Hiring Manager or Recruiter: Knowing Your Interview Audience

Your resume and cover letter have been perfected and fine-tuned; your choice of apparel is clean, pressed, and ready to go; you have even taken the extra step to research the details of the company. Today you are interviewing for a much anticipated opportunity, and you finally have the chance to show your value and really shine among your competitors. You feel as though you couldn’t possibly be more prepared for the occasion:  Or could you?

Interview Recruiters Hiring Managers - Woman at Interview

Of course, understanding and applying basic interview skills is a must in any job market. Nonetheless, it’s crucial that job seekers learn to look beyond the obvious by taking their “audience” into consideration as well. In other words, recognizing who you are being interview by – on an individual level – is just as important as knowing the background of the company and the specifics of the position.

Presuming you are entering a traditional interview setting, you will likely be meeting with either a hiring manager or recruiter/HR professional. While both are situated to achieve the same goal (finding the right fit for the job), their approaches and methods of interpretation could not be more different.

This is why understanding your audience and being familiar with their distinctions can have a remarkable impact on your success factor. Here, we explore the variations between interviewing with hiring managers vs. recruiters/HR professionals.

Interviewing with Hiring Managers

Hiring managers take on more than one role during the interview process since they tend to have a great deal of input and say into the final hiring decision. They are a direct link to what your workday would be like in the event you are hired. During the interview process, the hiring manager’s main goal is to ensure that you possess a suitable level of self-sufficiency. Since he or she may actually end up being your direct superior, a hiring manager is going to make sure you are equipped to handle the details of the job.

1.  Prove your tactical ability.

It may not be enough to simply state that you are capable of turning a strategic vision into a reality; hiring managers want to make sure you understand the process and can follow through on the proper methods. To prove your worth, provide examples that indicate not only what, but how, you achieved what you did. Be sure to use verbal communication that reveals your expertise.

2.  Be great, but not pretentious.

This is a challenging topic to approach, but the reality is that everyone thinks about job security. A hiring manager knows that each interviewee is a potential direct report to his or her role in the company. While it’s imperative that you appear knowledgeable and reliable, it also helps to employ a certain underlying sense of reserve. Unless they are planning to move on to something new, hiring managers may choose to avoid a candidate who acts as though they’d be directly vying for the manager’s job in six months.

3.  Ask questions that reveal your expertise and interest in the company.

By engaging in this way, you are displaying your proficiency and — most importantly — enthusiasm. Hiring managers seek candidates whom they know will be invested in the company and its vision.

4.  Be someone they want on their team.

While they are interviewing you, hiring managers are assessing whether you would be an easy or difficult employee to manage. In other words, they are considering how much of the company’s time and resources will be needed to get you working on par with the rest of the team, as well as how agreeable and compliant you appear to be. Show your interviewer that you are a team member at heart with a collaborative spirit who takes direction well. Be confident in your abilities, and lastly, be sure to never speak negatively about a former boss or colleague.

5.  Remain authentic.

An important aspect of job interviewing is the ability to identify exactly what your interviewer is looking for, and proceed accordingly. Adding too many inane or unnecessary details in order to “enhance” your image will only work against you. A hiring manager has a thorough understanding of the requirements of the job, and any attempts by an interviewee to thwart the natural progression of the interview will be quickly noticed.

Interview Recruiters Hiring Managers - Word Vector

Interviewing with Recruiters/HR Professionals

Recruiters or HR Professionals can be thought of as the concierges of the hiring process. While hiring managers are the experts on the details of the job, a recruiter/HR professional’s expertise lies in recognition of prospective talent. Consequently, this particular distinction significantly impacts the interview process. For example, while a hiring manager will be impressed with hearing a technical itemization of your last position, a recruiter would rather hear how you handled a crisis or learned to prioritize an intricate project. Mainly, recruiters are looking for characteristics that will help them market you to a client and potential employer. Naturally, your skills will come into play, although there are a few other aspects to keep in mind when interviewing with a recruiter.

1.  Show interest in the company/position.

Be sure to have a keen understanding of the company and/or job description prior to your interview, and speak on as many details as possible.

2.  Offer examples of your expertise which directly relate to the position.

Remember that recruiters use the job description as a guide to what is needed to be successful in the position. When describing your experience, provide examples that will spotlight your knowledge in these specific areas.

3.  Stay with the “big picture”.

Responses should be more strategic than tactical when interviewing with a recruiter/HR Professional. In other words, stay focused on the larger objective rather than complex details.

4.  Be succinct and listen.

While a certain amount of detail is understandable, try to remain as succinct and concise as possible so that your interviewer has enough time to speak. A recruiter has received their direction directly from the employer or hiring manager and will need to share important information regarding the position.

5.  Maintain transparency and be yourself.

If there is a type of work environment in which you typically flourish (or languish), share this information with the recruiter. Be the best “you” you can be, but avoid putting on airs. Recruiters want to ensure that you’re a good cultural fit for the position. Therefore, it would be better to seek a different opportunity than to force yourself into an environment where you’d feel unhappy or out of place.

While the objective remains unchanged, it’s evident that the road to employment may vary slightly based on who is interviewing you. Tailoring your approach based on the perspective of your “audience” can have a significant impact on the outcome of your interview.


Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200