Find Your Dream Job, Episode 170:
Why You Need to Think Like a Hiring Manager, with Joel Quass
Airdate: December 19, 2018
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the publisher of Mac’s List. It’s an online community that connects talented professionals with meaningful work.
I believe everyone can find a job they love. But to do this, you need to learn the skills to build a successful career. From professional networking to personal branding, you’ve got to get good at job hunting.
This show helps you do this. Every week on Find Your Dream Job, I interview a different career expert. We discuss the tools and tactics you need to find the work you want.
This week, I’m talking to Joel Quass about why you need to think like a hiring manager.
Joel Quass is an expert in job interviews, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles. He’s also a manager with more than 35 years of experience. So, Joel has hired hundreds of job seekers.
Joel says in today’s show that most candidates go to an interview with the wrong perspective. These applicants don’t think about what an employer needs. And they don’t understand the problems a company faces.
The most successful applicants, Joel says, do this homework. These candidates find out what keeps a manager up at night. And they show what they can do to help.
When you do this kind of preparation, according to Joel, it’s like getting the answers to a pop quiz in advance. And the best way to close an interview, says Joel, is to tell the manager stories that make your points.
Want to learn more? Listen in now at the Mac’s List studio as I interview Joel Quass about why you need to think like a hiring manager.
Joel Quass is the founder of Six-Second Resumes. He teaches interview skills, helps grow careers, and writes resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles.
He joins us today from Stanardsville, Virginia.
Joel, thanks for being on the show.
Mac, thanks for having me.
It’s a pleasure. Our topic this week, as you know, is why job candidates need to think like a hiring manager. Joel, you were a hiring manager for a long time, weren’t you? You worked in management for more than three decades.
Yes, I sat on the other side of the desk, as they say, and I learned a lot in doing thousands of interviews and reading resumes and applications. In the end, it just felt like people weren’t being taught the proper way to interview or what the hiring manager was looking for so that they could show themselves in their best light.
As my professional career on the operation side wound down, I started Six Second Resumes as a way to give back and teach what I had learned over the years, so that people could be more successful in their job search.
Well, tell us why do people need to think like a hiring manager? How is that going to help them when they’re in that interview, or even before they get there when they’re putting together their application materials.
Well, it’s really surprising to think but actually it’s not about you. If you’re the interviewer or the interviewee, and you’re thinking about a new job, you’re thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll be fifteen minutes closer to work.” Or, “It will look good on my resume,” or, “Pay me more money and it will be good for me in these ways.”
But it’s really not about you. That’s surprising to so many people and I think that that’s one of the reasons they struggle during the interview process and the whole hiring process. They don’t realize that by thinking like a hiring manager, they’re really putting themselves in a position where they can be seen as the best candidate and the most likable candidate.
There’s a lot of different reasons behind doing that. First and foremost, you’ve got to figure out what is going on. Why the hiring manager, why that company is hiring in the first place. Start from there to craft a plan on how you can present yourself in the best light.
Let’s talk about the how, Joel. You see a job, or you’re getting ready for an interview, how do you get inside a hiring managers head when you’re probably not going to meet them until you walk into that room? How can you find out about their needs and what matters to them?
Well, that’s one of the exciting things about living in today’s environment. When I sold my vending business back in the eighties, I started a job campaign. I had three small children, a wife, a mortgage, and no job. It was pretty scary.
I just focused on landing a job. I took 3 x 5 cards and the Sunday paper and created a plan that I’m still teaching today, although now I use Google search and the internet. That’s really… there are so many resources out there, Mac. It’s so exciting.
You can Google the company, you can look at their mission statement, you can look at the bios of their leaders. You can look at the industries and there are so many different ways you can learn about the company and what their challenges are and why they might be hiring in the first place.
How do you organize that research? We all have only so many hours in the day and the internet is a big, big place. You could research a topic forever.
What do you coach people to do, Joel?
My clients, I teach them, basically, how to explode the job description. What I mean by that is to dissect it. Generally, there are 5 to 8 bullet points which are the key aspects of the position that they’re advertising for. They want you to be fluent in those different areas.
You can start with that and look at how they’re positioning the job. Then, take out of the mission statement, the company directory, all of the different resources you have available, you can see what they’re after. You can take your experience and plug that into each of those different areas.
For instance, they’re saying you have to have a B.A. degree, minimum, and you might have a Masters. You meet and actually exceed that particular one and you just go through and check those off.
