You’re on to the hiring manager round. What now?
The hiring manager interview is quite different from the recruiter interview. While the recruiter is screening you to see if you’re worth the hiring manager's time, the hiring manager is evaluating if you’re a good fit for their team.
Companies invest in employees, and the hiring manager is evaluating if you’re a good investment for the company.
It’s kinda like a first date 💞
If you’ve been on a first date, you’ve been in the shoe’s of the hiring manager.
That’s because, whether you’re looking for the love of your life or an employee, at the first meeting, both you and the hiring manager are looking to answer, “Is there enough potential to give you more of my time?”
On a first date, you’re not running to the altar and getting hitched right away — you start with understanding someone’s potential.
During a first date, you evaluate your date’s potential by:
- Asking inquisitive questions
- Evaluating your common interests
- Understanding if you share the same values
- Evaluating how they make you feel
During your interview with the hiring manager, they evaluate your potential by:
- Asking inquisitive questions
- Evaluating your relevant professional experience
- Understanding how your philosophy of UX writing meshes with theirs
- Evaluating you as a culture fit
If you can remember what it’s like to be on a first date, you can better empathize with the hiring manager. And empathizing with the hiring manager will help you excel.
What to expect during the hiring manager interview
Again, the hiring manager is looking to assess if there’s enough potential in you as a candidate to move you forward in the interview process.
To make the assessment, they’re going to want to understand your UX writing experience. And to understand your UX writing experience, they’re going to:
- Ask you a bunch of questions
- Want to see some of your work
How to ace interview questions
The key to pleasing the hiring manager is to show, not tell.
I’m sure you’re sick of people telling you “show, don’t tell” — what does that even mean, right?
“Show” means to story-tell — to bring someone along for a ride in specifics. “Tell” means to state facts and describe the obvious.
Here’s an example of each:
Showing: The catch was this push notification needed to appeal to someone fresh off a promotion and someone in a mountain of debt. To balance the emotions of these very different users, I knew A/B testing would be key, so I worked with the Product Manager to arrange an A/B/C test to understand which writing strategies would work best. I formed three hypotheses:
1. By being as concise as possible and only stating the facts, the push notification will best communicate with users and inspire action.
2. By including a poignant user benefit, the push notification will best communicate with users and inspire action.
3. By offering support, the push notification will best communicate with users and inspire action.
After conducting the A/B/C test, we learned hypothesis #1 inspired the most action.
Telling: I wrote the microcopy for this push notification because it won the A/B/C test and proved it best resonated with our users.
As you can see in these examples, the exact microcopy that was written wasn’t even mentioned, and that was purposeful.
When asking behavioral questions, the hiring manager is looking to understand your experience, not your skill. And your experience is how you think, how you strategize projects, how you collaborate with others, and how you handle conflict.
There will be plenty of time to show off your skill in the portfolio presentation, but for now, you need to show that you have the foundational experience to support strong skills.
What’s the key to showing? Tell end-to-end stories.
Talk as if you’re describing the story of your project to a friend with zero context. And answer as many questions as possible with a story from your experience.
In fact, before you start interviewing, I recommend thinking of 3 – 5 stories from your UX writing experience and corresponding lessons you can use in interviews.
By having these stories already pinpointed, it’ll be easier to pull on them when it comes time to interview.
What questions should I expect the hiring manager to ask?
Every hiring manager will have different questions in mind, but some common ones to expect are:
- What’s been your favorite UX writing project so far?
- What product do you really like the experience of?
- How do you understand the users that you’re writing for?
- How do you manage people's expectations of UX writing?
- Tell me about a time when you had to back up your work.
- Tell me about a time you disagreed with a coworker.
Again, remember to answer with stories, not descriptions or facts. And if you need a moment before answering, don’t be afraid to take one.
Wait — the hiring manager wants to see some work?
It’s likely, but not a given.
Sometimes the recruiter will give you a heads-up, and sometimes on the call the hiring manager will spring a light work showcase on you.
Be prepared to walk through one project, and make sure it’s different from what you plan to present in your portfolio presentation.
When you present your work, be sure to focus on:
- Showing, not telling
- The problem you were solving
- Your hypothesis and background strategy
- Highlight from your design and writing process
- Whom you collaborated with
- The result
Since this is more casual, you don’t have to have a portfolio presentation deck ready, but I’ll tell you that visual presentation always gets bonus points.
At the end of the day, the hiring manager interview is a conversation
Later on, I’ll dive into how to make an interview a two-way conversation, but know that the key to the most organic hiring manager interview is to approach it as a chat.
The hiring manager is just a person looking to solve a problem, and you could be the solution to that problem.
Focus on solving their problem, and don’t idolize them as the keeper to the solution to yours.
The hiring manager interview is like a first date, because the hiring manager is looking to answer, “Is there enough potential to give you more of my time?”
During the interview with the hiring manager, they’ll look to understand your experience, not assess your hard skills just yet. That’ll happen in the form of behavioral questions, and possibly, short portfolio presentation.
The key to acing the hiring manager interview is to focus on telling stories from your experience and approaching the “interview” as a conversation.
Happy UX writing 🖖