The purpose of this article is to give you an inside look at the minds of Gen-Y Hiring Managers to help you get hired by the new generation of leaders. I’ve met and discussed the hiring process with many of them in recent years and I’ve summarized some insights in the following article. Enjoy!
After joining American Express and building my initial team, I saw a whole range of candidates from different industries and backgrounds. It was very interesting to see the differences in the candidates’ styles, from the application process to the interviewing and follow-up communications. Many of the softer points played a pivotal role in the hiring process; in fact, they were more important than the resume itself. Below is a general guide to the hiring process in larger organizations/corporations:
1. The roles on the team have been approved internally
Before people get hired into organizations, a manager internally has to build a case as to why a particular role should exist. Some roles are very intuitive as to why they need to exist, while others are new, “experimental” roles that were developed in to manage new capabilities. Once a manager has a role approved on his/her team, they’ll want to ensure they get the right people for the job. They’ve worked really hard to get the role approved internally so this will be a top priority for them.
2. The roles get posted on internal and external job boards
Now that the role is approved, it’s time to make the job seeker community aware of the opportunity. Most often in large organizations, this process is handled by the HR department. In smaller companies, it may be the hiring manager managing the candidate screening process directly. Not only will the role be posted on job boards, most managers will have various connections with talent recruiters & head hunters in their industries, and these people will also surely be aware of the new hiring need.
As a job seeker, it’s important that you look at all the channels a company may use to post their job opportunities. I’ve listed a few below, and am sure there are many others:
Premium (generally bigger companies will post on these boards, and for higher profile roles)
- Recruitment Agencies (such as Robert Half, Randstand etc)
- Corporate Websites
Standard (bigger companies still post here, but you will most certainly see more small businesses)
- Facebook Marketplace
- SMB Company Websites
3. The candidate applications start to flow in… often hundreds at a time
Depending on the type of role, where the job has been posted and the brand behind the job, a manager may see a wide range of applications – from 1-2 candidates to hundreds of seemingly qualified applicants. This is a double-edged sword: When you have few in the pipeline you don’t have much choice and decisions become more simple. As the saying goes, the simplest answer is usually the correct one. On the flip side - it’s great when so many people have applied and it’s highly likely there are some great candidates in the pipeline. However, it may be difficult to choose the “right” candidate if they don’t manage the hiring process well.
A note on resume’s:
Many websites will give you tips and tricks to make your resume get noticed, some of the tips may work, some may not. I found what works best are the tactics to follow up on your application – not the effort put into your resume or cover letter themselves.
Now, it’s definitely worthwhile to ensure your cover letter and resume have similar wordings and keywords to the job description. You want to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager to see the match between your experience and the need they have internally for the role. With hundreds of applications to go through, hiring managers seldom thoroughly review a cover letter and resume. That’s why it’s important that at a glance, your resume has relevant experience to the job you’ve applied for.
So assuming you’ve taken the time to tailor your resume to the job description, and you’ve submitted your online application for the job, do you just wait for a response? No. The ball is still in your court. You still need to follow up on your application, and there is unfortunately no defined way to do this. It depends on the company, on the hiring manager and the various channels they may use to communicate with candidates and in business in general. Phone, Email, Facebook, Video Applications on YouTube, Powerpoint Presentations etc… could be anything.
4. Following up to your job application
In my opinion, this is where the cream of the crop rises to the top. Strong candidates find ways to communicate and influence the hiring manager during the application process. This demonstration on the candidates’ end gives the hiring manager insight as to how they might work once you’ve joined the team – their ability to find creative ways to influence people to get the job done. There are several tactics that are successful with most Gen-Y hiring managers, summarized below:
- Add the hiring manager or recruitment manager to LinkedIn. Most are open to accepting new connections. Put a personalized message indicating that you’ve recently applied to a job posting in your invitation message.
- Call the company. Even if you can only connect with reception, ask for the recruitment manager or the hiring manager (you can use LinkedIn to search for their names) If you get the chance to talk to them on the phone or leave them a voice-mail, simply say that you’re following up on an application and want to know what the next steps are. While this is no guarantee you’ll get an interview, you’ll be more “top of mind” than the rest of the candidates who aren’t making the same effort.
