Understanding the perspective of the hiring manager

I’m pleased to feature a guest post by the awesome James Mulvey from Sell Out Your Soul.

When we’re preparing our application materials for a job, we naturally focus upon ourselves: what skills we can offer and how we’re a good match for the role. But it also helps to look at the vacancy through the eyes of the hiring manager; and James shares some of his insights below, drawn from his new training course about LinkedIn.


The day of the interview: I haven’t thought much about you

You might be nervous for your interview. And maybe you’ve spent the night before preparing and thinking about how it will all go.

The reality for most hiring managers is this: your interview is a small slice in our days. I likely have another meeting right after and one before. I’ve looked at your LinkedIn profile the day before and have a set list of questions that I’ve created with HR. But I’m always short on time.

What you can do:

First, understand that my lack of time is not a lack of interest. I’ll be in big trouble if I make the wrong hire, so my due diligence will start to increase after this first interview.

You can help yourself in this interview by understanding that I might not remember everything about your profile, your accomplishments, your experience.

When I ask you, “tell me about yourself,” I’m actually interested. I want to know your experience, what you’ve done, your skills.

When I ask you, “do you have any questions for me?” I’m interested in your perspective. I want to know your intent, ambition, and whether you have the raw material that can be adapted to the job.

This is a critical interview to give me more information. Come prepared with tangible examples. Help me understand your background. Ask questions that show:

  1. You understand the job description
  2. You’re thinking about the skills required to be successful in the role
  3. You have passion for the industry and dedication to increase your expertise in this field.

If you take a passive role in this interview, it’s much easier to pass on you. And because I haven’t spent a ton of time prepping, I could be missing exactly what makes you qualified and special for this role.

Understanding the perspective of the hiring manager — including the mistakes to avoid— as well as to make sure your LinkedIn profile is relevant and highly visible to employers, is the theme of my new video training on LinkedIn.

You can learn more about this training here. Use the promo code TOAST at the checkout for 50% discount for Jobs on Toast readers (affiliate link).

Life after the PhD: 8 inspiring post-PhD interview websites

Life-after-the-PhD-8-inspiring-post-PhD-interview-websites

What could your life look like after your PhD, if you chose to pursue a career outside of academia? You can find out by browsing through the hundreds of inspiring post-PhD interviews, profiles and autobiographies available online. To save you the trouble of tracking them all down, here are 8 websites which carry some of the best post-PhD interviews and profiles. In no particular order they are:

1. PhDs At Work — Insight and Advice on Life Beyond Academia. Michelle Erickson takes the PhD interview format to a whole new level with her ‘week-in-the-life’ approach. PhDs working in corporate and non-profit sectors give accounts of what they do in their day jobs, showing how skills learned in the PhD are put to use outside of academia. Professional photography and cool site navigation make this site a real pleasure to use. My favourite part is the way that each contributor’s dissertation title is listed too! Sign up by email to get a post every day of the week, when a new interview is posted.

2. From PhD to Life – Jennifer Polk’s blog has massively raised the profile of informational interviewing as a tool to assist with PhD career development. The Transition Questions and Answers section of the site contains Jen’s interviews with PhDs who’ve taken the plunge and are now enjoying fantastic and fulfilling careers! This approach has elicited some great insights and advice from PhDs: two of my all-time favourite interviews are with Sarah Kendzior and Sam Ladner. There’s also a useful list of links to individual PhD interviews to found elsewhere on the web.

3. The Versatile PhD – VPhD is already well-known for its discussion forums, job postings and local area meet-ups. The site also has a Premium area where you can find 80 personal profiles written by humanities and social science PhDs who were hired straight out of academia. Not only that, you can read some of the actual resumes and cover letters they used to get their post-ac jobs! In addition you can view career autobiographies from PhDs who have been out of academia for a while and from 1 July 2013, the profiles section will be expanded to include 60 STEM researchers. Check whether your university or association is on the list of subscribing institutions for the Premium content.

4. Beyond the PhD – This rich resource from the University of Reading features profiles of researchers who have gone into both academic and non-academic careers. There is so much content here that you could be browsing for days, with audio clips as well as timelines and transcripts! Helpfully the audio clips are also organised by topic, such as ‘Deciding against an academic career’ and ‘Employer attitudes to the PhD’, so you can come back again and again at different stages in your career journey.

5. GradSquare – On this site you can sign up for live jobs that match your profile, or contact recruiters directly and let them find you a job. There’s also an excellent podcast series, GradSquare Radio, which has interviews with researchers working both inside and outside academia. Listen to the interviews directly on the site or subscribe in iTunes.

6. Vitae – This fantastic UK website for researchers has a whole section dedicated to careers outside academia. In this section you can browse more than thirty five profiles of researchers now working in non-academic roles, including suggestions and advice, and a link to their LinkedIn profile. If you fancy setting up your own business, you can check out more than thirty profiles of researchers who are now entrepreneurs.

7. PhD Career Guide – Mike D’Ecclessis’s career website is another place to find in-depth audio interviews with PhDs outside academia, and promises great things in the future, judging by the quality of the guests so far. You can listen to the interviews on the site or subscribe in iTunes. I really enjoyed the interview with Nathan Vanderford, especially his reflections on the importance of being ‘career conscious’ during your PhD – I plan to write a blog post on this theme soon.

8. What Are All The PhDs? Sharing the Career Path of All PhDs – This is a great idea: people with PhDs can submit a career profile to this tumblr site founded by Nathan Vanderford. Since the contributors sprinkle their profiles with links, you can also get access to the ‘world of work’ beyond the individual, which is especially helpful for learning more about particular career paths out of academia. Go ahead and submit your profile to the site!

Take action now: I’ve expanded this post into a handy PDF version, which you can download and share for free: Resource Guide: 10 career websites that every PhD should visit!

If you know of a great interview site that’s not listed here, please let me know via my contact form or through my Facebook page. I hope you enjoy reading and listening to these interviews as much as I did!

This page was updated with two new websites in April 2016.

Listen to Chris on GradSquare Radio!

How did I go from a PhD in Medieval Studies, to a project manager in financial services? Find out in Episode 24 of GradSquare Radio, where Marco interviews me about my academic background and my transition into a business career.

GradSquare interview with Chris Humphrey

GradSquare Radio offers a range of fantastic interviews with former researchers and other professionals. The interview with recruiter Anne Hersh in Episode 3 is especially thought-provoking. Anne runs her own recruitment business in New York, specialising in financial services.

It’s refreshing to hear Anne’s views on a range of topics, especially since they contrast with opinions you may encounter within higher education! So for instance when asked how higher degree holders are perceived outside of academia, Anne says that ‘an advanced degree is viewed in a positive light.’ Remember that for the next time someone tells you that a PhD puts employers off!

And any Ivy Leaguers listening are in for a shock … Anne says that many firms don’t want to hire Ivy League candidates, perceiving them to be entitled, arrogant and conceited!

I really like Anne’s perspective on what a busy Human Resources person looks for in a résumé. Anne says that it needs to be logical that the candidate is applying for the job. This really chimes with my own advice to market yourself as a ‘fellow professional’ when applying for jobs outside academia.

Finally Anne has some great advice about the dreaded topic of networking. Get a list of alumni from your college or school and start contacting and talking to these people. This is the easiest way to build your network!

What’s your favourite episode or piece of advice on GradSquare Radio? Leave a comment below or drop me a note via Twitter or the Jobs on Toast Facebook page.