Have you ever seen that Mel Gibson movie, “What Women Want”? In the film, Gibson’s character survives a freak accident, only to discover that he now has the power to read women’s minds. I won’t get into too much discussion about the potential merits (or terrors) associated with this power – that would be a surefire way to get myself in trouble – but I would like to consider the concept from a different angle:
What if you could read the recruiter’s mind just as Mel Gibson could read the minds of women? I think that the needs and expectations you would discover could be boiled down to just a few very simple points.
First of all, let’s set the stage. The typical recruiter probably has a lot going on that you don’t see as a candidate. They are communicating with hiring managers within their company, trying to establish and meet hiring goals, and also constantly dealing with external communications from candidates, career centers, etc. They are busy people, traveling to various places for career fairs and supporting the logistics of candidate offers, contracts, and negotiations. Of course, they have personal lives as well.
Before you sit down to meet with a recruiter for the first time, they will have devoted several hours to screening candidates at job fairs or sifting through resumes for the position, but they will also probably be simultaneously going through that process for other positions within the company. Perhaps the day before meeting with you they were at a career fair, then flew back to the office (or your campus) to conduct interviews. Tomorrow they may be on the road again, all the while trying to screen incoming resumes and maintain contact with applicants who rise to the top.
Long story short, there is a lot on their mind, and when recruiters do sit down to have a 30-60 minute conversation with you, their focus will be to quickly uncover your abilities, measure your fit with the company and make a decision about you as quickly as possible. In the world of business – even as a recruiter – time is money. Employers are constantly performing a balancing act between ensuring quality in their applicant pool and making the hiring process smooth and efficient.
This is the general landscape of recruiting, and for that reason there are a few very key qualities that can make or break your performance during the initial round of interviewing. Let’s take a look:
This sounds simple, and it probably is the most obvious and important component of landing a job. At the end of the day, no matter what else you have going for you, you have to demonstrate that you’re qualified.
If you’ve landed an interview, you have likely passed this test (at least initially) based upon the recruiter’s interpretation of your resume and application materials. But employers use interviews as a chance to further probe your qualifications and address any concerns they may have.
This means you should be prepared to talk about any perceived weaknesses and have a solid understanding of what skills the position requires. When in doubt, express your willingness to learn and your enthusiasm for the role – sometimes being a good fit with the organization is enough to overcome minor weaknesses in your qualifications.
Sincerity and honesty are very important aspects of the interview. Part of this comes from self-reflection – do you truly understand what is important to you in a job, what your strengths are, and how you fit within the company? An honest understanding of these traits (along with the ability to convey them) is imperative for connecting with the recruiter and making a good impression.
The same is true about your deal-breakers. If you’re not willing to relocate, be honest with the employer and don’t waste their time. Going through multiple interviews when you know the employer may not be a good fit in terms of salary, culture, location, etc. will only end up frustrating all parties involved.
Ask good questions during your initial interview to address these concerns, and be honest if you are asked about potential deal-breakers. As long as you approach these issues in a professional manner, it will ultimately help you find a good fit in the long run.
Be a Good Fit
Already throughout this blog entry I’ve mentioned the phrase “good fit” several times. This point is repeated because it is important – “fit” is one of the terms that we hear about from recruiters over and over and over again. So how can you demonstrate this quality?
Well, the points outlined above are part of the puzzle – your qualifications and your genuine interest in the position are important. Beyond just being interested, a sincere enthusiasm for the company and the position is another way to demonstrate fit. In other words, are you “just looking for a job”, or are you looking for THIS job? If you can convince the interviewer that you are truly interested in their company – by being genuine, not being cheesy – then you score some major points.
Letting some of your personality come through during the interview is also helpful. Try to connect with the recruiter on a human level while still being professional. Remember, people spend a large portion of their waking hours at work – employers strive to bring in candidates who are positive and at least somewhat enjoyable to be around.
Overall, a sense of fit encourages the recruiter that you will be happy with the company – at least for a while – and that you won’t back out of the offer or quit after a few months. Again, time is money, and the last thing a recruiter wants is to go through the process of replacing you if there is a mismatch.
Finally, it is important to be professional. Regardless of whether you excel in every category outlined above, a lack of professionalism can kill your chances of getting hired. This category could include anything ranging from your communication skills to your dress.
Attention to detail is important, so make sure you think through your interview preparation carefully and get feedback from others if you have any questions. As they interact with you, the recruiter will be asking themselves questions such as “Can I put this person in front of my customers? Can I put this person in front of my boss?” If the answer is no (or even maybe), then you probably won’t make the final cut.
What’s the best way to hone your professionalism? Practice, practice, practice.
Professional skills are really more like habits, and include a multitude of small acts like handshakes, small talk, interview responses or writing cover letters. Try to exude professionalism in your everyday life to make these skills a natural part of your personal brand. One easy tip for demonstrating professionalism? Send a nice follow-up email shortly after your interview. Not only does this reinforce your sincere interest in the company, but it also impresses recruiters and keeps your name fresh in their mind!