- Try to send an email to the hiring or recruitment manager. If you’ve found their name, try to find out what the company’s email naming convention is (ie [email protected]) and take a few stabs at getting a message through to them. Most managers in corporations spend a ton of time managing their inbox. Use the same messaging as if you were phoning them, “just following up” – and perhaps you want to include a PDF version of your cover letter and resume.
Good Examples of Follow-Ups
I had one very bright young woman send me an email, applying for a role I had posted on LinkedIn. The message described the job responsibilities and her experience as a 1:1 mapping. This made it very easy for me to see that she was qualified for the role. \I was very impressed with her approach and initiative. It made it so obvious for me that she needed to come in for an interview so I could learn more. I didn’t see this kind of initiative from the other candidates.
Another candidate who applied took a different and equally engaging approach to communicate with me during the job application process. Once we got into contact, he asked to make a presentation to me instead of doing a standard interview. After doing about 30 interviews over 2 weeks, having a candidate do a presentation to me was a refreshing change to the process and allowed me to see what they’d be like making presentations if they had joined my team. I thought this to be a very good approach as well.
For me, when I was interviewing for my job at Aviva over 4 years ago, I decided to make a recommendations document based on the roles and responsibilities that my role would entail. It was for a digital strategy manager, so I took a few hours to put together a document that outlined how I would approach the role: Making x,y,z changes to the website to improve SEO and usability, implement various google adwords campaigns based on relevant kewords with high KOI (keyword opportunity index) and more consultant-type recommendations. Needless to say, no other candidates put the same effort into their applications and ultimately I was awarded the position.
So, to sum up this section – just applying for the job and hoping you get an interview isn’t enough. You have to take a lot more initiative to catch the attention of a tech-savy Gen Y hiring manager.
5. You’ve been selected for an interview – time to do major preparation
The scheduling process often times gives you the best opportunity to demonstrate your value. If you’re over eager and too flexible, it shows that there isn’t much demand for you, or that you don’t have many opportunities in the pipeline. Even if this is your dream job, in my opinion it’s important to offer multiple time periods when you’re available, as oppose to saying you’re free all day, any day and will accommodate any request. If you’re asked “When are you available?”, you’ll want to offer specific times (ex. Tuesday, between 2:00pm and 4:00pm). Take the opportunity to mention that you have other interviews scheduled but you will try to move things around to fit the time the scheduler has requested. This demonstrates that you are excited for the role and there is demand out there for you as talent. Having a current job you love makes this an easy thing to do.
Once you’ve demonstrated that you are of high value, you will most certainly now know the names of who you will be interviewing with. Make sure you research them on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn for better context in your upcoming interview. See if you have any common connections and be sure to mention any when you have the opportunity – it builds rapport. While you’re on LinkedIn, be sure to read the hiring manager’s job descriptions, employment history and recommendations, if any. Recommendations on LinkedIn can give you pretty good insight as to what makes this manager special and what his/her skills are. You’ll want to ensure that you mention you have similar skills and experiences as managers tend to like to hire people like themselves. They’ll want to hire “Mini-Mes”, if only from a similar mindset perspective (often times, not same skillset).
Take the time to learn about what the company is doing, related to the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a marketing position, be sure that you’re aware of the recent marketing campaigns this company has put into market. If you’re applying to finance, be sure you know what the stock performance looks like, recent quarterly reports and comments about what analysts on wallstreet are saying about the company stock. All this information shows that you are resourceful and will be able to navigate the organization once you’re on board. You show that you “get it”.
6. The Interview(s)
Depending on the hiring process, your first interview can be with a wide range of different people. Any interview is obviously important, it can be agreed that the meeting with the hiring manager will be your most important. Ultimately, the decision to hire you will be most influenced by the opinion of the hiring manager. Really focus on trying to understand the motivations of the manager for having this role on their team. While your experience is obviously important, take the interview opportunity to talk mostly about the role, why it exists and why you are perfect for it. Not just a brain-barf of all your experience and make the manager draw all the connections.
Interviews tend to have a certain ebb and flow to them and will vary greatly depending on who is leading the interview. I’ve heard some laughable stories about new hiring mangers who only talk about themselves and a little bit about the role, never giving a candidate the chance to really talk about their experiences. If you see a hiring manager like this, you may want to re-consider the job, but definitely the best way to make an impression is to play to their ego – they are talking a lot to cover up the fact that they themselves aren’t terribly experienced. In general, most managers are managers for a reason and are capable of conducting an interview. Usually, they’ll flow something like this:
- Hiring Managers asks the candidate for their background & experience
- Candidate responds while manager takes notes and observes responses (mind your body language, choice of words etc)
- Hiring Manager asks questions related to softer attributes – motivations, career aspirations, dealing with conflict
- Candidate responds… usually less fluidly as these questions are a little harder to answer. Good hiring managers usually understand this.
