Recruiters may seem intimidating, but they genuinely want the best for both candidates and the company. Good recruiters want you to have the best experience possible during the application and interview process — but even though they want the best for you, there are some things that they just can't share.
Salary bands, candidate competition, internal HR tactics — let’s just call them trade secrets. They are the confidential information that, unfortunately, recruiters cannot divulge.
To get to the truth, we reached out to Omer Molad, CEO/Founder of Vervoe, a recruiting company that replaces face-to-face interviews with online simulations for small and medium-sized businesses. Molad built his business on the premise that hiring is painful, and he has unique insight into the frustrations and insights of recruiters.
Here are a few of the secrets that Molad says recruiters won’t tell you, but really want to.
1. “We could have gone higher if you had negotiated.”
Salary negotiations are like a game of poker — both job seekers and recruiters are trying to maintain control and win the hand. “Very few (if any) recruiters will be so bold as to say ‘we took advantage of you and we don’t value you highly,’” says Molad. In fact, there is often a salary band or range that recruiters have for each role. Their initial salary offer is very rarely at the top of their salary band, so base pay — as well as benefits like vacation days, work hours, etc. — can usually be negotiated.
2. “Don’t go overboard with buzzwords — we can tell.”
It’s smart to include keywords in your resume and to come off as knowledgeable about your particular industry. However, “don’t try to look smarter than you really are,” says Molad unabashedly. Authenticity is key. Recruiters and employers want your personality to shine — not your ability to throw out words and phrases like “synergy,” “move the needle,” “ROI,”feed the funnel,” etc.
“It’s not about specific questions or answers that stand out, but rather the candidates who display a great deal of passion about what they do that really stand above the rest,” says employer Academy Sports + Outdoors.
3. “You never had a chance after that bad first impression.”
Your mother was right: first impressions are everything. And according to Molad, few recruiters can get past a bad first impression. Unreturned phone calls, poor manners and clumsy interviews will all hurt your chances of moving on to the next round. Hiring managers and recruiters will bite their tongues, fighting back the desire to say, “We just don’t like you,” says Molad. However, take it from us: You must really dazzle if you’d like to make up for a rocky first impression.
“Interviewers often care more about the likability of entry-level candidates than whether or not they’re actually qualified for the job,” says career coach Peter Yang. “This is because the person interviewing you will often also be your future boss and mentor, so it makes perfect sense that they would want to hire someone whom they personally like and want to work with. A strong interview performance means establishing a strong connection with your interviewer. Try to show off your personality instead of just answering questions robotically. You can even get a bit personal if you’d like to.”
4. “Your references weren't very flattering.”
If a recruiter or hiring manager had doubts about you, they won’t let you know if unflattering references just confirmed their doubts, Molad says. “Your references should talk about your strengths in specific situations — not just basic information,” adds HR expert Jordan Perez. “[References] should be ready to provide examples of actual projects where you exceeded expectations. Your reference should easily cite one or two situations that highlight your strengths."
“Bad references can ruin your candidacy as much as good ones can strengthen it,” says Sam Keefe, Digital Marketing Manager at AVID Technical Resources. Her advice to ensure that only the good shines through? “Give only references who will say positive things about you. Work hard to build good working relationships with coworkers and bosses.”
5. “I back-channeled you, and found out the truth.”
Backdoor references, or back-channeling, is one of the sneaky ways hiring managers and recruiters gather more information about you — it refers to when employers reach out to mutual connections in order to get their honest opinion of you. “This phenomenon is even more prevalent in the last five years or so because of LinkedIn’s growing popularity,” says Keefe. “Even if you choose not to give anybody there as a reference, backdoor references can reveal the skeletons in your closet. Backdoor references can be especially common when you’re looking for a job in sectors like tech.”
6. “We already gave the job to an in-house employee.”
Unfortunately, it’s perfectly legal to advertise a job that is almost certain to be filled by an insider. In fact, some research has shown that internal hires generally perform better than external ones. However, “phantom jobs” can be downright annoying when you're looking for a new position. Even though federal labor rules don't require employers to post openings, many HR departments require roles to be listed on a job board for some period of time to ensure a fair hiring process. Therefore, Molad says, don’t expect recruiters to come right out and say, “It was a beauty parade to show management we ran a process, but it was a sham and you were never really considered.”
Instead, shake it off and get back on the horse — there are plenty of opportunities out there, and the job that fits your life is just a few clicks away.
7. “Your last few social media posts were deal-breakers.”
Roughly 80 percent of recruiters and hiring managers use social media to look for and vet job candidates, making it extremely important to have a professional presence on the Internet.
“Hiring managers are reviewing social media pages to become educated about the background and brand the person is articulating and to look for red flags,” says Alan Weatherbee, senior vice president of talent search for Allison+Partners. “They aren’t using it to find ways not to hire someone who is qualified, but to make sure they present themselves in an accurate way.”
According to employment experts, you should make sure that your social media pages, whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, mesh with what you're saying on your resume, cover letter and other application materials. After all, no one is going to hire someone who claims to be a head of marketing in their resume while their Facebook page is full of complaints about their job answering phones at an advertising company.
