6 Things Hiring Managers Know That Job Seekers Don't

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(U.S. Army/Stephen Baack)

To a newly separated veteran, the civilian world can be a confusing place. For many, it's the first time they're entering professional civilian life -- and it's pretty daunting.

Civilian work centers don't operate with the same understanding as military personnel. If the civilian world seems alien, that's because it is in many ways. The rules are different, as are the expectations.

But military members getting out today have access to something that veterans in years past may not have had: the internet.

The truth is that hiring managers and recruiters want job seekers to know certain things about looking for jobs, interviewing and accepting offers. It makes their lives easier and prevents awkward, unnecessary situations. So they will take to internet forums like Reddit and Quora to answer questions and spread the good word.

Here are a few of those pearls of wisdom for veteran job seekers.

1. Be Likable

"All basic qualifications being met, likability trumps all," said one corporate headhunter on Quora. "It's usually the most politically admired and personally connected candidate that wins and progresses into the C-suite."

The important messages in this quote are to be someone who is liked, but also someone who is qualified and capable of doing the job in question. If the job needs you to operate an ultrasonic lithotripter, not being able to do it will keep you from that job -- no matter how likable you are.

2. You May Be a Valued Commodity

The military produces skilled professionals with certifications that may be rare outside of the service. There just aren't as many underwater welders around the world, for example, as there are retail clerks. This gives such an applicant much more leverage than the hiring manager.

When discussed appropriately, a skilled tradesperson disclosing what other offers and companies they might be entertaining lets potential employers know where they stand and how to acquire the talent they need. It's OK to be transparent in those situations.

3. A Demo May Be More Powerful Than an Interview

In smaller companies and startups, interviewing candidates comes with an opportunity cost. Manpower is as limited as time in those companies, so taking the time to sift through resumes, cover letters and then interviews is a heavy burden -- especially when the company is already undermanned.

One tech entrepreneur said he likes to hire people who just happen to always be around his current and regular employees. There are times when something comes up and the interloper offers a solution or fixes the problem, just because they happen to be friendly and present. This gives that person a demonstrated track record of success.

Like a surprise internship, doing a small project or favor for free puts your visibility ahead of anyone who might be coming in to interview.

4. They're Just as Stressed About It as You Are

Hiring managers have to live with their decisions, so they want to make a good one. Some will tell you that making a good hire out of tens or even hundreds of candidates is difficult. Recruiters and HR professionals sweat the situation just as much as an interviewee. This is why you need to come prepared and find a way to demonstrate that you did so.

There is always another candidate, and they might have done their homework. It's hard to show the hiring manager that you did (the part of the interview where you ask them questions is the ideal time), but it's really easy for them to discover that you didn't. If they don't get a warm fuzzy about your preparation for the job, they aren't going to put you in it.

5. They Want to Figure You Out

Turnover is what keeps a hiring professional in a job, be it as a headhunter, hiring manager or recruiter. They are looking to fill slots with good people who will stay there. As a result, they are looking to find out what motivates you -- especially what motivates you to switch jobs. While most people use more money as an excuse, some professionals believe there is always a better, more latent reason.

Some HR pros see it as their duty to figure out what your motivation is, even when you might not realize it yourself. It might help for you to do some soul searching and figure out what that is, then just tell them.

6. Recruiters Know a Lot -- Try to Use That

A recruiter knows exactly what they're doing, said Vicki Salemi, a Career Expert at Monster. Resumes are reviewed for the basic requirements. In an interview, applicants are reviewed to see whether they're a good fit for the group, not just the job. But they also know how long the job has been open and why -- even if the reason isn't a positive one.

Recruiters also know who's in their potential talent pool, how much it would cost to hire that talent and how much they are able to spend to acquire them. But that shouldn't be a deterrent against negotiating for more salary, Salemi said. If anything, it means you should try -- especially if you have some of the same information.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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