- Hiring manager talks about the role, the responsibilities, then asks the candidate to take the opportunity to ask the questions
In my opinion, the questions you ask give the hiring manager the best insight about how you think and how you’ll perform in the role during the interview phase. The questions you ask should make logical sense and be relevant to the role, and should also demonstrate your motivation to learn & develop with the company. They will show you’re ready to make a commitment. Try questions like:
- What is the process to get new projects and business plans approved? How do I fit into this process?
- What is it like to work at Company X? What’s the culture like? Is it more collaborative or autonomous and entrepreneurial?
- What is the career path for this role? Where can it lead me?
- How am I measured and evaluated? What does the performance management process look like?
- Can I visit the department and meet some of my potential future colleagues?
- Tell me about your experience and how you became (insert hiring manager title/position here)
The questions you ask should be similar to the questions you would ask your first few weeks on the job. This demonstrates that you have the right mindset to hit the ground running once you’ve been onboarded. It also gives both the candidate and hiring manager a chance to drop their guards a little bit and just have a conversation to feel out the chemistry of a potential relationship. Generally, your relationship with your future/boss is important and directly impacts your professional & financial well-being. With that in mind, it’s important to build some rapport during the interview and try to have a real conversation – not just a boring drone talking about work processes and flow. Finding this balance can be difficult, especially if you aren’t naturally a very outgoing or talkative person. It’s very important to be approachable and easy to talk to; being awkward and nervous doesn’t look very good to the hiring manager – these types of people have a difficult time influencing others in larger organizations.
A note about the “Salary Expectations” question
This seems to always be a stumbling block in the interview, for both the hiring manager and the candidate. If no discussions have taken place prior to the interview, you should expect that this question will come up. Ask for a number too high, and the manager will feel that they can’t make an offer to you that is compelling enough, and that they’re wasting their time. Ask for a number too low, and the manager will feel that you are under-qualified. This questions is delicate, and there is no set rule on how to respond appropriately. Here are some general principles to follow:
- Go to glassdoor.com or payscale.com and get an idea about what similar positions are making. You may even want to bring this to the interview (perhaps for more junior positions). When asked about your salary expectations, say “I expect to be paid within range (or if you are very qualified, the high end of the range) of the industry average for this type of position”
- Try to be the first one to the question, if possible – “What is the salary range you’re offering for this position”
- If you’re asked right away, try not to mention numbers – “My expectation is that I will be compensated competitively and I intend to factor in all components of the compensation package.”
- If you’re probed hard for a number, give a huge range. If you’re currently making $50,000 and you’re looking to make more at a new job, you may want to respond saying “To give a basic range without factoring in the benefits, I would be looking for a base salary of between $55,000 – $70,000. I can give you a more narrow range once I understand what all the components of the compensation package are.”
Main point: You have to be very confident in how you answer this question. If the hiring manager senses weakness or that you’re stretching, you better get ready for a low-ball when/if you’re made an offer. Also note that especially in large organizations, the hiring manager won’t “care” about paying you an extra 10% or so – it’s not like this money is coming out of their pocket. They just want to hire the best person possible within the range HR sets for the role.
7. Interview is Over – How did you do? What do you do now?
For some people, the interview is one of the most nerve-wracking professional experiences they will go through. Getting a new job is often times one of the biggest choices you’ll make in life, and this fact can pester you during an interview. There is also a perception that it all comes down to the interview. And to a certain extent, that is true. If you don’t do well in the interview, chances are slim that you will be offered the job. Based on the advice above, you’ll knock the interview out of the park. Assuming you did that, now what?
In general, it’s common practice to send a follow up email to the hiring manager. This is pretty standard practice and don’t take offense if you don’t get a response right away… or at all. They’ll get tons of “Thank you” emails. You should definitely send one, but do something different.
