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Interview Prep Deep Dive - Hiring Manager Call
I started the Interview Prep Deep Dive series in the last post, focusing how how to best prepare for Recruiter calls. In this article, I'll be discussing the Hiring Manager call and how to best prepare for it, in 4 parts:
What is a Hiring Manager Call
Why is it Important
What to Expect
How to Best Prepare
Again, feel free to review the full Land that Dream Product Jobs series where I wrote about general processes and guidances.
What is a Hiring Manager Call
It is the meeting with the hiring manager of the specific product role you're interviewing for, where a potential match (or not) is determined. The timing of this call relative to other interviews is depending on the company's process. But in general,
If it's a role specific process, this would be the first call after the recruiter call
If it's a general process, this would be one of the last calls after the full loop (aka. "team matching").
There are also companies who insert team matching in the middle - i.e. they match you with a role/team after you pass the initial qualification rounds, and then having a final loop by your future team/cross functional team members
Determining a potential match or not is a two way street. Both the hiring manager and yourself should assess whether you're a good fit for the role. You won't be happy when you get into this job if it's not a good fit after all. Having that said, as mentioned earlier in the interview process post, if you really want to expand your opportunities and get optionality first before you choose, you might want to be focus on the "being assessed" part. This does not mean you should shoehorn yourself into something that's definitely a terrible match. It's more about being open-minded about the specific roles this early in the process and focus on getting more opportunities in hand, before you narrow down to what you're the most interested in when you make decisions.
Why Is It Important?
Obviously you have to pass the hiring manager call / team match before you can move forward in the process. But what's also important, is to collect information:
You collect information to help you assess the job (if not now, later in the stage when you have offers/options in hand)
You collect information about the team, the role, what they really care about, to help you better prepare the rest of the interviews
Better yet, if you're able to build early rapport with the hiring manager in this first call, your chance of getting through to the end is significantly increased before he/she would be an advocate of your candidacy. The best advocate you need in the process (even better than the recruiter).
What to Expect
The hiring manager's goal is to assess if you're the right fit for the role as well as whether she likes to have you on the team. Obviously it's highly subjective especially the latter. But don't worry too much about the subjectivity that's out of your control, but rather focusing on demonstrating your qualifications, especially ones that you believe they care about (including general product qualities as well as ones you learned from your research and the recruiter call prompts).
So the call usually goes in the following parts:
Self Introductions: start from both the hiring manager and yourself give brief introductions to your career/background
Assessment: the core part of the interview where the hiring manager assesses your qualification. This can range from discussing your current role and prior experiences, all the way through general product case questions. Or anything in between. Depending on what the hiring manager cares the most about. My experience is that this call usually focuses on the former, but it can also come in different shape or form. It is also mostly likely less structured vs a general product case interview.
Team/role introduction: it is for the hiring manager to introduce her team and the specific role you're interviewing for. Depending on the manager, she might start from this before the assessment, or she might talk about it after the assessment.
Q&A: Your turn to ask questions. Ask questions you prepared upfront, and ask questions you came up with on the fly while hearing about the team/role.
Lastly, you can also try to observe the hiring manager's reaction at the end of the call. If she already talks about next steps or appears to be happy with the conversations, it's definitely a positive signal that you'll move forward in the process.
How To Best Prepare
You should have prepared for the recruiter call at this point, so leverage that and build on top. In addition:
Ask recruiters for prompt: Ask them for guidance on what to expect and how to best prepare. They might or might not add additional insights to what you've guessed. Ask anyway, sometimes they do tell you something that you did not know about. Such as what this hiring manager really values the most, how other candidates failed in the past etc.
Study the job description, again: The hiring manager mostly like is who wrote the JD in the first place, and they wrote it based on, you guessed it, what they cared the most about.
Study hiring manager's background: both for you to see whether you'd want to work with/for this person, as well as for you to drive some conversations and Q&As. E.g. asking about why she decided to join the company or what kept her here so long. Or anything that you believe creates a good conversation, really.
Prepare to speak well to your experience: Because the assessment is most likely around your experience and background, make sure you're very well able to speak to every detail of the current/past experiences on your resume. However and however deep the hiring manager asks the questions. Also be particularly prepared to speak to specifically the relevant experience to this job.
Again, bring your ears and hearts + ask good questions: As a general tip across all interviews that worth reiterating over and over, listen attentively throughout the conversation, take notes as you see fit, be genuinely curious, and naturally come up with questions to show your interests and depths. It's good to prepare some questions ahead, it's equally if not more important to generate questions from the conversation itself. I probably mentioned this before, but I couldn't recount how many times I impressed the hiring managers most NOT by answering their questions but by asking them good questions.
There are some final tips I want to share, which at least helped myself a lot in doing great in these calls:
Think of it like a normal conversation with your current manager. I know it's very different. The hiring manager calls probably do much more qualification assessment, and you might desire to impress the hiring manager even more. But if you see this call as just a meeting with your current manager where you do still have to show your value and ask good/relevant questions, you'd be much less nervous and perform better.
Give control back to the hiring manager as appropriate: The hiring manager as the interviewer is supposed to drive the structure of the conversation. But because of the relatively casual nature of this interview, sometimes you can find yourself asking her questions nonstop and using up all the time. It's nothing wrong about this, just a reminder that you also want to make sure the hiring manager is able to use the time to get what she wants from you. So the moment you realized that you've launched back to back questions in the middle of the interview, politely check in and see if she has more questions about you and say that you're happy to save the rest of the questions to the end.
I hope this is helpful and gives you additional insight about the Hiring Manager calls! Please expect me to cover other interview types deeper dive (Product Sense, Execution, Strategy, Technical, Leadership/Behavioral, Presentation etc.) in the next episodes of the Interview Prep Deep Dive series!
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