How Did You Hear About the Opening?

by | Mar 8, 2020 | Interviewing

This Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) is often the opening question in an interview. Don’t, however, allow its simplicity to fool you. All questions are asked for a reason and play a role in your overall evaluation.

This week, let’s review the ultimate “ice breaker” question, “How Did You Hear About the Opening?”


Why Is It Asked?

• Break the Ice – When asked, this is typically the first question presented by the Interviewer. Leading off with this question is part of the Interviewers strategy to place the Job Seeker at ease with a question that does not require much analysis. The idea is to relax you while creating a more conversational tone to the discussion.

• Find Out Where – Advertising can be very expensive to an employer (except when they are using the cost, of course). Finding out how you heard about the opening provides some valuable information regarding what sourcing methods are working. This allows the company to place their resources in the areas that produce the most value.

• Check On Commonality – This is a way for the Recruiter to find out if you know, via networking anyone that they do. Sometimes that information is important because the Hiring Manager may have a preference for a referral from a certain individual.

• Passive v. Active – By your answer, the Hiring Manager may derive a sense of whether you are a passive or active Job Seeker. If you saw the ad in an online or newspaper ad, you are an active seeker, however, if you came via networking or if a Recruiter called you, then you may be passive. A passive Job Seeker is someone who will listen to job opportunities but is not doing anything to solicit his or her own leads.


How Should It Be Answered?

• Concisely – This answer is not going to be the one that lands you a job offer. The question is just not that important. There is no need to get into a long answer about how you found the ad and what you thought of it. The emphasis should be on later questions where you can explain to the Hiring Manager why you are the perfect person for the job.

• Confidently – If you can’t answer this question with confidence, then the rest of the interview will probably become one long downhill slide. You want to make a positive first impression with the Interviewer.

• Name Your Referrer – This is assuming naming your referral will not breach any confidentiality agreement you had with the person who provided you the job lead. Let the Interviewer know that you have been referred by someone in the organization or a mutual friend. The hope is that the Hiring Manager will process this as an implicit endorsement from the person who referred you.


What Not To Do:

• Not Know – C’mon! You do not want to flub your first question especially when it is such as softball. Create a tracking method where you can easily look up how you heard about each position you applied for and interviewed with.

• Make Something Up – It is always frustrating to an Interviewer to ask this question and in response receive a sourcing method that you do not use. Don’t make something up, instead anticipate the question and know the answer. If you are in a situation where the Interviewer has followed-up on this question because they do not use that source, do not play stubborn and argue. Just acknowledge then that you do not remember. I have had several interviews with candidates tarnished because they wanted to debate, instead of moving on.

• Name a Bunch of Possible Sources – Throwing out a bunch of names does not help the Recruiter regarding sourcing methods and may negatively display just how active you are.

• Breach Confidentiality – If someone provided you with the lead on the “QT” then now is not the time to publically “out” them as your source. This may come into play when a position is not publically posted yet. In this situation, explain how you have been interested in the company and had targeted them to send a resume in hope that there would be an opening.


This question should be a “slam dunk”, allowing you to develop some rapport with the Interviewer and preparing you both for the heart of the discussion. The key is to anticipate the question, prepare your response, and practice the delivery and you will be on your way to acing this inquiry.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein

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