The Recruiter Interview and What it Means


On January 22nd, Jessica Dickler published a story on, entitled “Headhunters Get the Ax.”   As a headhunter, the guillotine has not yet fallen on my head, but  you can bet that I’m not too busy when it comes to my recruiting efforts.  So, I’ve decided to blog on this crazy media business and the job search process to help those of you who have indeed  been caught up in downsizing and layoffs.

 To start, I’d like to share my two-cents about interviewing with recruiters.   Although there are not many jobs for the taking right now, if you are on the hunt, chances are you will be interviewing with recruiters like yours truly.  Before I get into specific advice, let me lay down the lingo.  When a recruiter says “candidate,” he is referring to the job seeker.  A client is the company or organization that hires the recruiter to find them a candidate.  

Recruiters work primarily in two different ways – on retainer, which means they are exclusively searching for the candidate and they get paid a retention fee by the client to find that person.  Contingency is the other way this business works.  If I’m working on contingency, it means I only get paid if I make a placement.  This gets to be a bit of a dog and pony routine if my client decides to hire multiple recruiters and we all start calling the same people for the same job.   You may have experienced this yourselves last year when the market was hot and your phone was ringing off the hook with recruiters trying to get you to talk to them.  I can’t tell you the number of times I called a candidate and they said “oh, hey Jane, some other recruiter called me on that just yesterday.”  Well, now you know why.  When the market is hot, clients hire 2, 3, 10 recruiters to fill the same job.  It’s not the most logical approach but it’s how the business works.

Once you start a dialogue with a recruiter, there are a few things that are important for you to know.  #1, the recruiter does not work for you.  She works for the client — the guy with the deep pockets or pocketbook.  That doesn’t mean that the recruiter shouldn’t respect you and look out for your interests.  Quite the opposite. A good recruiter wants to really understand your needs so she can find you a job that makes you happy AND her client happy.   What’s the point in trying to stick you in a job that won’t work?  If you’re not happy and you leave within a certain time period — ranging from 3 months to a year — guess what? The recruiter has to replace you.  Free of charge!  That’s why I never understand when a recruiter tries to push someone into a job.   It has to be a win-win for everyone.

#2,  I’d be Oprah-wealthy if I had a penny for every time I interviewed a candidate and he or she started a sentence with…”I would never say this on a real interview, but…”  News alert. When you are meeting with a recruiter, you ARE on a real interview.  Remember, recruiters work for their clients, not you (the candidate).  If you start bitching and moaning about your boss or complaining about how you got fired when you’re talking to the recruiter, you can bet she won’t be forwarding you on to her client, or any other future client.  The recruiter analyzes your performance while you interview with her and assumes that this is the way you will perform in front of her client.  Why would she want to send someone spewing negativity?  She wouldn’t.  So, make sure, when you meet with a recruiter, you act appropriately and put a positive spin on everything you have to say, even if you have to cross your fingers and toes under the table while you’re doing so.  The recruiter is the 1st interview.  If you play your cards right, the client interview comes next.

Carpe diem…


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