As a job hunter, I’d encourage you to keep one thing clearly in mind: there’s a story behind every hiring opportunity!

Sometimes this story is a positive one and the company in question is simply creating a new position as the result of rapid growth or the need to fill the shoes of somebody who just got promoted.  In many other cases, however, the story has a series of more negative or melodramatic aspects to it.  Perhaps the last person in the position was fired due to poor performance or for not getting along with the boss.  Or perhaps the company just recently changed its strategy and now needs somebody who can help it develop a marketing program in Asia, instead of in the United States, as they’d originally planned.  Or perhaps the last person in the job quit or was transferred to another department, forcing the manager to do the work of two people until he or she finds a replacement.

Regardless of the exact circumstances, the more you seek to understand the “backstory” behind any given position you’re pursuing, the more effective you’ll be at selling yourself for the role.  You’ll not only be able to speak more directly to the wants and needs of the organization, but just as importantly, you might be able to tap into the specific personal motives of the hiring manager in terms of how they’d benefit by making the “ideal” hire.  Would they make more money?  Experience less stress?  Gain more power and influence?  Have more fun?  Avoid risk, blame, or embarrassment?  Remember, hiring managers are people, too!  Despite the fact that job descriptions tend to be couched in sterile, corporate-sounding language, each person involved in the hiring decision will have personal skin in the game and likely be making the decision based primarily on how hiring the right candidate will make their lives better.

So if you’re in transition, I’d encourage you to keep this concept firmly in mind during your search and, if appropriate, consider asking the following questions in the interview to deepen your understanding of the very real — but invisible — factors at play:

•  What are you hoping that the ideal candidate will be able to accomplish in the first 90 days?
•  At the end of the first year, how will you know that you hired the right person for the job?
•  Can I ask if this is a newly-created job or whether I’d be inheriting the position from somebody else?
•  If the job isn’t a new one, can I ask what has caused the position to become open?
•  Are there certain personal qualities or characteristics you’re most hoping to find in your new employee?
•  In general, what kinds of employees and personality types tend to work out best on your team?
•  Do you mind if I ask what aspect of my background or resume intrigues you the most?
•  What challenges, if any, do you feel the new hire is going to experience in completing the tasks at hand?
•  How will success in this position be measured?
•  What goals do you have for your department and how would this new hire help you achieve them?

Obviously, you’ll have to use common sense in deciding which of these questions might be appropriate to ask, and when, but this line of inquiry can really pay off in revealing the real motivations, forces, and factors behind a company’s decision to add headcount.

Scratch a little bit under the surface and you’ll be amazed at what you might learn — and how you can use this information to sell the employer what they really want, instead of simply “going through the motions” and never connecting with the needs of the hiring manager on an emotional level!