. The way you look, though it should be irrelevant, can charm or scare the hiring manager. Michael Brown, a global management expert, and author or Fresh Passion Leadership: Become a Distinct, Branded Leader or Extinct Generic explains: “Of course, they are hiring you for your intellectual capacity, but the face the brains are dressed in also contributes.” He says he’s seen people get hired just because they look great, but also, “there are cases where hiring managers didn’t hire someone because they were uncomfortable with their attraction to the job seeker.”
  2. That the hiring manager has a dubious reputation. He or she may keep employees from getting the attention they deserve, delegate the unpleasant assignments and keep the good ones, take credit for employees’ achievements, or point a finger when a problem arises. Some may even be “screamers,” the kind of bosses who yell and intimidate employees. However, Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, says recruiters aren’t likely to describe hiring managers in these terms. “Instead, the recruiter will suggest that the hiring manager sets high standards, gives employees as much latitude and leash as they need, or is a great boss with a few ‘quirks.’”
  3. They’re probably not prepared for your interview. “Most hiring managers think they can ‘wing it’ when it comes to interviewing you for the role,” says Anne Bucher, senior vice president, client experience & technology at Cielo, a strategic recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) partner. That means that they probably haven’t devoted a ton of time preparing for your office visit and interview. Know too, says Karpiak, that “sometimes they interview you not really knowing what they want—they use the interview process to see what is out there and what direction the position should go in.” Since you have a ton of control in this job market, don’t be afraid to assess the organization and readiness of the hiring manager. Remember that as the candidate, says Bucher, you have the ability to interview the company as much as they’re assessing you. Ask questions about what type of candidate they’re looking for and what their day-to-day looks like to get a feel for how well you would work with the hiring manager if you were hired on for the role.
  4. They’re calling more than just your official references. You have prepared a handy list of references, and it’s well-known that hiring managers will scope you out via social media. But hiring managers can also get a little sneaky. “It’s surprising how often hiring managers go through the backdoor to get references. It happens a lot, and it’s a shame because it’s not supposed to happen,” says Karpiak. “Hiring managers will see who they know at your current/old company and chat them up, and get their opinion on what it’s like to work with you, how you get along with people, etc. Most job seekers don’t even know it happens.”
  5. Soft skills and culture fit may be more important to hiring managers than hard skills and competencies. While recruiters will scan your resume and LinkedIn profile to determine if you have the right skills for the job description, hiring managers are usually more focused on looking for someone who will be better at the job than their previous employee. So be sure you ask the hiring manager what they’re looking for in a new team member to ensure you can best position yourself and showcase skills during the conversation. Says Bucher, “Hiring managers are also very keen on looking for which soft skills—such as critical thinking, flexibility, adaptability, teamwork—you demonstrate during the interview…They also want to hire for culture fit, so do your research ahead of time and look at the employer brand to make sure you would be a fit for the work environment.”