How to Know Who Decides Who Gets the Job

Applying for a job can be scary.  Typically, you can end up meeting with one person or a whole load of different people.  The hardest part sometimes is knowing who these people and who are going to be the most influential as to who is going to make the decision of who to hire.

The bottom line is that you really do not know.  Even if you have friends or family members inside a company, and you have a good feeling of who the major players are, never underestimate the influence or importance of anyone you meet or come in contact with.

For this reason, it is always a good idea to treat everyone you come in contact with dignity and respect.  You never know who are the real influencers.  It does not matter if it is the person interviewing you, their boss, the receptionist, or someone cleaning the bathroom.

You never truly know who the most influential people are in a job interview.

You never truly know who the most influential people are in a job interview.

Far too often people fall over themselves trying to meet with the highest ranking person at a company.  By trying too hard to make a good impression with the “right person”, they might actually hurt their chances of getting hired because they might look fake or not genuine.

Don’t get me wrong, you want to make a good impression with the more obviously influential people like the president of the company or the executive who oversees a division.  Just be yourself with professionalism, confidence, and genuine passion for the job you are applying for.

What people do not always realize is that the true hiring decisions are oftentimes not made by the people who have the big flashy titles.  In many organizations, meeting with the high up executive(s) comes later in the hiring process when the candidate pool has been dwindled down to a few top candidates (or possibly just the candidate who will probably get the job).

In some cases, these interviews and meetings with the higher up executives are more to make sure that the candidate is a “cultural fit” for the organization, which leaves the true work of narrowing down the field of candidates to the hiring managers and recruiters.

Who Is the Most Influential?

Try to find out who the decision makers are without just looking at who has the highest title or who is the first person you interview with.  Oftentimes, a simple online search can give you clues or flat out tell you who the influencers and decisions makers are.

You can also subtly do this be asking questions such as these during the interview process:

“What are the next steps of the interview process?” – Most likely whomever you are meeting with will give you more insight into the next steps of their hiring process.  For the purposes of figuring out who is truly influential, clue in on how they talk about certain steps of their process and who they talk about.

If possible, take note of names and pay special attention to how certain people in the organization are discussed.  For example, “You really need to meet with…” or “…prides herself on putting together the best possible team” would clue you in on who might be really influential.

“Do you know when a decision will be made?” – For this question, listen to clues about the decision will be made such as “Barry and I will meet get together after we have met with all of the candidates to decide who we are sending to our VP, Todd.”  Something along these lines obviously tells you who in the company is narrowing down the field of candidates.

Even with doing your homework and attentively listening, you will only have a small picture of what the company is like.  All organizations have informal influence and power dynamics that the employees cannot even describe to you if they tried.

When competition is tight (and it often is), you never know what will tip the scales to you or to another candidate.  I once found out that I got a job  early  on in my career because the hiring manager asked someone outside of the decision making process about me.  

Good news is that something good was said about me (not sure what to this day).  The decision was down to two candidates (including me) out of a pool of about seventy.  

In my case, the direction of my career for the last fifteen years might have been different without that position.  Since then I have seen countless times behind the scenes in my career in which some of the most seemingly random people’s input have swayed the outcome of hiring decisions.

For this reason, I highly recommend treating everyone you interview with as if they have the final say, and treat everyone you meet in the hiring process as if they have the potential to tip the scales in your favor regardless of whether you are speaking the CEO, the receptionist, or the janitor.

You never know what a genuine smile and simple hello while looking someone in the eyes can do to influence someone’s opinion of you.  Sometimes it can make the difference between getting a job and not getting a job.


Last updated : March 3 2014

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