Here it is: The list of things a hiring manager won’t (and, in many cases, can’t) tell you. That’s the thing about job-searching: The process is so opaque, that most applicants are left guessing with fingers crossed. Did I say the right thing? Have I packed my resume with the keywords they’re looking for? Should I tell them my previous salary or will that hurt my future chances?
These five behind-the-curtain secrets may help calm your nerves — and help you sail through a stressful process. You got this.
1. I prefer to hire someone who’s currently employed.
It’s a Catch-22: Hiring managers often would rather hire someone who currently has a job, but of course it’s the unemployed people who need jobs the most.
How can you combat this bias? Continue your education, volunteer your time at your favorite charity or even work or consult for free so you have something to write down that may mask a gap on your résumé.
2. I’m looking for a reason NOT to hire you.
When a lot of applicants are applying for a few jobs, hiring managers often look for reasons to exclude you. A typo, a poorly formatted résumé or a low GPA could get you deleted from the short list.
So, yes, you should perfect your application (then proofread it again), but an even better bet is to circumvent the application process altogether. Something like 80% of jobs are found through personal connections, so tap your network, including old bosses, college networks and everyone you know (and they know) on LinkedIn. That will be the fastest way to rise above the competition.
3. Don’t tell me your previous salary.
Your previous salary needn't follow you. If you're asked, you can deflect the question by saying you don't feel comfortable revealing it, or that your previous company preferred you keep it confidential. In many states, it's illegal for hiring managers to even pose the question.
If the question is legal in your state and you do provide this info, explain that you're looking for an increase (and name your percentage) given all of the skills that you bring to the job in question.
4. I go through hundreds of résumés a day and spend less than 30 seconds on each.
Take an honest look at your résumé. If it isn’t easy to scan for highlights, it’s not going to get you called. Read the job posting. Make sure you list the skills they’re looking for.
And — this should go without saying — make sure there isn’t a typo or grammatical error in sight. Have multiple people read over your application. It should be clear, concise and tailored specifically to the job you want.
5. I’m only human.
At the end of the day, it's important to remember that hiring managers are just doing their jobs. Despite their best efforts, they may not be totally “on” the day of your interview.
So be pleasant, smile, and answer questions with enthusiasm and confidence. If your interviewer likes you, she'll be more likely to give a glowing recommendation (or include you on the short list at all) even if she won't be making the decision about whether you get the job.