Create your plan to start positioning yourself so that you’re seen as the best candidate for that position. You’re making it easier on the hiring manager because they’re going to ask you, “Do you have this?” And you’re already showing them that you have that.
You’re making a checklist of the experiences and skills you have that match the job posting and also compliment what you learned on the companies web page. What about the pain points?
How do you get inside a managers head and figure out what’s keeping them up at night and what the problems are that they’re particularly looking for help with?
Because, Joel, as you know a lot of job postings can be very vague.
You kind of have to go behind the scenes a little bit. One of the great resources these days is LinkedIn. You can go around and find out more information. A lot of people have a contact that either they went to school with or some connection and that’s one way to get insider information about what’s going on within the company.
But also, really just looking at the industry and where they’re going and where they’ve been and then you can get a good idea of what the needs are. Maybe their sales growth has been phenomenal so you can understand why they’re hiring salespeople.
Maybe their sales are tanking and they’re looking to hire marketing specialists so that they can reinvigorate their brand. There are different ways. It takes a little maneuvering but the answers are out there.
It’s just digging a little bit below the surface and you start to uncover all sorts of exciting things about the company that would be useful in understanding why they’re hiring and what pain points the hiring manager is going to have.
Some of this research is happening online. You’re looking at LinkedIn, the company website, the job posting, but I’m picking up, Joel, that some of it involves sending an email to someone. Or perhaps even picking up the old telephone and give them a call. Having conversations with people who might know folks inside the company or who actually work inside the firm, too.
In the end, it really is about doing more than just spraying and praying, as they say. You have to, if you’re really interested in a specific company, then you need to invest the time in that. Learn as much as you can. One way to do that is by networking.
People are uncomfortable with that and I think that’s why they send out so many generic resumes, even to positions they might not be qualified for. But when you think about it, you’ve talked to your aunt, you’ve made an appointment with the barber, you’ve ordered flowers, you’ve dealt with a mortgage company, you’ve had conversations. These networking type of situations are just conversations between two people just as the actual interviews are.
It’s important that you use those tools. Don’t be intimidated by it. Everybody has their own concerns about certain things but this is one thing that you…I’m telling you, you can do it. Mac, your listeners can do this. They just have to think about it in terms of, it’s just a conversation.
They’re not asking for a job. They’re asking what’s going on in the company. How do you like the work you’re doing and how did you get where you are? As a side note, on LinkedIn you can also see how people got to where they are. If you’re looking at a certain position, if you research all the people who have that position, then you can rank it.
You can see what they emphasize in their summaries and how they show themselves. That’s another terrific way to position yourself so the hiring manager will see you as the best candidate for the position.
I like your point, Joel, about networking being a conversation. I do a lot of writing in my work and I’ve gone to a lot of writing classes, and again and again, something you hear often is when you’re sitting down to write an article or some piece of content, you’re often coached to think of it as just writing a letter to an aunt or a friend.
It sounds like a cliche but if you have that mindset, it makes it a lot easier and I think the quality of your writing improves too because you’re trying to write as if you’re talking to a real person. If you think about networking that way, it results in a much more authentic conversation, doesn’t it?
Absolutely. You’re more likely to get the desired result, which is the introduction or a way that you can then use to land a job in a company that you’d like to work for.
Well, this is good homework. I can imagine listeners thinking, “How much time do I need to invest in this kind of homework and this kind of research?” What has been your experience, Joel?
It really depends on the individual. I would think that if you were going after a position that pays, say, even $52,000 a year, every week that you’re unemployed, you’re losing a thousand dollars. You can pay yourself to spend fifty hours working on a project and getting yourself ahead. If you land the job by the end of this week instead of the end of next week, you’re a thousand dollars ahead.
People get hung up in, “Well, it’s going to take me two or three hours to do this.” But what you’re really doing is, you’re investing in your future. We spend more time, sometimes, deciding on the value menu at a particular restaurant than whether we’re going to apply for a job.
The typical job seeker spends about sixty seconds looking at a job posting before they decide whether they’re going to apply. That’s really just not enough time to understand, one, if you match the bullet points of the job description. Eighty percent or more is the place where you usually have the best chance of landing that position.
But also, does this job make sense for you? Would you enjoy working for this company or would you enjoy being a part of their team? Does it make sense for you? You have to think about it because, in the end, you could be working there four to twenty-seven and a half years. You have to find a good fit for you.
