What Does the Employer Want to Know About Your Job Search?

The Job Interview

When it comes to the interview, it’s important to prepare for questions about your job search that might come up. These might include:

  • Why are you on the market right now?
  • How do you feel about the fact that you’ve been unemployed for several months?
  • How has your search been going?  

Talking about your job search can be uncomfortable, and thoughtful preparation can help. It’s not uncommon for candidates to over-disclose in a number of areas – rejections and dead-ends, for example. It gives the impression that you are down or even desperate. Some share too much about the organizations currently or recently in the mix. Practice brief, upbeat responses (“I’ve met some really interesting people”) and the interviewer will likely be ready to move on to ask questions more closely related to the job at hand.

You may get questions like these around the competition:

  • Which organizations are you talking to?
  • Are you anticipating offers from anyone else?

For these two questions, you only need one answer: “I’m talking to a number of interesting organizations, but the job that interests me most is this one.”

Your job search from a decision-maker’s perspective.

One could say that the only way of judging someone’s job search performance is how long it takes to land that job. And it can also be said that how long it takes you to land is matched to what you’re looking for.

It’s a good idea to take into account the perspective of decision-makers – employers and key liaisons, including recruiters. Why does the style and substance of your job search matter to them? First, on a practical level, what you do allows these folks to notice you. Second, the way you conduct your job search has a ripple effect on your market reputation.

The way you look for a job is taken as a big clue of how you will perform on the job.

Over the years, human resources, managers, recruiters and other hiring authorities have shared feedback with me and my clients about what they care about relevant to candidates who have an effective job-search style. Here’s what they say:

  • Candidates who don’t waste decision-makers’ time by asking obvious questions.
  • Candidates who appreciate the fact that decision-makers have little time available.
  • Candidates whose name comes up from more than one source.
  • Candidates who communicate the gist of what they offer in the first half of the first page of their resume and other communications.
  • Candidates who don’t over-communicate – they say enough to show why they are interested, and why their contributions could be valuable.
  • Messages that don’t over-sell and don’t make dubious assertions.
  • Explanations of skills and experience that are pithy and tied to facts, rather than full of fluffy descriptors.
  • Candidates whose focus is less on themselves and more on the organization and the job.
  • Candidates who are capable of relating their own behaviors, working style and strengths without exaggeration or false modesty.
  • Candidates who have a visible online presence which backs up their statements made during job-search conversations.

Score big for motivation.

Time and again, employers and hiring authorities tell me that while they certainly are looking skills, knowledge and qualifications in candidates, they care adamantly about mindset and motivation. As an interviewee, it will serve you well to leave no doubt of your commitment to deep dive into the job. But it has to ring true. It’s not about “hire me and I’ll show you I’m a rock star”. Your enthusiasm should be focused on the job at hand. “I’m really excited to see that you do …” and “I would really enjoy the opportunity to …” carries far more weight than the empty “I’m a passionate person.”

When you show that you’ve done your due diligence, then demonstrate genuine interest – in the organization, its people, and the issues it’s facing.

Follow the closing questions rule.

In your preparation for job-search questions, anticipate doubts inside and outside the interview room.

Ask smart questions, which reveal your interest, not questions which suggest a lack of commitment to the job – the about-you type of questions. And never assume that the interview is just an honest exchange of views about whether the job and you are a fit.

Show you want the job. Show you can do the job. Leave the rest until you have an offer in hand.   

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

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