interview with recruitment agency

Making a positive impression on a recruiter can be a game-changer in your job search, and understanding the dos and don'ts when meeting them is often overlooked. There’s still some groundwork candidates put into a job interview before meeting a recruiter for the first time.

Even at the senior level, many job candidates cannot clearly articulate their career goals or name target companies or sectors due to a lack of preparation. The reality is you’ll get a lot more out of meeting a recruiter if you’ve spent some time preparing and thinking about your next move, prior experience and how you want to approach your job search. During an interview with a recruiter, having even a loose idea of how you want your career to progress will go a long way.

And here’s another thing: Poor performance with a recruiter does have ramifications. Think about it – if you get it wrong in an interview with one company’s hiring manager, that’s one company you probably won’t have much success with in the future. In addition, if you perform poorly in an interview with a recruiter who looks 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

Ready to maximize your chances of landing that dream job? Here are the top dos and don’ts when meeting and working with a recruiter:


Dress up when meeting a recruiter

Presentation matters. A recruiter expects you to dress sharply. We want to see you in formal attire – or smart casual as a minimum – and you can dress down if appropriate after you’ve got the job, but it’s always better to aim for business wear during an interview. Your clothes should be smart but also 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 and it’s a factor recruiters definitely remember about you.

Show up on time

Again, this is an essential 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 for a face to face interview, check 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, especially public transport breakdowns.

Keep a spreadsheet of your job search

We see many people who have done a lot in their search before speaking with a recruitment consultant but haven’t kept track of any of it. Our advice is to keep a spreadsheet and be disciplined about it. That way, we’re not sending your CV to our clients who have already seen it. And it also shows that you’re engaged, organised and active in your job search rather than waiting for us to do all the legwork. This is especially impressive in a tough job market.

Prepare by reading over your CV

There are times when I'm interviewing and I ask a candidate for detail about something in their CV but they can’t remember the specifics. You need to be highly familiar with the contents of your CV so you can instantly remember your responsibilities, transferable skills and achievements for a particular role when asked to elaborate.

Consider it 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 and professional skills 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 us, it’s imperative to first have a look at which companies they represent or are likely to work with. If there’s a particular company or sector you’re interested in, and we already have a relationship with them, it’s helpful for you to make that connection. If you’re unsure about which companies or industries your recruiter deals with, simply let them know you’re interested in certain job opportunities in particular. It may not lead to exactly what you’re looking for but it can help to steer the discussion to the right job for you.

Come prepared with questions

When meeting with us, they will certainly have an array of questions for you to answer. But don’t forget, this is a time when you can ask questions too. This will not only have you feeling more confident about the potential work that will come of it, but it also shows us that you’re genuinely thinking about the role. Questions for your recruiter could be anything from “Is this a newly created role or an existing one?” to “What can you tell me about the workplace culture?”

RELATED: How to get the most out of your relationship with your recruiter

Send a follow up email after the interview

Following up on a job interview can be a great way to solidify your personal brand, and to help your recruiter remember you. This is a place where you can thank them for their time, reiterate your enthusiasm for the role, and potentially ask any questions that didn’t occur to you during the interview itself.


Remove your address from your CV

Please don't remove your address from your CV. Why? Someone who lives in Coffs Harbour will require a completely different strategy 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” or “Based in Coffs Harbour, willing to relocate 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 career path plan and share it with us, 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.

RELATED: Top 5 soft skills to demonstrate at an interview

Veer off track

An interview typically lasts between 45 minutes and an hour. During this time, they aim 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 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 reasonable 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 telling us

There’s no problem with being unavailable or going on holiday, 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.

Be afraid

You should be able to talk easily and comfortably in any interview, but especially with a recruiter, since the way you present yourself is how they’re going to represent you to potential employers. If you’re worried about nerves before seeing a recruiter, try practising answers to some interview 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 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 when meeting a recruiter

Let your recruiter give you feedback, listen to it and take it on board. It might not 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. Many other recruitment agencies won't take the time to do this.

Our recruitment agency is on your side - we want you to find a good job!

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