Well, speaking of time, we’re going to pause for a moment, take a break, and we’ll come back right after this announcement. I want to talk about what happens next after you’ve done this research. You’ve done the homework and you’ve sent off the application and you’re getting ready to walk into that interview door.
Stay with us. We’ll be back after this announcement.
Employers hire people to solve problems. That’s why interviewers ask what are called behavioral questions.
Even if you don’t know the term, you’ll recognize the form. It’s a question that often starts with the phrase, “Tell me about a time . . . “
Behavioral questions share a common focus, too. Interviewers want to know how you fix problems. So they ask these questions to learn how you overcame a challenge or what you did in a difficult situation.
A manager might say, for example: “Describe a time when you messed up. What did you do?”
If you’re not prepared, a question like this can unsettle you and turn a good interview into a bad one. It can also lead to the loss of a job offer.
But it can be an easy question to answer, too. You just need the right strategy.
That’s why I created my new guide, 100 Behavioral Interview Questions You Need to Know.
And you can get your copy today. Go to maclist.org/questions.
In this free resource, I give you a four-step process for answering these “gotcha” questions.
I also show you why employers ask these questions.
And I give you my best tips for what you need to say.
Get your copy today of 100 Behavioral Interview Questions You Need to Know. Visit macslist.org/questions.
Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Joel Quass. He’s the founder of Six Second Resumes. He’s also an expert in management and career growth. Joel joins us today from Stanardsville, Virginia.
Now, Joel, before the break we were talking about why you need to think like a hiring manager. You made some important points about the value of doing research, figuring out the problems a hiring manager has, and putting together the information that shows you can help solve those manager’s problems.
You’ve done all that and you’ve gotten an interview. What happens next, Joel?
The best thing you can do is, again, it goes back to researching and understanding. If at all possible, you can figure out more about the person you’re interviewing with, but at the very least you have done your research about the company, you understand what the pain points are, and you understand what the position is going to be. On top of that, you have a better idea of your skills and abilities as it relates to each of the different parts of the job posting.
You’re ready now. What I do with my clients is, we discuss STAR’s, actually. Situations, actions, and results. It’s like a behavioral type of question. Tell me about a time where you did this? We go to the extent of looking at each of the different job bullet points. Exploding the job posting and pulling out everything that relates to that.
What success stories do I have that I could tell this hiring manager that relates to that so that this hiring manager will remember me over everybody else? In the end, there might be three or four of us that have the exact same qualifications. In the end, the hiring manager is going to pick the one that they can feel comfortable with their team working with or that they can feel proud of.
Believe it or not, hiring managers have bosses, too, generally, unless they’re the CEO of the company. Then they might have shareholders that report to them or they report to. There’s a lot of reasons why the hiring manager would want to pick the right candidate.
There’s a lot of ways you can show them that you’re the right candidate. Having those STAR’s lined up in advance; the situation and the actions you took, and the results, in particular, can make you very memorable.
Let’s talk about that. You’re getting ready for the interview. You’ve got the key points that you’ve identified in the job posting. When you’re working with someone one on one and they’re looking at those bullets, how do you help them construct a story about a particular point?
Take us through that, Joel. What does that look like?
Let’s think about customer service because there are many, almost every position has some aspect of interaction with vendors or customers. To go in the interview and they ask you about your customer service skills, you could say, “Well, I’m a people person.” That may be true but my dog, Ricky, she’s a people person but I wouldn’t hire her to run a customer service hotline.
On the reverse of that, I was a store manager in Hopewell, Virginia. It was Christmas Eve and it was about 8:30 at night and the phone rang and we close at five o’clock and there was a man on the phone screaming at me because the battery for this ride on tractor that he had bought for his son for Christmas, the battery was missing. And what was I going to do about it?
I said, “I’ll meet you at the store.” Then I called my assistant manager and he met me there just in case it was a set-up. It wasn’t, so we found another battery and the fellow took home. A couple of days later, he came in and thanked me so much for saving Christmas for his seven-year-old son.
In the end, if you’re the hiring manager and you have two candidates in front of you and one of them is a “people person” and the other is the Christmas Eve manager, who would you pick? It seems pretty obvious to me that you would want to go with somebody who goes above and beyond.
Then you could take that to your boss or your team and say, “Hey, I’ve got this person who did this and this. I can picture them doing these same types of things for us in our organizations.”
I love that story because like any good story, it’s gonna stick with me and anyone who’s listening to this show. How do you help the people you work with, Joel, find those stories and tell them effectively?
