What Recruiters Look for in Hiring a Manager and How to Ace That Interview

Candidates can shine not just by presenting descriptive data like a resume of accomplishments but predictive data such as plan to solve problems for a prospective employer.

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By Rocco Sannelli

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Interviews for management roles are challenging not only for job candidates but also for the decision makers of the hiring company. Human resources managers and executives from the departments involved in the recruitment process need to carefully select the right candidate to be sure he or she will generate a high return on the investment that the company is about to make.

To make that final decision, the company schedules in-person interviews with the top candidates -- perhaps the most important step of the whole recruiting process, as it puts candidates in the room with their future boss, the hiring manager. While hiring managers are not psychologists or behavioral experts and may not have training in interview skills, they do know better than anyone else in the organization what the key challenges of the open position are. They know the team, the market, and have a clear idea of what a good candidate should be like to ace the interview and get the job.

Related: Looking to Hire a Manager? Read These 4 Tips First.

Gaurav Rekhi, the head of product management at eBay, identifies the right candidates for his team and as a hiring manager he hones in on specific personality traits during an interview as indicators of leadership and high performance: "I look for individuals who are problem solvers," people who "can take on different roles," who are full of "passion" and who exude "confidence." In short, he looks for candidates who can "influence others."

One secret to acing an interview is providing examples and ideas or proposals of how to approach specific problems, such as a strategic plan, Rekhi says.

What hiring managers are looking for is a proof, a demonstration that the candidate not only has the right background and experience to succeed in the job but that he or she can connect past experience to future performance.

So candidates would be wise to research the company's industry, competition, potential partners and market trends, showcase their problem solving skills -- and most have a plan. Finalists for a management role are in some cases expected to provide a short description of what their strategic plan would be to overcome current business challenges.

Related: Managers Can Be True Leaders Not Just Taskmasters

Joanna Weidenmiller, the CEO of human-resources technology firm 1-Page that gamifies the hiring process (and my employer), works closely with HR departments and hiring managers at large companies to identify challenges that candidates need to solve before landing a final interview with the hiring managers. "The right way to approach company's challenge and ace those interviews is to really understand the job responsibilities and requirements, do the homework and present a strategic plan on how to solve it," she says. "Ultimately, hiring managers are looking for candidates who are prepared to answer how [their] experience will work in the position and at the company, not only how it worked in the past."

Candidates should be ready to provide answers on how they will overcome specific market threats, trends they have identified that company should follow, how they are going to make or save money for the company and provide strategic direction -- something that managers won't find in the resume.

Sydney Fleming, in charge of hiring for TrustPilot, a review-driven community that connects online consumers with companies, has similar advice. She looks for skilled candidates who can show
proactive approach and interview preparation that goes beyond reporting the results of a Google search. What Fleming really values during an interview is hearing from "a candidate with a deep understanding of my business and of the market in which the company operates," someone who "could potentially educate me on my own company".

There is no silver bullet that will work with every hiring manager or organization, but these steps should help. It's all about demonstrating that proof of an expected investment for the company because nobody wants the disaster effects of a bad hire: a loss in productivity, plus the waste of time and money involved in hiring that employee and the associated training costs. Descriptive data (resumes) won't land managers a job. Instead candidates should present predictive data instead, like a strategic plan and a demonstration of problem solving skills.

Related: 5 Signs It's Time to Fire a Company Manager

Rocco Sannelli

Director of Marketing, 1-Page

Rocco Sannelli is director of marketing at 1-Page, a company that offers a human-resources platform that engages and assesses job candidates beyond resumes, including with gamification. A former brand manager for P&G in Europe, he worked in business school on research projects with IBM and SAP about user engagement through gamification. 

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