800 hiring managers reveal their job search tips

A cheat sheet containing what really works.

(Raywoo/Shutterstock)
  • 800 hiring managers reveal their preferences in a survey by NetQuote.
  • Infographics help unearth the worst words to use in an interview, most important questions, and ideal resume length.
  • Figuring out how to present yourself just got easier.

Congratulations. You got the interview. You've already done better than all of the other job applicants whose piles of resumes have lead nowhere. But watch out. A hiring manager holds your future in their hands, so the interview is a do-or-die chance to get where you want to go. NetQuote decided to ask 800 hiring managers what, to them, makes for a successful interview. Or not. Infographics from that data have just been published as Most Important Interview Questions.

All visualizations in this article are by NetQuote.

About your resume

If you've got an interview already, you may be past the resume phase, at least for this job. But what got you there? (And maybe you're still hoping to get an interview.)

Getting your resume's image right

According to NetQuotes' respondents, when racing through a bunch of resumes, your story's visual presentation can prove to be an instant turn-on, or -off.

42% of hiring managers aren't fond of headshots, for example. Ditto for unconventional, flashy resumes—they're not necessarily a good way to stand out, at least not to the 65% of hiring managers who aren't impressed with them.

Still, the reactions vary by industry; head shots are poison for government, legal, and health care jobs, but popular when you're after a tech-oriented position. And not shockingly, non-standard, artistic resume layouts are more likely to be appreciated in industries peopled by non-standard artistic types.

Is a long resume impressive or a problem?

Hiring managers are busy, and don't really care about your life story. If a resume is even just two pages long, 23% of hirers say it's too long. Bump that up by one more page, and it's 51% of them bugged by your verbosity.

Another thing that can be a red flag, depending on the industry, are periods not covered by a job. In IT, for example, an employment gap of 13 months or more means you've probably got a problem.

Landmine language

So, you're in the room—or on Skype or the phone. Someone once said, "I never sound as stupid as when I'm trying to sound smart," and this is definitely an interview hazard. You may think business-speak buzzwords like "synergy," "low-hanging fruit," and "ideation" make you sound cool. Not so much.

Before the show starts...

In an interview, yours isn't the only performance going on, and some hiring managers are sketchy about playing their own roles. They may try to impress you by tweaking the job description or the company's outlook. And only about 60% actually read your resume before talking—which is to say 40% know basically nothing about you as the interview starts. 29% are wasting your time anyway, since they already know they're not hiring you.

Typical questions and how much they actually mean

Of all the questions commonly asked, four stand out as most important. Two reflect on your character in the workplace: How you deal with conflict and how you learn from mistakes. The third inquiry reveals you as either an ambitious forward-looker or a disagreeable malcontent: Why did you leave your last job? Then there's that moment where you're asked to list your strengths—more about this below.

Interestingly, one classic query doesn't seem to matter much at all: What you're into outside of work.

The best personal strengths to mention

Okay, this one's kind of the master cheat sheet. Don't lie in your interview, but here's what you're supposed to say.

Are you being interviewed by a woman or man?

The list above notwithstanding, women and men have slightly different priorities in what qualifies as applicant's most important personal strengths. It seems close to a cliche, but female hiring managers are more concerned with quieter, inner-focused skills while males are interested in outward-going traits. Discuss.

Meeting specific industry needs

Here's a helpful infographic. Different strengths matter to different industries, and this shows the three most important strengths in each type of operation. For government work, discipline's hot; in construction, it's important to manage time well and to be patient. Who'd guess that the industry that most values creativity is the legal industry?

The importance, or not, of follow-up

Hiring managers also have feeling about your actions after the interview. 67% expect to be asked questions, and they consider doing that to be important. Slightly less than half expect any worthwhile applicant to follow up by email or by phone. As far as handwritten followup notes go, while they're important to 17% of hiring managers, more than double that percentage said don't bother.

Forewarned is forearmed

Whether you're heading into the hot seat in the near future, or just hoping to be asked to interviews, you now have some insight as to what the interview process looks like to hiring managers. Now go and get that job!

