Getting Started Job Interview Tips

How to Think like a Hiring Manager and Get the Job

Written by Miranda Pennington

When you’re interviewing for a new job, the odds are in your favor if you can rely on a referral from a mutual friend or a big-name former employer. If that’s not the case, you’re going in to a situation where you’ll need to sell yourself.

Hiring managers are often misled by their personal biases—and learning to stack the deck in your favor can pay off when it comes time to get hired!

Keep the following in mind if you’re gearing up for an important interview:

We tend to think positively about people who we think are like us.

What can you find out about the company culture or even the hiring manager in particular to help you demonstrate interests they may share?

We tend to view those different from us negatively, even if we need someone with very different skills.

While it’s good to be yourself in an interview, it’s only common sense to downplay any fringe interests or edgy personal style features—for example, hide visible tattoos or piercings until you’re sure the office culture is receptive to them.

First impressions count.

“The halo effect” and its opposite (“the pitchfork effect,” maybe?) is what happens when we find one quality we like in a person and assume that the rest of their unknown qualities are probably just as good (or as a bad, if we focus on a quality we don’t like).

If you make a great impression with one area of experience or personality trait, the interviewer may give you the benefit of the doubt in areas where they know less about you! (The flip side is of course that one bad impression may color their whole perception of you just as easily.)

People make subconscious assumptions.

Try as you might, you won’t know what traits will ping a hiring manager’s radar. It could be your college, your last company, your hometown, the teams you support, or the stores you visit. Keep an eye out for what you might mention, but always always be genuine. Everyone can spot a fake.

Living and working in New York, I have had to become as cautious about disclosing sports affiliations as most people are about politics, religion, and money! But when I’m lucky enough to encounter a fellow Mets fan or a member of my alumni association, I play that up like nobody’s business—don’t be shy about school/team/town name-dropping, just avoid coming across like The Office‘s Andy Bernard and trying to mirror everyone’s experience with your own!


About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.