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Secrets of the hiring process

In many ways, buyers of lottery tickets have more information about the game they’re playing than job candidates do. They know the odds, and how the numbers will be chosen, and when. That’s not always true when you fire off a resume, or even when you’re invited to interview.

So I’ve been asking recruiters, founders, and human resources executives about the parts of the hiring process that aren’t especially transparent to job-seekers. What exactly happens as they review resumes, conduct interviews, and make hiring decisions? I broke down their replies into three different phases of the hiring process.

Reviewing resumes. “If you live more than 25 miles from the job you’re applying for, delete your home address from your resume. It’s allowed,” says Rick Johanson, a search consultant at Boston-based Cannon Search Partners. Companies sometimes assume candidates living far away may not be as serious about the opportunity — or may not last long in the job. “The farther away your commute, the further you are from being considered,” Johnson says.

Many e-mail systems will automatically pull photos of an individual from social media sites like LinkedIn, Google+, or Facebook and attach them to an e-mailed job application. Make sure none of your pictures are unprofessional, says recruiter David Hayes of HireMinds, who passed along an example of an applicant in a Halloween costume.


HR staffers reading resumes look at them “for 10 seconds,” says Marcus Tgettis, director of talent acquisition at Constant Contact, a Waltham digital marketing company. “Candidates assume that person knows all of the companies they’ve worked at, and a lot of them don’t bother to give a brief, one- or two-sentence company summary. Is it a public company? What industry is it in?”

Don’t deliver gifts to the receptionist or tchotchkes to the HR team hoping to get noticed. “It’s hard to remember ever taking someone seriously who sent in a pair of chopsticks, for example, because they heard the company served Chinese food on Fridays,” says Jeff Moore, head of global talent acquisition at Newton-based TripAdvisor, which runs a network of travel sites. Another way not to get taken seriously? Buy ads on Facebook or Google that target employees at the company you’re hoping to get hired by.


If you don’t have a social media presence like a blog or Twitter feed related to your field, or a profile on sites like GitHub (programmers) or Dribbble (designers), “you don’t pass,” says Aaron White, a founder of Boundless Learning, a Boston online education start-up.

A connection inside the company, made at a networking event or via social media, is the best way to improve your odds of landing an interview.

“I do not think candidates understand the power of coming in through a networked contact,” says Audrey Lampert, who oversees hiring at Gemvara, an online jewelry merchant in Boston. “Especially at the director level and above, if someone is not able to come up with an intro via at least a social media connection, I am hesitant to talk with them.”

Interviewing. Nothing beats having studied the company, used its product, and signed up for its marketing e-mails, says Lampert at Gemvara.

“Sometimes, says Pearl Frier of Cambridge BioPartners, a life science search firm, the job you’re interviewing for may not exist. A new position may not have been approved yet, or the opening may be about to be nixed for budget reasons. Smart candidates might “ask about the potential start date for the job, or why the position is open — if it’s a new position or it’s a replacement because of turnover,” she says.


Case studies and examples of what you’ve done carry a great deal of weight during interviews. “You can’t just tell us you’re innovative — you’ve got to show us,” says John Termotto, senior director of global talent acquisition at Akamai Technologies, a Cambridge company that speeds the delivery of Internet content

Phone and videoconference interviews, says Kate Rafferty, are “very difficult for even the best candidates to shine through.” Her advice? “Turn up the excitement in your voice, smile,” and have some notes prepared to keep you on track. Rafferty heads HR at Basho Technologies, a Cambridge database company.

After an interview, “an e-mail follow-up to your point of contact is a good idea,” says Moore at TripAdvisor. “Short and sweet is great. Maybe highlight one or two things that stuck out as exciting to you.”

Don’t be surprised when a recruiter or HR executive checks your reputation with people you’ve worked with, but didn’t list as references. “LinkedIn provides a map of others to contact,” says Bruce Rychlik, a cofounder at Park Square Executive Search.

Making the decision and offer. At Constant Contact, once interviewing is done, a human resources employee typically “facilitates a discussion about the pros and cons of the final candidates,” says Tgettis at Constant Contact. “The main thing that tends to set apart the candidate who gets the offer is just fire in the belly. How motivated are they?”


“Companies make faster decisions if you have another offer, period,” says Marie Burns, recruiting manager at Compete, a Boston-based analytics company. “I always advise friends to interview with multiple companies at the same time and keep options open.”

During negotiations, companies may not be willing to raise the salary offered, particularly if it would make you better paid than similarly seasoned people who work there. These days, many will offer a signing bonus instead, says Tom Summit of Catalyst Recruiting in Rowley, “so it doesn’t mess up their existing salary levels.”

In most cases, candidates who make it past the interview have comparable skills and experience, says Chris Palatucci, head of an executive search firm in Worcester. At that point, he says, chemistry and personality are the most important factors.

And if you can fake those, you’ve got it made . . .

Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner@pobox.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner.