What is the hiring manager looking for?

Jeff Bordogna



Sept 2021






* Working for the government requires an obligatory note that anything you see in this deck is not on behalf of Jeff's employer, GSA


So what is this talk about?

1) Understanding the perspective of a hiring manager

2) Understanding how candidates often fall short

3) Discussing ways to overcome this gap

"Hi, I'm the Pointy Haired Boss."

"I'm not sure if we have the budget for..."


We need someone... yesterday."

Google "{Role} job description" and copy/paste snippets together into a Frankenstein job posting

Frantically post to job boards and ask everyone "Do you know anyone..."

Receive a pile of applications, many of which are what I call "non-serious"

"I have no idea whether any of these are any good."

Start interviewing...

"These are not going well..."

"I was already overworked, I'm spending way too much time on hiring, AND I'm worried about hiring someone who will make it worse!"

The core feeling of a hiring manager:


  1. They have unclear expectations of the responsibilities and requirements for the role
  2. They are relying on resumes & interview processes that aren't great at assessing fit
  3. They are worried about hiring the wrong person and how that will impact their time, team, and reputation.

So they...

  1. Try to find a candidate that has "all the things" and is "ready to go Day 1"
  2. Use a "why wouldn't this person work out" vs. "how could this person be successful here" filter
  3. Rely heavily on referrals as a way to overcome these challenges - "So-and-so said they are good..."

And unfortunately:

  1. Let biases around background, demographics, etc. influence their decisions.
  2. Don't take the time (or aren't allowed by HR) to give feedback to the candidate on where they fell short.

"Where did I go wrong?"

1) Not standing out.

2) Not being succint

3) Not connecting experiences -> role requirements

4) Not having sufficient evidence of your work

5) Not striking balance of confident <=> humble

"What should I do?"

1) Preparing

  • Keep track of your accomplishments as they happen
  • Frame experiences in terms of outcomes, not just skills
  • Get credentials / certifications, when necessary / you are excited about it
  • Take online courses / develop opinions
  • Invest in a side project / portfolio piece / writing sample

Create Evidence

A sidebar

about side projects...

It's better to have something small that's "complete" vs. something big that's "incomplete"

If you use an existing project as foundation, be sure you call attention to the work *you did* vs. what was already there.

Think about what you want the project to prove to a hiring manager so they feel more comfortable about perceived gaps in experience.

Some ideas:

  • Contribute a tiny PR to open-source project
  • Create something relevant to your interests
  • Write article summarizing what you learned
  • Focus on writing / sketches before building

2) Searching

Make sure your LinkedIn looks good

Do research: Get relevant people & companies on your radar.

Find communities and engage.

Get an ear to the ground (i.e. "passive searching")

Seek counsel for feedback

3) Applying

  • Why are you interested?
  • Why are you a good fit?

For each application, create a story for:

Tell that story via cover letter or resume

Focus top part of resume on humans; Bottom half on robots

4) Interviewing

Keep your introduction *short*

Be ready with work examples that highlight skills that map to role

Be proactive in addressing gaps

Describe how you went about work efficiently.

Prepare at least 1 good question.

Mix confidence and humility.

Practice. Practice.

3 Takeaways

  1. Hiring managers are often  busy / uncertain / biased / etc.
  2. Take responsibility for connecting the dots between your experiences and their needs
  3. Be confident in your own story and abilities