Job Candidates: Five Things Every Recruiter REALLY Wants to Know about You

By Sarah Cooper

No matter what technique they use – from a heavy technical grilling to a bit of a chat – all recruiters are all trying to undercover the following:

  1. Can you do what is required of the post?
  2. What can you do for the organisation?
  3. What sort of person are you?
  4. Why you, over the other applicants, or candidates they envisage?
  5. What have you got going on?

All recruiters instinctively know that the person they hire or help hire will reflect on them in some way. It’s like having your family at a friend’s party. What they do, whether good or bad will influence the way they are seen in the organisation going forward. They therefore have a risk to take and you need to help them take it.

Image: Lazurite

So how do you help them meet their objectives? Let’s see:

Can you do what is required of the post?

This will take up at least 80% of the questions. If you have a job specification work through the requirements preparing answers to show how you fit them with workable examples demonstrating the relevant experience you have.

If you do not have a job spec, the advertisement placed for the position would usually have the criteria listed. Alternatively, ask. If you are being represented by an agency was there anything in particular they asked them in order to short list for the position? Then address these elements first.

[RELATED POST: Job Interview Success: Three Qualities You Need to Demonstrate in 2011]

What can you do for the company?

You need to show what you know about the company and what issues it currently faces. Usually “Tell me what you know about us?”  is one of the first opening interview questions. Do not be fooled, it is not a warm up, and even if they go on to talk about the organisation at length it is vitally important that you demonstrate the time and effort you have taken to learn about them. This can be done online and through the social media big three: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This is a great way to instantly see what people think of a Company and / or its products by using tools such as Twitter Search. You can also canvas opinion by posting a direct question. On LinkedIn, run a company search and see if you know anyone who works there who could tell you more?

Highlighting measurable achievements is also a good way of showing what you can bring to the company. Quantify and give results, use examples where you can show how you have saved your current or previous employer time and money or generated new business, income or customer satisfaction, the importance here is the figures themselves e.g. I generated 53k last quarter from new business an increase of 23%, I saved four hours from the time it took to produce the weekly payroll reports, I saved the business 120k by switching suppliers and drawing up a new PSL and so on. Even if on your CV point it out – know your own CV but do not assume they do.

[RELATED POST: ‘What are You looking For in Your Next Roll?’ – Three Answers that Fail a Candidate.]

What kind of person you are?

Can they / others work with you? What sort of attitude are you displaying? Are you part of the problem or the solution? You need to have a good self-awareness in the first place of how you operate at work in order to successfully put this across. I have seen many candidates thrown by a personality revealing question admitting they have never given it much thought. Side stepping the issue is also not an option. If asked to reveal something you need to work on never answer with “Nothing” This may be read as arrogance or a complete lack of self-awareness.

Why you, over the other applicants, or candidates they envisage?

You need to answer this with specifics and not in generalised statements about yourself. You need to match their requirement with your specific experience and demonstrable skill set. To conclude you need to show you want this particular job and not any job. Be specific. This is a great chance to show your enthusiasm and passion, that you are interested in working with them.

[RELATED POST: Top Nine CV Bloopers Ever (And How to Avoid Making Them)]

What have you got going on?

If you have managed to hit the four criteria above it’s the Recruiter’s job to secure you for their company. They therefore will want some signal of interest from you and uncover any competition they have for it.

Be honest, if you want the job let them know. Indicate what other opportunities you have going on without being explicit. It’s a fine line, withholding information could sour the relationship, yet being too open weaken your negotiation position.

We all want someone in demand; it reaffirms our choices if they are also attractive to others.

So did you give them what they wanted? The easier you make it for the Recruiter to meet their objectives the more chance you have in securing the role, you never know you might just get that party invite after all?

Sarah Cooper has over 14 years Recruitment experience gained in both an internal and agency environment. As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy Ltd, specialist Finance and HR Recruiters, she is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today. Follow her helpful tweets @approachmarket

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Categories: General Career Advice


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8 Comments on “Job Candidates: Five Things Every Recruiter REALLY Wants to Know about You”

  1. Fran J
    August 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    This is a great article. Over the years, I’ve had a few run in with recruiters, and looking back at the interviews – I know understand why they ask what they ask. If only I read this a few years ago…!!!

    But my one question is can you explain in great detail about your last point — how to strike that balance between withholding information and being open. I’ve been in this position and it’s very awkward!

    Thanks for the article!

    • August 24, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      Hi Fran,

      Thanks for the comment. Hopefully understanding why someone wants the information will help in the future.

      The same could be said on striking the balance – giving some thought as to why they would want to know. If you withhold information, such as interviewing elsewhere, the Recruiter may feel mislead or stupid in front of their client / boss. If at the last minute you reveal other offers the company may feel you are trying to play opportunities off of one another in a bid to push up the salary and are not really considering them at all?

      I believe if you let them know from the outset the top line of information such as: “I am interviewing with another local Telecommunications organisation for another marketing position.” You are covering this off without giving away the company name or sensitive information such as specific offer details including salary.

      I would also give timescale information if it could affect the outcome of your application with them. For example:” I have a third and final interview on week beginning the x” If you don’t let them know they have no opportunity to try and speed their process up, you would be surprised at the accommodations some clients will make for a candidate they are keen on.

      Remember, they may know someone at that particular company and you do not want to jeopardise your position. Also, remaining discreet is professional. They would not wish you to discuss any offer or arrangement you had made. We are really entering into negotiation now though, perhaps this article : could help you further?

      Kind Regards

  2. Seret Recruiter
    August 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    As an active recruiter (but too afraid to go public with my details!) I must completely agree with the list. In fact, our agency has the first four points as a matter of policy. And having read your article, Sarah, perhaps I should suggest point 5 as well!!

    But Sarah, you must agree it’s remarkable how many candidates come copletely unprepared.

    • August 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

      Yes, remarkably even in difficult times, candidates are often completely unprepared. That’s good news for those out there that wish to stand out.

      Some people however do not take agency interviews seriously. They say things like “Of course, I would never say that at interview with x ”

      This is very risky – they do not know the relationship you may have, and may under estimate the weight your decision holds. I sometimes act as the first stage to a process with my clients, I pose the questions we have crafted together and comment on the responses. Even though I make this clear, some candidates still feel that the agency meeting is a rehearsal.

      I have to say even when I recruited directly internally some preparation was still very poor though.

      The candidate’s preparation speaks volumes about them as an individual and their attitude, in fact in answers points 2, 3 and 4 of those above!

    September 7, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    The article is very concise and enlightening. I agree on the approach that as, an interviewee, one has to put on the shoes of the interviewer to ‘help’ him make a decision. One of the key things every interviewee needs to have in order to apply these techniques is confidence and self-esteem. You have to show yourself calm and self-confident.

    I have just started my job hunt this week. Hope to get an interview soon and apply this good pieces of advise.

  4. Waqas Ahmad
    September 29, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    very nice and informative article..

  5. January 28, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    I agree with others who have made comments, a great article. For me, it summarises the mind set that people who are commencing a jobsearch need to have. The steps really describe the process for making a career change and reinforcing that you really do need to market yourself in terms that are relevant to the needs of the buyer – in this case a recruiter, or prospective employer.

    Best wishes
    Job Search

  6. August 11, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I am sure that all the recruiters need to know a lot about your personality, you don’t need to be so nervous at the interview, because they will think that you are not what they want, you need to answer prompt to their questions and you need to be kind a relaxed. Good post !

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