In a recent LinkedIn conversation, someone asked me a question I hadn’t heard before: As a recruiter, what am I thinking about when I am interviewing someone? First and foremost, I’m thinking about whether you’re going to be the right fit for the job. As I was driving to a meeting this week, though, it occurred to me that there are quite a few things that a recruiter might not tell you about what goes into that process. I can’t speak for all recruiters, but here’s my list:
1. We can be easily distracted. Like many jobs, the life of a recruiter is filled with meetings, emails, and phone calls. But when it comes to interviewing a candidate, we want to be able to focus–and that requires your help and participation. While it may not be as high stakes as the meeting with the employer, it does mean putting your best foot forward. Over the years, I’ve been distracted by candidates’ chewing gum, dangly earrings, ornate visible tattoos, playing with cellphones, and risque outfits, among many other things. Keep in mind, I’m not making a moral judgment or saying those things might not be fine in your eventual workplace. But avoiding basic job interview mistakes that you wouldn’t make when talking with a potential employer will also help when you’re talking with your recruiter.
2) We don’t want to hear details about your personal life or health. It’s natural to make small talk as you get to know your recruiter, and we want you to feel comfortable. But don’t make the mistake of getting into topics we really don’t need to know. A perfect example happened a few weeks ago when I asked a candidate how she was doing. Her answer, “Not very good,” was followed by a detailed description of a sinus infection, multiple trips to the doctor, and getting a prescription for antibiotics. I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, but that’s simply too much information. A better answer would be, “I had a tough weekend, but this week’s going to be great!” Similar rules apply to issues with your personal relationships, caring for elderly parents, and anything else. Even if you left a previous job because of a health issue (for example, not being covered by short-term disability or not having enough sick leave), shorter is better.
3. We have long memories and large networks. It’s a small world, even in a big city. If you don’t treat your recruiter professionally (for example, you don’t show up for an interview) it might hurt you for years to come. I still remember names of candidates who didn’t show up for interviews years ago. The second aspect of this is, when you’re interviewing with a recruiter, you don’t know who they know–and by the nature of our jobs, we tend to have large networks. If you start badmouthing a former employer or boss, it’s possible it’s someone I know or at a company where I know people. If I call for an unofficial reference to double-check the situation, you don’t want that to work against you.
4. We pride ourselves on our detective work. This probably won’t come as a surprise, but recruiters don’t just review your resume and references. As part of our due diligence, we’re definitely going to look at your LinkedIn profile and do a Google search, and possibly even other social media. Keep in mind, we’re not doing this to be invasive. It’s primarily because we want to help ensure that you’re a good fit for a potential employer. But I’m not going to lie: It’s also a way to protect ourselves against problems down the line. A few weeks ago, I compared a candidate’s resume to what she had posted on LinkedIn, and they weren’t even close to matching; some of the work experience dates were off by several years and there were tons of spelling and grammar mistakes. (Let’s just say, not a good fit for a job where “detail oriented” was in the job description.)
5. We want you to get the job! If a recruiter gives you recommendations, such as how to answer a particular question or how to dress for the interview, take them seriously. Every time I meet a qualified candidate, I’m hoping that they’re going to be the right fit. We’re on your side.
So, those are my thoughts, based on reading thousands of resumes and interviewing hundreds of job candidates every year. While every recruiter will have different opinions on best practices, and even on the items I’ve listed above, I bet all of them would agree with me on this: It doesn’t take much to distinguish you from the crowd–in a good way or a bad way. Any efforts you make toward helping your recruiter help you will pay off towards getting the job you want.