It really is just jogging their memories sometimes. I’ve been to a lot of national career fair events where people bring their resumes to me and we talk for a few minutes and I help them see different ways they can position things so that they show better value quicker on the resume.
I usually have a before and after type poster of resumes. I had this nurse who was award-winning on one side and a generic one on the other side. The woman came up to me and she handed me her resume and said, “Well, I’m award-winning.” I said, “Well, great, show me.” And she had her own resume and it took her almost four minutes, Mac, to find, at the bottom of the second page, where she was award-winning.
She had the award. Just, no one was going to see that information and she had forgotten it until she saw it.
One way you can do that and it kind of ties into my book, “Write This Down, You’ll Need It Later”, I teach college and high-school students to collect and think about everything they’ve done now and just throw it into a folder. That way, when the time comes, they have it. Maybe at work you’re getting some sort of an accolade or an award or something, you can save that information and then it’s there when you need it.
Sometimes it just takes someone reminding you what you’ve done.
Another thing that is so effective about stories is, and you’ve touched on this, is they let you show people what you’ve done or what you can do rather than just relying on telling them, don’t they, Joel?
That’s very true. A lot of the resumes I see are a list of responsibilities. It’s great to tell people what you ’ve done but what’s missing is the how. How you did it. What the success was. If you can quantify it, that it makes it even more powerful in terms of being remembered.
Now you mentioned this a moment ago, there can be several candidates going into a final interview and they’ve all got the right skills. That’s probably why they’re there. One way to stand out is by not just saying you’ve got a quality but by illustrating how you’ve used that quality in your work by telling stories.
Are there other things you can do, Joel, when you’re getting down to that final wire and you’re trying to get inside the head of that hiring manager and appeal to their needs and show that you can solve their problems?
It’s very important to pay attention to your surroundings. As an example, when I went to work for a big box retailer, I drove three and a half hours; this was back before cell phones, I drove from Hampton to Sterling, Virginia. As I walked into the office of the person I was interviewing with, there was this huge sailboat on the wall behind me. A picture of a sailboat.
I had actually lived on a sailboat when I first got out of school and managed a gas station for a year before going on to college. I don’t even know if we talked about management. We talked about sailing and we talked about all sorts of other things.
And on the way home, he called my wife and told her when I got a hoe to call him back because I had the job. By contrast, I went to another interview and behind the man’s desk was a plaque. On the plaque, it said, “We’re going to have a sales contest. The person who wins gets to keep their job.”
That was a very different type of interview. Again, it really…making that connection and using what you see in your surroundings, a lot of times makes them feel that you can be a part of that. In the end, they’re looking for the proper fit. Can I justify you to my boss? Will you be comfortable working with my team? Am I going to hear anything if I hire you or am I going to look good if I hire you?
One way you can assure them is by making that personal connection and reminding them that you have the, yes, you have all these skills, but you also have a personal side and you would fit into their corporate culture.
The second example you said makes me think of Glengarry Glen Ross from the famous Alec Baldwin monologue about steak knives. I’m sure you’ve seen that movie, too.
I really like your point about the importance of looking for common connections, whether it’s in the interview room or before you get there and then you can bring them up.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Joel. Now, tell us, what’s next for you.
I’m continuing to expand my teaching by offering courses online. Through Teachable, I now have a Six Seconds Job Club. Looking forward to working with people. My clients, or members of the job club, have weekly webinars and they’re giving a lot of actionable resources and I’m working on some other programs to complement the resume writing that I’m already providing.
I’m looking forward to the future and helping more people land their jobs.
Terrific. I know people can learn more about you and the Six Seconds Job Club by visiting six-seconds-resumes.com/jobclub.
Thanks for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure.
Mac, thank you for having me and I hope your audience got a lot of actionable information.
It was very valuable. Thank you, Joel.
I appreciated Joel’s perspective as a hiring manager. He was somebody who sat across the desk for more than three decades talking to different candidates. I think the insights he had into interviews were so valuable.
His point about thinking about the needs of a hiring manager is one we’ve brought up again and again on this show. I think it always bears repeating. Think of the mindset of that interviewer before you go into your next interview.
Here’s another way you can get ready, Don’t let yourself be surprised by tough behavioral interview questions.
We’ve got a resource that will help; it’s called 100 Behavioral Interview Questions You Need to Know.
You can get it today. Go to macslist.org/questions.
Thank you for listening to today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.
Join us next week. Our guest expert will be LaKiesha Tomlin. She’ll explain how to turn down a job offer.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.