Ever wondered exactly what HR wants from you or what’s going through their heads? Here’s what you should know about the hiring process.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever reached the final interview stage but didn’t get hired. Or you submitted your application only to have it lost forever in the Internet blackhole.

Why does this happen, and what does HR actually want from you?

You’re in luck! Several HR professionals want to share four important points to help you secure the job you want.

1. Your application is a process

You submitted your application three weeks ago, and you still haven’t received a hint someone even received it. Why?

“There are meetings to have, other candidates to schedule and conversations to be had,” says Paul Smith, Director of Human Resources at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Paul holds over 15 years of HR experience in both the private and public sector.

“Depending on the circumstances, the HR person might be the only one handling HR duties in that office,” Smith says. “There are times when they are shorthanded, they might be on leave or key decision-makers are unavailable. Sometimes there is a sense from job applicants of ‘why don’t they tell me, why don’t they communicate?’ But sometimes there isn’t anything to communicate yet. The process will be different depending on the company, industry, size of the company and management philosophy.”

2. Be genuinely interested in our company, and we’ll be genuinely interested in you

“We love good questions,” says Jeffrey DeLucia, Manager of Talent Acquisition at The Judge Group, a consulting, staffing and training agency. Jeffrey oversees all incoming talent and screens candidates from the entry to senior level. “Ask us about differences you noticed between us and our competitors. It shows you took the time and effort to research. Specifically for me, since I interview for sales positions, I like to see assertiveness for this particular role. We want to see someone who wants to be here.”

Ask good questions to not only showcase your company research, but also to transform your typical, generic question and answer format interview into an engaging, back and forth conversation. This shift helps you stand out and generate interest from your interviewer.

A sense of passion and a want to be doing the work is important,” Smith says. “Being able to specifically demonstrate your interest in the work is important. It makes for a conversation instead of an interview. The interview process is usually a question and answer process, but when you actually go to work, you won’t really be doing the question and answer thing. Your conversations are what you’ll be doing in the organization.”

3. If you’re not contacting us on LinkedIn, you’re missing an opportunity to stand out (and don’t just spam us)

“I think most people aren’t using LinkedIn enough,” says DeLucia. “I recruit 90 percent of my candidates on LinkedIn.”

Caroline Girone, a Human Resources Specialist at the Office of Civilian Human Resources for the Department of the Navy, agrees. “If someone contacts me on LinkedIn, I can help them with the application process,” Girone says. “The only method we can accept resumes by, however, is through usajobs.gov. If I was in the private sector, I would be very open to receiving resumes, because that shows initiative and research, which is impressive.”

Applying for a public sector job is a different, often stricter, process than many private sector positions. All public sector applicants are required to pass an exam (and score highly) just to receive an interview. This method helps the government ensure fairness for interested applicants.

You might feel great knowing both private and public sector human resource specialists are open to your attempt to connect, but do so with a sense of purpose.

“I get requests that say ‘add me to your network,’ but sometimes I have no idea who this person is and I have no idea why they want to connect with me,” Smith says. “I imagine I came up on their side of the screen that says ‘people you may know.’ But that’s not true networking; it’s just adding to your Rolodex.”

If you’re going to reach out, make sure to explain why in the email and briefly state what you want.

4. We understand the hiring process is hard on you

“People get frustrated because they don’t see any transparency in the process,” Smith says. “That creates a certain amount of uncertainty, which causes anxiety. I encourage folks to try to look at the uncertainty as part of the process, as opposed to letting yourself get anxious about it. I think, specifically, the hardest thing for candidates to grasp is how organizations and HR view the ability to get work done.”

When HR and management read resumes and interview, they look at knowledge and skill sets, but they also look at abilities—are they able to get the work done? HR people will think, for example, of the organization’s managerial styles, coworkers and different matrix relationships, and whether the candidate is going to be able to accomplish their tasks in this organization. And it’s hard for a candidate or someone looking for a job to know those internal dynamics.

Your turn: What question do you most wish you could ask HR and why?

Reggie Hall Jr. keeps GenY inspired and one step ahead at FreshWisdom by sharing interviews and advice from thriving Millennials as well as older generations to help you get what you want. Say hi on Twitter @FreshWisdomLive or on Facebook.


  1. Tyrell Jenkins

    Once again, another helpful post. Perfect reassurance that hiring managers do care.

    • Reggie

      Thanks Tyrell – I found it encouraging and even surprising to experience that for the most part HR sympathies with the struggles and competition applicants experience today.

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  4. Christine Steffensen

    Thanks Reggie for this insightful list. Managers want people with more skills so they can take on more responsibilities for a lesser payment.

  5. frayedpassport

    “All public sector applicants are required to pass an exam (and score highly) just to receive an interview.” This statement is completely untrue or at least misleading. For certain positions (e.g., diplomat), you’ll absolutely need to take an exam, but it’s not an across-the-board requirement for all public sector positions. The hiring process for the federal government is indeed strict and can super complicated depending on what private sector organization you’ll compare it to, but nope: not all of us had to take exams for our federal jobs. I’d encourage anyone interested in working for the public sector to read up on the application requirements for any department or agency they’re interested in and make a go for it :)

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  7. Dana Leavy-Detrick

    Really great article. We’re conditioned to expect immediate information at our fingertips, and this simply isn’t how the hiring process works. I think you said it best in that “sometimes there just isn’t anything to communicate yet.” Having been on the hiring side for 10+ years, I’ve seen it move at lightening speed, and also, more often than not, get dragged out for any number of reasons not even having to do with the candidates themselves.

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