You can’t jump into the mind of the person sitting across from you in an interview and know exactly what they’re looking for. But there are, fortunately, some basic qualities most hiring managers think are pretty important across the board.
In a survey of 800 people who have been responsible for interviewing and hiring at their company, Netquote put together some general observations about the process. The things we’ve always suspected as being personally important—like our creativity—are actually pretty low on the scale of the manager’s scale. Here’s what they actually do and don’t want to know.
Can You Deal With Conflict?
The most important question according to 69% of those surveyed was “Tell me about a time you managed a conflict.” That response and an applicant’s ability to learn from mistakes was one of the biggest influences on a hiring decision. That kind of makes sense; if they’re having you in for an interview, your resume must indicate basic qualifications. They’re trying to pick out a person who is not only qualified, but good to work with. That means someone who is respectful, communicative, and capable of self-reflection. Those qualities are all reflected in that question.
Your Previous Salary Doesn’t Matter
It’s unclear if this is because it doesn’t really affect their bottom line, but only 27% thought it was “very or extremely” important what you were paid at your last job. However, salary questions grow increasingly important as they closer to the hiring process continues. if you make it past that first interview, then you can worry about it.
Also rated low were inquiries about what your “dream job” is, as well as an interests outside of work. Turns out companies aren’t deeply interested in you outside of who you are in the office. Surprise!
Strong “Soft Skills”
Soft skills are the “intangible traits related to character,” rather than a hard skill, like coding. They’re difficult to measure, but sometimes still come up in interviews. You know, like when you’re asked about your “greatest strength.” That’s not a throwaway question:
According to a recent study, business leaders tend to value soft skills over hard skills due to their ability to translate to any career path. Hard skills can be learned and improved, but soft skills are the root of one’s character and can be harder to learn.
These answers were sourced from Monster.com, and respondents were asked to select three options out of fifteen. The top three soft skills were problem-solving, communication, and time management. The bottom three were organisation, versatility, and patience.
Resume Red Flags
Before you even get in the room, you are being judged on your résumé. Apparently, people put their head shot on résumés often enough that surveyors asked about it. Stop! It turns out 42% of hiring managers have a “negative perception” of someone who does this, though about 24% view it favourably. Not enough to encourage you, in my opinion.
Artistic résumés split the pack, 36% seeing them negatively and 35% positively—the rest have no opinion. The positive perception usually comes from job fields in arts, entertainment, recreation, technology, and marketing. If you have a more serious field, like in law, science, or the government, give that D&D theme a hard pass.
You can also go too far with a résumé that’s too long:
One of the biggest mistakes applicants can make on their resume is adding too much information and sending a resume that has one too many pages. A standard resume is said to be one to two pages long, which is likely why just over half of hiring managers said three pages were too many. For those applying to an academic or research position, the length of a curriculum vitae (CV) is much more flexible.
Outside of academia, be concise.
Do Not Say Any Of This
There are some conversational ticks it can be hard to eliminate before an interview, but you can at least drop some of these off-putting buzz words:
While hiring managers look for certain answers, they are also hoping you don’t say certain phrases. More than half said vague words like “things” or “stuff” and filler words such as “like” and “um” were words they didn’t want to hear an applicant say. Using buzzwords like “low-hanging fruit” or “game-changer” were also likely to get a negative response from interviewers.
Post Interview Steps
If you get through the interview and still want the job, the very best thing you can do is ask your own questions about the job and company, or so says 67% of those surveyed. That’s a great sign that you’ve paid attention and are genuinely interested in the work. Following up is also extremely important with 49% of hiring managers—but if you’ve been busting your butt writing handwritten thank you notes for the interview, you can quit it. Only 17% of hiring managers think that’s important. On the other hand, if you also think that’s super important, you might be a match made in job heaven.
Check out the rest of the survey and its helpful graphs here.