Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew exactly what a prospective employer was thinking during your job interview? While you might not be able to read minds, you can learn to look at the interview process from the hiring manager’s perspective.
Here are eight things interviewers often think, but won’t tell you:
- “I hope you did your homework.”
Nothing inspires success like preparation. Prior to the interview, do some detective work. Thoroughly review the company’s website, marketing materials and recent annual reports. Search online for news stories about the firm, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. The more information you collect, the more opportunities you’ll have to highlight your knowledge of the firm, and why you’re a great fit. Doing research also enables you to ask informed questions, which reinforces the message that you’re a serious and resourceful candidate.
- “I’m going to ask other people in the office what they thought of you.”
Hiring decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. From the receptionist to the intern in the elevator, be courteous and friendly to everyone you meet. You simply never know who has the boss’s ear. According to a survey by our company, 61 percent of executives said they consider their assistant’s opinion important when evaluating potential new hires.
- “I want you to follow my lead.”
Take your conversational cues from the interviewer. Some people like to engage in small talk, while more time-strapped hiring managers may want to cut to the chase and get down to business. You run the risk of either offending or annoying the interviewer if you fail to pick up on his or her demeanor and communication style. In short, pay attention and adapt your approach.
- “I’m listening, but I’m also watching.”
It’s not just about what you say, but how you come across in general. Remain attuned to the nonverbal signals you’re sending. A limp handshake, poor posture, and downward gaze can all convey a lack of self-assuredness. Likewise, crossing your arms can make you seem defensive or apathetic, while shuffling in your chair or repeatedly tapping your foot indicates nervousness. Display confidence, poise and engagement by smiling, projecting your voice, and maintaining good eye contact.
- “Negativity will only raise red flags.”
Attitude, interpersonal abilities, and cultural fit are key considerations for most employers. When interviewers ask thorny questions such as “What’s the worst job or boss you’ve had and why?” they’re looking for insights into your ability to take direction and handle adversity. As such, respond with tact and diplomacy. Badmouthing managers and colleagues could raise suspicions that you tend to blame others and could be a potential headache if hired. Take the high road and share anecdotes that position you as a positive, team-oriented problem solver.
- “Inauthentic canned answers drive me crazy.”
It’s helpful to anticipate and consider potential responses to staple interview questions. But you don’t want to come across as insincere or overly rehearsed. (How many times do you think the average interviewer has heard an applicant cite “working too hard” as his biggest weakness?) Just as journalists get frustrated with politicians who refuse to stray from their talking points, employers want to get a sense of the real you. Answer questions directly and don’t be afraid to display a little personality.
- “I like getting thank-you notes.”
Failing to send a post-interview thank-you note is a lost opportunity. A thoughtful email will suffice, but a handwritten card or letter is better. Briefly restate your strong interest in the job, reiterate your top selling points and express your appreciation for the opportunity. Mail the card within a day or two while your discussion is still fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Making the extra effort to follow up is an easy but effective way to showcase your motivation and good manners.
- “I’m probably more willing to negotiate salary than you think.”
If a second interview ends with a job offer, you might be so excited and relieved that you jump to accept. Or, perhaps, you’re under the assumption there’s no room to negotiate given the rocky state of the employment market. Not so, according to research by our firm. In a new Robert Half survey, more than one-third (38 percent) of chief financial officers said they’re more willing to negotiate compensation with top candidates than they were one year ago.
This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half International, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is a specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time and project basis. Follow Robert Half on Twitter at twitter.com/roberthalf.