Why hiring managers ask, “How did you learn about the opening?”

By Jack J. Kelly


“How did you learn about the opening?” seems like a simple, harmless question. Don’t be deceived by this innocent sounding question and lulled into a false sense of confidence. It is a two-pronged question. The first reason for asking the question is that it is an easy, friendly, getting-to-know-you type of question, such as, “Were you able to find the office relatively easily?”  On one level it is an ice breaker and conversation starter. The second part is a little insidious. There is an ulterior motive behind the question, with an underling purpose that you need to be aware of.

The hiring manager is being coy and cute, but this is what she/he is trying to ascertain:

Are you desperately searching all the job boards, LinkedIn, and aggregation job sites, and sending your resume everywhere? If so, it dilutes your value. The interviewer will presume that she is just another stop on your wide-ranging job hunt. She will feel that you are not truly interested in this particular role, as you are probably indiscriminatingly meeting with everyone to get the best offer.

Here is what the hiring manager really wants to hear:

The interviewer wants to hear that you are relatively happy in your current job, get along well with your manager, and are well-respected at work. The hiring manager would like to hear you say something like,

“Although I am doing well in my current job and my boss appreciates my work, I heard about    this role from a top-tier recruiter who is very knowledgeable and respected in this space. She shared the position, spoke about you as a manager, and gave color on the company. After doing my own research and due diligence, I recognized that this is a wonderful opportunity and my background and skills are very relevant for the position. While I did not even have a resume prepared, I put one together believing that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to at least have a  meeting.”

You could also say that you heard about the opening through a colleague, an employee of the firm that you’re interviewing with, you read good and positive things about the company, or kept an eye open for the right job to surface, so that you would be able to submit your resume for the perfect job.

With these types of answers the hiring manager relaxes and becomes more comfortable with you, as she now perceives that you are a realistic candidate who is specifically interested in this particular job and company.  You will be perceived favorably in a positive light, as the hiring manager recognizes that you are diligent, interested in the job, and a well-liked and highly-regarded employee who is open to hearing about a new challenge.

Keep this important factor in mind; good employers don’t want to hire people who just want any job and that don’t really care about the company they are interviewing with. They view these applicants as mercenaries who are only interested in a paycheck and a place to stay until they can move onto the next job with an even higher salary.

Quality hiring managers and top-tier companies desire to hire people who specifically want to work with them. They feel that these types of candidates will be motivated, enthusiastic, and driven. It is not just a job, but a long-term commitment and career for these ideal candidates.

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