How to Talk to a Recruiter

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5 Keys to Impressing a Recruiter

Recruiters can seem intimidating, a last line of defense between you and your dream job. But we promise that talking to a recruiter doesn’t have to be scary—and that by following a few simple guidelines during your chat, you’ll be saying “goodbye” to the recruiter and “hello” to a hiring manager very soon. Here’s how to talk to a recruiter.

Make a good first impression

Your mother was right: first impressions are everything. Few recruiters can get past a bad first impression. (No pressure, though.) Poor manners, clumsy interviews, and unreturned phone calls will all hurt your chances of moving on to the next round. So, the first time you meet a recruiter and every time after that, be sure you are on your very best behavior. Because with one misstep, you may not make it to the next one.

One way to impress a recruiter is to reach out to them directly.  “The most important thing you’re trying to do in reaching out to a company recruiter is getting them to like you and consider you further for the position,” says April Klimkiewicz, career coach and owner of bliss evolution. “You may also have questions and want to gather information, but that should be secondary to being polite, kind, enthusiastic about the position and respectful of the recruiter’s time” — these are all guaranteed ways to get on a recruiter’s good side. And when you establish a personal connection with a recruiter, it can do wonders to help you stand out among the dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other applicants all vying for the same job.

It might feel a little strange to reach out to a recruiter at first, but you shouldn’t be shy. Really, you’re doing them a favor.

“If you’re nervous about reaching out, think of yourself as assisting the recruiter in doing their job. If you’re a great candidate, you might be just the right person they’re looking for, and you reaching out can help you stand out from other applicants and help the recruiter get the position filled sooner,” Klimkiewicz points out.

Don't be over-eager

When speaking to a recruiter, you want to appear flexible, but not too flexible. Allow us to explain: the smell of desperation in a job search can be palpable. Whether the bills are piling up, your current gig is an absolute dead end, or this is your dream company, avoid telling a recruiter that you’ll “take anything” for a few key reasons:

  1. You’re selling yourself and your skills short. You are talented, smart and can contribute greatly.
  2. You appear uninformed. Recruiters want well-research, highly engaged, informed candidates to apply for jobs. This statement makes you appear as though you haven’t thought out the decision to apply to the company or do not know how your career goals align with the objectives of the company.
  3. You are signaling that you will settle. Much like dating, jobseekers who appear desperate won’t command the attention or best treatment.

The same goes for salary conversations with a recruiter or hiring manager. Never settle for the opening salary offer. Never. “A salary negotiation is a collaboration, and a key ingredient of a successful collaboration is good communication,” says Josh Doody, author of Fearless Salary Negotiation. “You’ll often get a job offer that seems really appealing, and it might be far more than you expected. Your instinct in that case might be to just accept the offer because it’s so good.”

However, you should be prepared to negotiate your salary and know how much you could earn given your skills, education and location by using Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth personal salary calculator.

Instead of blindly accepting their offer, do your research. Then, Doody says, “formulate a counter offer to see how much you can improve it. The negotiation should end with the company saying “Yes” to you. Once they say “Yes” to you, or you run out of things to ask for, then you are finished negotiating.”

Do your research

Never meet with a recruiter without first taking time to research the company they represent. Head to the company’s Glassdoor profile to investigate things like their company rating—3.3 is the average on Glassdoor—reviews about the CEO, insights and feedback from current and former employees, and be sure to scroll through the photos, videos and mission statements. Click on the ‘salaries’ tab to dive deeper into the compensation specifics. After all, money matters—and Glassdoor has salaries, wages, tips, bonuses, and hourly pay based upon employee reports and estimates.

Armed with this information, you'll be prepared for every step of the interview process.

“The more research you do on a company, the more information you have at your disposal to bring up during the conversation,” says Dawn Rasmussen, a certified résumé writer and president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. This is especially true for introverts, who may “worry about having something to say,” she says. “By being well-read and versed on the target company, it is going to be a lot easier to apply some of that knowledge into your answers. Employers love it when you take the time to get to know their company at more than a superficial level. And you never know when dropping a tidbit into a conversation can turn the tide into your favor.”

We’ve prepared a comprehensive list of everything you need to look for when you’re researching a company:

  1. Locations
  2. Company culture
  3. Company values
  4. Company history
  5. Who you’ll be working with
  6. Their competitors
  7. Financial picture
  8. The vacation policy
  9. Employee community
  10. Healthcare benefits
  11. Recent news
  12. General benefits

Cool it on the keywords

Of course you'll use keywords in your resume—and you'll want to repeat them in an in-person conversation with a recruiter too. But don't go overboard. While it's smart to come off as knowledgeable about your particular industry, you don't want to look smarter than you really are. Authenticity is key. Recruiters want your personality to shine—not your ability to throw out words and phrases like “synergy," and "ROI."

Hard-working, fast-learner, self-motivated and these words can turn off recruters, according to experts. “These are cliche words that don’t really mean anything. They don’t describe what makes you special, or even whether you are a good fit for the company,” says Aurora Meneghello, career coach and founder of Repurpose Your Purpose.

“Instead of using those terms, practice telling a short and specific story that shows how you worked hard, or learned fast. Personal, relevant anecdotes will set you apart from most candidates, and could be the most memorable part of your interview,” Meneghello says.

Impress a recruiter with questions you ask

Yes, you'll need to answer questions like an all-star. But another way to impress a recruiter is by asking the right questions of them. Ask questions that show him or her you want to better understand the position, what the company culture is like, and how she or he will define success in the role. Some questions could include:

  • What do the day-to-day responsibilities of the role look like?
  • What are the company’s values? What characteristics do you look for in employees in order to represent those values?
  • What’s your favorite part about working at the company?
  • What does success look like in this position, and how do you measure it?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development?  If so, what do those look like?
  • Who will I be working most closely with?
  • What do you see as the most challenging aspect of this job?
  • Is there anything about my background or resume that makes you question whether I am a good fit for this role?

Learn More!

As you progress through an interview with a recruiter, be sure to continue to fact-check the information you’re being told with the reviews left by the company's employees on Glassdoor. This will inform the questions you ask the recruiter, and allows you to dig even deeper into the company culture and even team dynamics.

Here are a few resources to help you navigate every stage of the interview process:

How to Sell Yourself to a Hiring Manager

8 Secrets Recruiters Won’t Tell You (But Really Want To)

The Right Way to Network With a Recruiter

6 Things to Never Say to a Recruiter

Recruiters and Hiring Managers Dish on Their Most Memorable Candidates

11 Questions to Ask In an Interview, According to a Hiring Manager

Ask An Interview Coach: What Hiring Managers Want to Hear from Candidates in a Phone Interview

We Asked 750 Hiring Managers What Makes a Candidate Irresistible, Here’s What They Said