Instead of leaving a closed message that just says “thanks I look forward to hearing from you” (blah blah) – ask relevant questions now that you have more context about the role and the hiring manager. Put action back onto the manager and make them think about you. Try to get a take-away yourself, make an offer. For example, I was recently interviewing for an executive marketing role at RBC (I ultimately did not get offered the position, but did make it down to 3rd round interviews) and the role was related to owning their global company intranet. They had a piecemeal approach to their intranet, tons of departments doing their own thing. The hiring manager was looking for someone experienced to streamline the whole thing. The hiring manager had also mentioned that she didn’t think SharePoint “looked good” and didn’t believe that regular employees were able to develop “pleasant looking” content through any content management systems. Her vision was a full team of web designers to manage all the content on the intranet… When really you need fewer strategic thinkers to develop a more robust CMS. With this insight, I took a few days to make a presentation around different uses of SharePoint, how they could look, how you could operationalize them, and I even invested $300 to get a graphic designer to mock up a few different designs of what one might look like for RBC. This might seem a little extreme, but $300 is a minimal investment compared to the salary they were offering. As mentioned, I didn’t ultimately get the job, but I was certainly close and definitely had the full attention of the hiring manager.
So, assuming you’ve sent your thank you email, maybe had a few back and forth emails with the hiring manager, but no 2nd interviews have been scheduled. What gives?
The hiring process will obviously vary from company to company, but you have to be mindful of how long the hiring rounds can be. Often times, a hiring manager will be interviewing new candidates for a few weeks – so if you were one of the first in, don’t expect second round interviews to start before the first round is complete. This means a second round interview might not be scheduled for 3-4 weeks after your first interview. Be sure to follow up at least once a week to understand where the hiring manager is in the process. Be proactive about trying to get that second interview scheduled.
It’s important to understand why candidates even get invited for second interviews. Often times, if your first interview was with the hiring manager directly, the 2nd round interviews will be with the manager’s peers to give them a second opinion. These managers tend not to be evaluating your skills, but more your personality and how well you’ll fit with the organization. They also don’t have the same level of interest as the hiring manager, so it’s important to make this time enjoyable and relaxed for these interviewers. Also take the opportunity to take a little bit more control of the interview by asking as many questions as possible and try to maintain an open dialogue. These managers will have pretty short conversations with the hiring managers after the interview, and the answers will usually be along the lines of “I liked them” or “Wasn’t really impressed” – usually they won’t go further than this. You want to make sure they like you, so that they will validate the initial hiring managers sense of your fit in the organization.
8. You get a call-back… and an offer! WOOHOO!
So you made it, they like you, they want you, they make you an offer. If it is a significant jump in pay, you’ll be very tempted to accept whatever they offer. This is a mistake!
It’s important not to be greedy, but especially if you’re being hired for a management role, you’ll want to demonstrate your negotiation skills and take further opportunity to demonstrate your value. There is normally an expectation that some negotiations will take place, although many candidates choose not to exercise this option.
Again, negotiating your compensation is very delicate and can’t be done for all roles. A general rule of thumb is that most salaried positions have negotiable compensation, usually within 5%-10% of what was offered to you. There are also things you can negotiate outside of just an increase to base salary, such as:
- Signing Bonuses
- More Vacation
- Car allowances
- Additional Benefits
Knowing that these are some of the options available to you – you’ll want to try to feel out how flexible the hiring manager will be. Whenever you’re made an offer, even if it’s great and no matter how much thought you put into it, you’re ready to accept as is – don’t ever accept an offer on the spot. Always take a few days to think about the offer. You want some tension to build up up here as this is one of the few times you’ll have leverage with the manager. Remember, the hiring manager has interviewed tons of people, done lots of work to schedule you for 2nd interviews, went through the process to make you an offer with HR, so you know they want you. Take this opportunity to opportunity to reflect on yourself and what you’ve achieved, and why you’re worth a bit more – this shows you’re savvy, you value yourself and what you bring to the table, and most importantly, you demonstrate to the hiring manager that you have the business sense to apply those same negotiations skills to get more value for them as a member of their team.
9. You’ve negotiated, they’ve accepted, everyone’s happy!
If you’ve followed all these steps, chances are that you have a killer offer in front of you and the hiring manager has a killer employee in front of them. Now it’s time to re-invent yourself, and for you to choose who you want to be and how you’ll be perceived once you start. But that is a topic for a future article.
Have any tips you want to share? Do you think I am way off the mark? Leave your thoughts below, let’s discuss!