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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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Reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulate in the gut of sleep-deprived fruit flies, one (left), seven (center) and ten (right) days without sleep.

Image source: Vaccaro et al, 2020/Harvard Medical School
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The study, from researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), is published in the journal Cell.

An unexpected culprit

The new research examines the mechanisms at play in sleep-deprived fruit flies and in mice — long-term sleep-deprivation experiments with humans are considered ethically iffy.

What the scientists found is that death from sleep deprivation is always preceded by a buildup of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the gut. These are not, as their name implies, living organisms. ROS are reactive molecules that are part of the immune system's response to invading microbes, and recent research suggests they're paradoxically key players in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling as well. However, having an excess of ROS leads to oxidative stress, which is linked to "macromolecular damage and is implicated in various disease states such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration, and aging." To prevent this, cellular defenses typically maintain a balance between ROS production and removal.

"We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation," says senior study author Dragana Rogulja, admitting, "We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death." The accumulation occurred in both sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice.

"Even more surprising," Rogulja recalls, "we found that premature death could be prevented. Each morning, we would all gather around to look at the flies, with disbelief to be honest. What we saw is that every time we could neutralize ROS in the gut, we could rescue the flies." Fruit flies given any of 11 antioxidant compounds — including melatonin, lipoic acid and NAD — that neutralize ROS buildups remained active and lived a normal length of time in spite of sleep deprivation. (The researchers note that these antioxidants did not extend the lifespans of non-sleep deprived control subjects.)

fly with thought bubble that says "What? I'm awake!"

Image source: Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock/Big Think

The experiments

The study's tests were managed by co-first authors Alexandra Vaccaro and Yosef Kaplan Dor, both research fellows at HMS.

You may wonder how you compel a fruit fly to sleep, or for that matter, how you keep one awake. The researchers ascertained that fruit flies doze off in response to being shaken, and thus were the control subjects induced to snooze in their individual, warmed tubes. Each subject occupied its own 29 °C (84F) tube.

For their sleepless cohort, fruit flies were genetically manipulated to express a heat-sensitive protein in specific neurons. These neurons are known to suppress sleep, and did so — the fruit flies' activity levels, or lack thereof, were tracked using infrared beams.

Starting at Day 10 of sleep deprivation, fruit flies began dying, with all of them dead by Day 20. Control flies lived up to 40 days.

The scientists sought out markers that would indicate cell damage in their sleepless subjects. They saw no difference in brain tissue and elsewhere between the well-rested and sleep-deprived fruit flies, with the exception of one fruit fly.

However, in the guts of sleep-deprived fruit flies was a massive accumulation of ROS, which peaked around Day 10. Says Vaccaro, "We found that sleep-deprived flies were dying at the same pace, every time, and when we looked at markers of cell damage and death, the one tissue that really stood out was the gut." She adds, "I remember when we did the first experiment, you could immediately tell under the microscope that there was a striking difference. That almost never happens in lab research."

The experiments were repeated with mice who were gently kept awake for five days. Again, ROS built up over time in their small and large intestines but nowhere else.

As noted above, the administering of antioxidants alleviated the effect of the ROS buildup. In addition, flies that were modified to overproduce gut antioxidant enzymes were found to be immune to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

The research leaves some important questions unanswered. Says Kaplan Dor, "We still don't know why sleep loss causes ROS accumulation in the gut, and why this is lethal." He hypothesizes, "Sleep deprivation could directly affect the gut, but the trigger may also originate in the brain. Similarly, death could be due to damage in the gut or because high levels of ROS have systemic effects, or some combination of these."

The HMS researchers are now investigating the chemical pathways by which sleep-deprivation triggers the ROS buildup, and the means by which the ROS wreak cell havoc.

"We need to understand the biology of how sleep deprivation damages the body so that we can find ways to prevent this harm," says Rogulja.

Referring to the value of this study to humans, she notes,"So many of us are chronically sleep deprived. Even if we know staying up late every night is bad, we still do it. We believe we've identified a central issue that, when eliminated, allows for survival without sleep, at least in fruit flies."

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