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By Matt Lowney

In the course of a typical interview process you will work your way through two or three interview steps.  The first is a gatekeeper whose job it is to contact applicants and to set up a time for a phone screen.  In small to mid-sized companies this may be the same person who handles your initial interview.  After passing the phone screen or interview with human resources your application will be handed over to the hiring manager.  This person will bring you in for an in person interview.  Each of these layers of individuals has a specific job and is looking for something different in applicants.  Handling these interactions effectively is a key part of landing the job.  Below you will see how to handle these interactions and what each person is looking for.  

Gatekeeper.  Generally this person is your first interaction with a company.  She spends all day on the phone with potential candidates.  For the most part she is just trying judge your interest in the position and get your availability for a phone screen.  You will need to be sensitive with this person's time and be very kind to her.  If she wants to chat you up about the weather, then you need to engage in this conversation.  If she seems very busy, get to the point and set up a phone screen.  The key here is to be courteous and responsive.  If she gets the feeling that you see her as merely a gatekeeper, she can shut down your hopes of getting the job right then.

Phone Screen / Human Resources Interview.  Depending on the company, you will either have an extensive phone screen interview or meet with someone in human resources.  This person's job is to locate the best three to seven candidates to hand over to the hiring manager.  Typically they will work off a standard interview form, so you will need to stay focused on the conversation.  In addition, these folks typically do a lot of interviewing and are pressed for time.  Don't meander off the conversation too much and make sure you answer their questions clearly and concisely.  Remember, they are usually filling out a form.  The more you help them with their input of information, the more likely you will be referred to the hiring manager.  This point is where all your preparation for behavioral based interviewing will pay off. 

Hiring Manager.  If you are meeting with the hiring manager you can be confident that you are in the final few candidates for the position.  The volume of interviewing the hiring manager does will often determine his interviewing style.  If he does not do a lot of interviewing then he probably is looking for a “gut feeling” from a candidate.  Basically, he's trying to figure out if he likes you.  If he does a lot of interviewing, he will be very focused on your skills, abilities, and experiences.  The art of interviewing is to figure out what category he falls into. 

Matt Lowney is a corporate recruiter, radio host, and career consultant specializing in the areas of healthcare and information technology.  He can be reached at lowney_matt@hotmail.com  for additional information about his services.