05/18/2014 07:20 am ET Updated Jul 18, 2014

Job Search 50: What's Really Behind Your Interviewer's Questions?

This is it! You've been called in for an interview with the hiring manager and you want to do your very best. Like many other aspects in life, the key to success is preparation. And one of the best ways to prepare is to thoroughly understand the hiring manager's true needs.

The hiring manager has several goals on his/her interview agenda:

  • Do you have the skills and experience to do the job?
  • Can you speak to the examples on your resume and explain them in detail?
  • Are you willing to do what it takes to be successful?
  • Will you represent the organization professionally?
  • Are you well suited to the position and will you fit in with the rest of the department?
  • Are you personable and pleasant to be around?
  • Do you project an aura of excitement and enthusiasm for the position and the company?
  • Will you last at the job--are your career goals in line with the job and the organization?

How best to prepare to present yourself as the #1 candidate:

Study the job description in detail
The position description is your primary means to developing focused responses and establishing the fact that you are the best person for the job. Create memorable examples that clearly and concisely suggest ways the organization would benefit from hiring you. Ask yourself:

  • Which problems can I solve by virtue of my skills and experience?
  • In which areas will my skills prove especially beneficial?
  • How can I make a difference where other candidates cannot?
  • What is the added value I will bring to this position?
  • Why am I the #1 person for the job?

Underline each of the skills they are requesting in the posting/job description and create substantiating examples of how you've successfully used these skills in your previous positions. Most of all, be certain to stress the positive results you have produced -- quantifying your achievements whenever possible.

Research the company online and through your network
Pay special attention to recent press reports, management changes, and industry developments -- locally, nationally, and internationally. (Today's economy is a global one and you'll want to appear as current and well rounded as possible.) Think: knowledgeable insider.

Create your response to the question, "Why do you want to work here?" Consider that they're looking for someone who specifically wants to work for them -- not a jobseeker who will take anything they can get. Come up with reasons that highlight you have an in-depth understanding of the organization. Be sure to note the positive aspects you can both contribute as well as gain by working for them. Think: win/win.

Research the hiring manager and his/her true needs
You can often acquire this information through your personal network, social media sites, or by researching their name on Google. If you're working with a recruiter, ask them for any and all information on the company, position, and manager prior to an interview. Recruiters are paid for their ability to screen and promote qualified candidates only, so they will want you to succeed. Therefore they should be forthcoming with the information you will want to know.

Another method to determine what the hiring manager really wants is to ask open-ended questions as early into the interview as possible. This way you will get the interviewer talking about his or her concerns at the start of your conversation. You can then address their problems (and how you would resolve these issues) throughout your interview.

For example, ask:

  • What, in your mind, are the most pressing components of the job?
  • What needs to get done in the first three months?
  • What do you view to be the longer-range goals for the position?
  • How can the new person (you) make your life easier?
  • Which characteristics and skills are most important to you for an employee to be successful?

With a thorough understanding of what's really behind your interviewer's questions, you can present yourself as the #1 candidate for the job. So address the hiring manager's true concerns. Highlight your skills and experience with targeted examples. Display confidence in what you can and will bring to the job, and anticipate success. With careful preparation and a little luck, there's a good chance you will ace that interview and land the job!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2013, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of and celebrate your sassy side!

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Tips For Job Seeking Success