Janet Elkin, Chief Executive of workplace staffing company Supplemental Healthcare, says you want to make sure your social media pages are void of any political comments, inflammatory messages or anything else that might offend the person who might just hold your future in their hands.
8. “The team is dragging its feet waiting for another candidate’s response.”
Even the most direct recruiters and hiring managers will hesitate to tell you that you’re “Plan B,” says Molad. So if an employer seems to be dragging its feet or delaying in giving you the green light to proceed — or the red light that you’re not right for the role — chances are they have another candidate in the pipeline.
Don’t take it too personally — being a runner-up isn’t a horrible thing. Often times, other candidates fall out of the running because of personal circumstances or other job offers. Being number two still means you are in contention. If you feel like a recruiter is slowing your process down in order to accommodate a preferred candidate, use it as a challenge to convince the recruiter of your awesomeness and your true fit for the role.
No matter what, remember that the secrets recruiters keep are withheld with the business in mind, not because they are trying to be malicious. If you are faced with any of these, the right opportunity probably just hasn't come your way yet. Don’t be afraid to be upfront with a recruiter and communicate both your concerns and your goals.
What goes wrong in interviews with great candidates.
Well I’ll tell you. After speaking with 2 recruiters, 3 HR people and 2 CEO’s across the Aviation, Finance and Marketing Industries I narrowed their comments down to 10 things that were clear deal breakers.
Plus I’ve added a few tips to consider and prepare for prior to your next job interview.
ONE: Not researching the company thoroughly.
Google is your best friend, as my Gen Y colleagues say to me on repeat whenever I ask them a question; “Google it Kirsty!” Google everything always and often.
If a candidate attends an interview with me and they don’t know about my business in a lot of detail … See ya later.
TWO: It’s like getting blood out of a stone.
Nobody likes interviews, but every question is an opportunity for you to shine after all, being easy to deal with builds rapport. So take that question with both hands and give me everything you’ve got.
Dragging information out of a candidate is exhausting – trust me. It is often obvious that they have great potential and experience but unless they tell us, we cannot assess them.
THREE: They bought no ideas to the table.
Whatever the role, employers hire people who deliver. Deliver solutions and ideas as well as outcomes. They hire how you think and act, and that makes ideas, lateral thinking and problem resolution some of top skills and attributes they seek. Think of some specific examples in advance that illustrate how you to achieved these things in the past.
Employers hire how you think and how you act
FOUR: Sharing opinions instead of facts.
Evidence baby evidence. Employers want evidence of your ability and what you can achieve for them. Not opinions, as they say… everyone has one. Stick to the facts and evidence rather than fluffy general answers.
A good way to self-monitor is if you start a sentence with “I believe” STOP… you are probably about to give your opinion.
FIVE: Being forgettable.
I may have spoken to 2 Sues and 3 Johns today (I can't say Karen's anymore :), it becomes a bit of a blur, don’t be a blur.
Take the time to think about what might make you memorable in an entire line up of Sues and Johns. Something unique about you, something nobody else could say. Not earth-shattering just unique.
SIX:Swearing: even if the ‘F’ word is part of the vernacular nowadays.
The interview might be pretty relaxed, great, but neither of you actually know each other, so the ‘F’ word is way too familiar and is therefore – out. Most roles will require some form of professional communication ability and you can guarantee that you will be assessed on that.
Should it slip into a coaching session, no biggy, my usual response “Don’t F..ing swear at me.” Always gets a laugh – and point made.
SEVEN: You lost me right after “hello”.
Pretty close to question number one is “Tell me about yourself – or career?”
Presenting a diatribe of irrelevant information during that first interaction is snoozeville.
Keep it succinct and keep it relevant.
So no, we probably don’t need to know that you race trail bikes in your spare time and had 2 broken legs in 12 months. Oh yes, I had that answer recently and all I could think was, wow he probably has quite a bit of down time.
EIGHT: Not understanding the question.
If you don’t understand the question, please please please DO NOT ask for the question to be repeated. Why? Because you will just get the same information.
The recruitment team are not perfect and can be unintentionally ambiguous. You need to be specific in your response… ‘sorry, are you asking this or is it this?’ Get the right information before you kick off your answer.
NINE: Being blatantly honest, literal and uncensored.
No I am not advocating lying – ever! I am however advocating being strategic in your responses. People will only know what you chose to tell them, so select information that supports your ability rather than detracts from it. How you perceive yourself is not always how others do so why disadvantage yourself.
If I leave an interview thinking, ‘Why did he/she tell me that?’ then you may have volunteered something that has disadvantaged you.
TEN: Not engaging the team with intelligent, relevant, well thought out questions.
Got none? Sometimes it is hard to find something you don’t already know, particularly as so much information is available on-line. But you need too.
A couple of places to find great questions are: Company media releases, industry forums, or try discussing future plans and growth or market influences.
Always ask if there are other avenues for you to contribute within the business or even how to get involved in the community projects supported by the business.
I once Googled Woodside Offshore Petroleum and found they had an ace volleyball team… yep I used to play, so guess what I asked at interview?
Give yourself the best chance of success with a little research, finding facts that illustrate your value and potential and decide on that one sentence, you know... the one, that they will remember you for.
With a little preparation a candidate can be ready for just about everything.