Three things EVERY hiring manager is judging you on

I’ve been responsible for finding and hiring people, mostly but not entirely software engineers, for a long while now. As I do this for different jobs, I’ve noticed a few key things that apply to (just about) EVERY job: Universal reasons why a good manager (or one hiring for a good company) will skip over, throw out or blacklist your resume — and I figured some of you might like the insider hint.

If you’re looking for work — ANY work— do yourself a favor and don’t blow it early by doing any of these things. Any one of these flubs will land your resume in my “no way” bin. (I’ve removed a resume from the no-way bin ONCE, on my boss’s insistence, and it was a terrible hire and I regretted it immediately. So trust me, the “no way bin” is permanent for most experienced hiring managers.)

In order of importance (but they’re all important):

#1: DO NOT GHOST. For the love of all that’s holy, the ONE THING your (future or present) manager cares about MOST is, “Is this someone I can give tasks and expect them to be done?” Yes, it’d be nice if you were skilled and qualified and all, but if you’re the best person for the job and you won’t actually do the work, then your qualifications matter zero.

If you let a message go by — the simplest of tasks, and presumably one you have reason to really care about, being that you’re looking for a job — and just never answer it, or forget it for two weeks and then answer with “oops, hehe, I forgot,” guess what that tells me? (“Ghosting” also applies to missing pre-arranged calls or meetings, or to offering to send / get me information and then not sending it unless I ask again. Yes, you can get away with minor oopses along those lines in your daily job, but remember, everything in the interview process is being treated as a big meta-statement about how you will work.)

Ghosting tells me that you can’t find your ass with both hands, due either to your self or your life being a hot mess; that you can’t manage even the simplest tasks for yourself; and that if I want you to do anything I’m going to have to chase you and remind you. Unless you are a literal rock star with irreplaceable talent, there’s ZERO CHANCE that I or my bosses are putting up with that. (And if you are a rock star, then either a) you are one because you get shit done and never ghost, or b) I’d much rather hire someone less fancy who will actually do their work anyway.)

Ghosting during the interview process, from the first moment we talk about work through every step of it, is professional suicide. You’re done here. Next.

~~~

#2: ACTUALLY PREPARE. About 90% of doing good work is the stuff you do when you’re not sitting in the same room as your boss. Have you studied up on things you need to know? Have you thought about, worked on, documented, and done stuff with your tasks before we’re sitting in a meeting? It’s fine — great! — if you have questions or are stuck, but when we meet (before or after I hire you), I want to hear “so I’ve done [this] work on this so far, and learned [this], and [these] are my questions / issues”. Way too many people think they can just slack off anytime a boss isn’t holding their hands and making them work, and then those people universally waste others’ time.

I’m pretty good at spotting the team-members who will do this early in the hiring process now, and I cull for it ruthlessly, because someone who doesn’t work unless I’m standing there pushing on them is as useless as a vibrator with no batteries. My biggest red flag for this is when someone doesn’t prepare for the interview process. They send me emails that ramble, or that have no real content (i.e. are obviously lazy, off-the-cuff responses); they get on the phone or in an interview meeting with me and they haven’t prepared any questions, done research, or given much thought to what the conversation was going to be. It’s SO RIDICULOUSLY EASY to tell if people have done their work or not (seriously), and when people can’t even “come correct” to a job interview, it tells me SO loudly that I’m dealing with someone who, when I give them a task, is going to just stare at it (or ignore it entirely) until someone or something comes along and makes them do stuff with it — and that’s completely unacceptable, to any manager who isn’t that very kind of idiot themselves. (In which case, that’s a hiring fail on their manager. :P)

~~~

…a message from your friendly neighborhood traumatized witch who lost her cool and froze an entire city…?

#3: KEEP COOL NO MATTER WHAT. I feel like a surprising number of people don’t know this one, or realize how crucial it is to being hireable. Your job interview / process (all of the meetings, messages and talks involved) is a test of your attitude under pressure. This isn’t always, or even usually, deliberate. Some managers, including myself at times, DO make the process more stressful in places on purpose: Especially if we’re hiring for a stressful position and need to know how you’ll handle it, there are a million tricky things we can do to see how far you have to be pushed before you lose it, and what happens when you do. But ignore those edge-cases where you’re being actively stress-tested (unless you know they’ll apply to you!): ALL managers (with half a brain) are aware that the interview process is stressful, and ALL of them are judging you based on how you handle that stress, and what it says about how you’ll handle real-world stressors in the job.

Do you grumble and swear when you hear something you don’t like? Oh man, you’re definitely going to cuss out a coworker at some point then. Next.

Do you sulk and have a poor attitude? If you can’t even fake a little cheerfulness in a job interview, you’re definitely either problematically self-centered or problematically socially-inept, and you’re going to disrupt everyone’s work when you aren’t having a good day, instead of helping us all be productive in spite of the inevitable difficulties — Next.

Do you interrupt, talk down, or act disrespectfully? (Hint: I’m GOING to put you in the same room as minority, young, and other types of people to gauge how you treat them. Just because you’re smart enough to be nice to ME while I’m holding the keys to a job doesn’t mean you’re a nice person, and interviewers in general are actually not idiots.) Also, this one comes from dating (sooo like an interview, amIright?), but it’s still valid — are you rude to the waitress? Because I can’t have you being rude to our receptionists, interns, people you don’t happen to like, etc.; and if you slip and show your asshole during a job interview, you’re telling me that you’ll definitely flash it all over the workplace. NEXT.

~~~

I hope that was helpful information, both to people seeking job-upgrades, and to any managers currently seeking people (for whom I hope it may simplify some important and hard-to-quantify hiring metrics). I’ve found these three bits of knowledge invaluable, and continue to, both as an interviewer and an interviewee. And if you have more, I’d love to hear them!