Here’s a secret about recruitment – it’s not rocket science. And yet I am consistently amazed by how little preparation candidates put into an interview with a recruiter.
Very rarely do I meet someone, even at the senior level, who can articulate their career goals or even name target companies or sectors. The reality is you will get a lot more out of a meeting with a recruiter if you have spent some time preparing and thinking about your next move, prior experience and how you want to approach your job search. Having even a loose idea of how you want your career to progress can go a long way.
And here’s something else: poor performance with a recruiter does have ramifications. Think about it – if you go wrong in an interview with one company’s hiring manager, then that’s one company you probably won’t have much success with in the future. If you perform poorly in an interview with a recruiter who will be looking after recruitment for a number of organisations in your area, there are now a number of companies where the recruiter may be reluctant to represent you.
RELATED: Surviving your job search
So, with that in mind, here are the top do’s and don’ts when meeting and working with a recruiter:
Presentation matters. A recruiter expects you to dress sharply. We want to see you in formal – or smart casual as a minimum – you can dress down if necessary when you’ve got the job, but it’s always better aim for business wear. Your clothes should be smart and comfortable so you aren’t constantly adjusting or fidgeting.
Is it always necessary to wear full business attire? Maybe not. But the effort is relatively low and it may, especially in an exceptionally rich candidate market, make the difference when shortlisting. Dress to the more formal end of your industry’s standards. Being dressed smartly will never be to an applicant’s detriment.
Show up on time
Again, this is a basic requirement. Don’t turn up massively early or late. Obviously early is better than late, but if you’re an hour early, it can be awkward too. And if you’re late, how do we know you won’t do the same when we send you to meet one of our clients?
If you’re worried about not being on time, check ahead of time for parking or public transport near your appointment, and look up live traffic and track-work updates. There’s nothing wrong with leaving yourself a little time as a buffer for unexpected events, but it shouldn’t be more than 10-15 minutes.
Keep a spreadsheet of your job search
We see a lot of people who have done a lot in their search before meeting us, but haven’t kept track of any of it. My advice is to keep a spreadsheet and be disciplined about it. That way I’m not sending your CV to companies who have already seen it, and it also shows that you’re engaged, organised and active in your job search rather than waiting for the recruiter to do all the legwork.
Read over your CV
There are times when I ask a candidate for detail about something in their CV and they can’t remember the specifics. You need to be highly familiar with your CV so you can instantly remember your responsibilities and achievements in a role.
That’s time well spent when you can come in and confidently explain your previous experience – not to mention you’ll then be more comfortable talking about it in job interviews. Strong and easy-to-explain examples of aspects of your role are also crucial; you should be able to explain your role in one to two sentences. Check out our cover letter and CV advice for more tips on writing the perfect CV.
Do your research
Before you meet with a recruiter, have a look first at which companies they represent or are likely to work with. If there’s a particular company or sector you’re interested in, and your recruiter already has a relationship with them, it’s helpful for you to make that connection.
Remove your address from your CV
If you want to put a recruiter off, remove your address from your CV. Why? Someone who lives in Coffs Harbour will require a completely different job search from someone who lives in Sydney.
If you’re worried that we will see that you live in Coffs Harbour and discount you for a role in Sydney, simply add a bit of narrative to your CV – i.e. “Based in Coffs Harbour and looking to move to Sydney.” The more you can tell us, the better.
Be overly flexible
That is, don’t say “I’ll do anything and work anywhere.” Far from making you seem flexible, it actually makes our job harder, because preferences make it easier to target the right role for you. Have a plan and share it – that way we can find you the job you really want. If you’re unsure of the exact role or position you’re looking for, even just detailing the types of roles you’ve been successful in or enjoyed in the past can be very helpful in finding your next job.
Veer off track
When a recruiter meets you, they have between forty-five minutes and an hour to get to know your career story and where you’re heading. In this situation, being succinct and direct is your best bet to get through all the questions the recruiter will ask.
Make sure you’re really listening to the question and focusing your answer on what the recruiter needs to know (which is not necessarily the same as what you want to tell them). The recruiter will ask for more details if they’re required. This is especially true if you are meeting a consultant who works in the interim/temporary markets.
Hide your past mistakes
There’s no need to lie about gaps in your CV or short tenures. People make mistakes in their career, take breaks, go on parental leave, and return to study all the time. Honesty with your recruiter builds trust in the relationship, which will help us feel comfortable about representing you – and we tend to find out if you’ve been economical with the truth.
It’s understandable to want to present the best possible version of yourself and your past, but it’s more important to trust your recruiter from the start, even with the mistakes, and let us find the best way to guide you.
Go on holiday
… without letting your recruiter know. There’s no problem with being unavailable, but it’s important for recruiters to be in the know so you’re not being put forward for interviews that you can’t attend. It doesn’t help anyone – you, your recruiter or potential employers – if you don’t communicate.
You should be able to talk easily and comfortably in any interview, but especially with a recruiter, since the way you present yourself in that meeting is how they’re going to represent you to potential employers. If you’re worried about nerves before seeing a recruiter, try practicing answers to some questions you’re likely to be asked.
You shouldn’t memorise prepared responses, because you can’t know for certain how questions will be phrased or what style of interview it will be. Rather, practice answering different questions in different ways so that you’re fluent and comfortable talking about yourself.
RELATED: 5 ways to handle interview nerves
And a final piece of advice…
Let your recruiter give you feedback, listen to it and take it on board. It mightn’t feel nice to be rejected for a role, but your recruiter will be able to give you constructive criticism on why you missed out, so take the time to listen and stop to reflect and consider how you might use this advice next time.
Your recruiter is on your side! We want to you to find a good job, so we aren’t going to give you criticism for no reason. Listen to our advice.
Want more advice on getting the most out of your recruiter? Check out this article on how to best work with your recruiter.
Or if you’re ready to meet a recruiter, get in touch with Michael Page today.
Treat a meeting with a recruiter like an interview with a company. Be well presented, on time and engaged with the process.
Be honest about past mistakes or gaps in your CV, and be open to feedback. The recruiter can provide valuable advice to improve your chances, but only if you're willing to listen and act on it.
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