The “How did you learn about the job opening?” question seems harmless. It’s easy to be tricked by this seemingly innocent question. There is a shrewd calculation hidden behind this innocuous-sounding query. You can naively believe that this is a nice question designed to help the interviewer get to know you, but the real reason is much more insidious.
One of the goals of a hiring manager is to ascertain if you’re serious about this specific job. She wants to probe into your rationale for choosing this particular role and company. Is there a genuine interest or are you desperately scouring all of the job boards, corporate career pages of every company, LinkedIn, Google for Jobs, aggregation job sites and haphazardly dispatching your résumé everywhere? If it’s the latter of the two, then it will dilute your value in the eyes of the interviewer. She will presume that she is just another stop on your slapdash indiscriminate search for any job. The manager will feel that you are not truly interested in this specific position, as you are probably randomly meeting with anyone and everyone to get the best offer.
With this in mind, the hiring manager would like to hear that you are relatively happy in your current job, get along well with your manager, well-respected at work, not currently active in a job hunt, but open to hearing about a great opportunity. If asked this question, you could answer by stating, “I am doing very well in my current job and my boss greatly appreciates my work. I heard about your open role from a top-tier recruiter who is very knowledgeable and respected in my space. She shared the position with me, spoke highly about you as a terrific manager and offered positive accolades about the company. After conducting 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 résumé prepared, I quickly put one together believing that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to at least have a meeting with you.”
You could also say that you heard about the opening through a colleague, an internal employee of the company that you’re interviewing with, read positive articles about the company or kept an eye open for the right job to surface so that you would be able to submit your résumé for the perfect job at the company.
The hiring manager can now feel comfortable and confident that you are a realistic candidate who is specifically interested in this particular job and company. She will view you favorably, recognizing 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—employers generally don’t want to hire people who just want any job and that don’t care about the company they are interviewing with. They view these applicants as mercenaries who are solely interested in a paycheck and a place to stay until they can move onto the next job with a higher salary.
Quality employers 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. They’ll feel that a person with this mindset will work hard, appreciate the opportunity, add value to the organization, make the manager’s life easier and have a greater chance of succeeding.