20 Things Recruiters Want, But Won’t Tell You (HR Insider)

20 Things Recruiters Want, But Won’t Tell You (HR Insider)

It’s still a tough job market out there, and you’ll need to be on top of your game throughout the job search process to get hired. While your experience is important, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Recruiters are evaluating everything to determine if you’re going to be a fit for their team, and every single action and communication – whether verbal, nonverbal, or written – can be the difference between getting a job or being passed over for another candidate.

You’ll likely never hear these directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, because most recruiters are reluctant to, and even discouraged from, giving feedback. Unfortunately, candidates are then left wondering where they went wrong. With that in mind, I’m sharing a list of the most common things recruiters want from candidates that you won’t find in the job description.

20 Things Recruiters Want From Candidates:

1. Timing is everything

Timing is everything when looking for a job, and the early bird gets the worm. The first contact from a recruiter is a test of your interest, as well as your communication skills – so always respond quickly!  [Further Reading: 10 Ways You Are Absolutely Bombing Your Job Search]

2. We don’t like it when people aren’t on time

It doesn’t matter what the reason is – if you’re late, it’s a bad first impression. Check weather, check traffic, and leave yourself double the amount of time you’ll actually need to get to your interview on time.

3. Pushy behavior doesn’t go over well

Don’t call and email every day to follow up. The recruiter will contact you when they have news. If you feel a burning desire to follow up anyway, use the opportunity to ask questions relevant to the position – not just to “check in”.

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4. We pay attention to your verbal communication skills

We listen closely during interviews. Chances are good that people whose speech is cluttered with “like” and “uhm” or those who are too casual in their speech and use slang or profanity won’t get the job. Practice your answers and compose yourself before answering to sound as professional as possible.

5. We want you to showcase your business communication skills

No matter how casual the recruiter seems to be via email, always stay professional. Don’t start an email with “Hey” or use abbreviations or slang when providing written content to employers.

6. Your handshake might very well be your first impression

Too hard, too soft, too sweaty – it’s most likely a recruiter’s first interaction with you, and if its awful, they’ll remember.

7. We pay attention to how you’re dressed

Go for clean, neat, and simple. Avoid flashy, provocative, or messy outfits, or that’s all the recruiter will remember.

8. Bad personal hygiene is, well, bad

Whether it’s messy hair, BO, or even a minor case of halitosis, the interview team will remember that above your stellar background. Take a few minutes to prep, pop a mint, and (lightly) spray some perfume to be interview ready.

9. We expect you to do your research

Make sure at least two of your questions to the interviewer cite information about the company or the position you are interviewing for. There’s no excuse for not spending just a few minutes on the employer’s website before an interview.

10. Your eye contact might need work

Not looking a recruiter in the eye makes them think you’re hiding something or aren’t interested in what they’re saying, but staring too long will make them uncomfortable.

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11. We opt for candidates who demonstrate passion for the role

Recruiters want to know that you want their job, not just a job. Tie something specific about the role to your personal interests and goals.

12. Focusing too much on money is a red flag

Employers expect some small negotiations over salary, but shopping out their offer or making an unreasonable salary request shows that you’re in it for the money, not for the job.

13. We want you to ask questions – good questions!

Make your questions count. Find out what the daily schedule looks like, what the reporting structure is, or why the job is open – questions like these will show recruiters that you’re interested in finding out if this is the right job for you.

14. Honesty is everything

Whether you already know you’re accepting another offer, you embellished your experience, or you have some heinous misdemeanor crime that you’re trying to hide, the recruiter will find out eventually – and they won’t be happy that you lied about it.

15. We don’t respond well to cockiness 

Confidence is important in an interview, but there’s a fine line between knowing you can do the job and thinking that you know more than the interviewer. Accept that they know the job better than you do, and make your interview about finding out how you can contribute to the team, not just telling them that you’re the best.

16. You should always send a thank you letter

Write a clear, concise thank you note to each of your interviewers, and cite something different from each of your conversations.  Send the note 1-2 days after your interview. [Further Reading: How To Write A Thank You Letter]

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17. We see right through your buzzwords

You can only throw so many buzzwords into a conversation before the team starts to think you’re just quoting a textbook. You need to show them that you’re up to speed on the latest innovative ideas and how you’ve used them – the buzzwords themselves won’t convey that you know what you’re doing.

18. Stumbling through your experience raises red flags

You should know your resume like the back of your hand. Stumbling on questions about your experience makes the interviewer think you might have embellished your actual experience.

19. We want to know about your impact at past organizations

Recruiters want to know why your daily tasks mattered – did they create revenue? Did you contribute to the implementation of a marketing plan? Think bigger than just your cubicle when answering questions about your experience.

20. We keep an eye out for consistency 

Every single communication and action is being scrutinized during the interview process, and every person you speak with during the interview process will have some sort of say in the final decision. Make sure your communications, and your actions, are consistent throughout the entire interview process, and the interviewers will be confident that you’ll succeed in the role.

These are some of the most common things my colleagues and I hear hiring managers groan about after interviewing candidates. If you remember that hiring managers are evaluating the full picture – not just what’s on your resume – you’ll be prepared to nail your next interview!


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  • Duane Martin

    What is wrong with being in it for the money? Isn’t that why we go to work everyday? So many of these points are totally off the mark. Recruiters are unbelievable.

  • Axe Effect

    I do not know in which sector you work Danielle but many of these advices range from irrelevant to wrong or event discriminatory. They only have in mind recruiters needs rather than candidate or company requirements.

    Recruiting world is in general a shallow middleware layer which by itself does not add value to the candidate-company relationship. Simply it offers overpriced managing of inaccurate copy&paste ads over job websites and email spamming that otherwise would not take much time to do to a company. Unlike agencies like TopTal, 99% of agencies do not apply skill assessment to candidates. So recruiters will not have a clue about how good is a candidate or whether if the CV is meaningful. They do not understand most of the content of CVs. The success finding a proper candidate is the same as if the company would do the selection process by itself.

    In many positions, how you dressed should be considered irrelevant. The same for handshaking, or whatever means ‘business communication skills’.

    If this criteria was applied to the recruiting world most recruiters spectacularly would fail. Like the points about honesty, thank you letter, focusing too much on money or buzzywords. Recruiters are possibly one of the guilds which use sales and marketing language the most. They speak a lot but conveying zero message and trust. Their calls full of generic random adjectives are one-way, you being forced to hear their one-shape-only-change-client-name messages and just having the chance to give short answers. Commission is the ultimate target for a recruiter. They are simply salesmen. Today are selling job positions, tomorrow will be selling Nutribullets.

    • Lika564

      Thank you Axe Effect! If recruiters/HR personnel practiced what they preached, the process would be outstanding whether the candidate is rejected or not. It shows common courtesy and respect for another person’s time and talents.

  • Terry Bardy

    How come the person who interview you tell you that they will(yeah sure,) call you at a certain time and they never call you back? Isn’t that lying? And doesn’t that show a lack of respect? I know that I would never want to work for a company that lies.

  • Very good tips on what recruiters want, Danielle!