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 what can be 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.
The issue with so many applicants applying for so few jobs is that hiring managers often look for reasons to exclude you rather than include you as a potentially perfect candidate. A typo, a poorly formatted résumé or a low GPA could get you placed in the “no thanks” pile.
So, yes, you should perfect your application (then proofread it again), but an even better bet is to circumvent the application process altogether. It's estimated that 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. While many companies will ask what it was, you have every right to deflect the question by saying you don't feel comfortable revealing it, or that your previous company preferred you keep it confidential.
“We were interviewing one candidate for a senior manager position and asked for her previous salary,” said one hiring manager. “She said she signed an NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] to not reveal her previous salary. It was clever because I couldn't press her for more info, and also respected her for maintaining her integrity to her previous employer.”
One caveat: If it's a job you really want, and the company is insisting, you may be smarter to divulge the number. Just 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 callbacks. Read the job posting. Make sure you list the skills they’re looking for.
And — this should go without saying, but here it is — make sure there isn’t a typo or grammatical error in sight. If it’s a job you really care about, 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, and even they may not know how many ping-pong balls fit in a plane … or if the right answer correlates to doing the best job.
So be pleasant, smile, and answer questions with enthusiasm and confidence. If you try to make your interviewer like you, she'll be more likely to pass on a glowing recommendation (or include you on the short list at all) even if she won't be making the ultimate decision about whether you get the job.