5 Key Things Recruiters Want to Hear


By the time you find yourself in front of a recruiter, they already know you’re serious about finding a job that’s a better fit and have a clear idea of your skills and accomplishments. That’s all well and good, but what can you say to keep them in your corner—not just during your current job search, but over the course of your career?

There’s no one thing. Recruiters want to hear about “passion” and “enthusiasm,” but they also want to see you’re taking a serious approach. For example, they want to know that you research companies before you go into interviews.

Still, the question remains: What are a recruiter’s hot buttons? Here’s what they say.

Be Ready for Change

Tracy Vistine, a veteran recruiter for the Chicago-based Messina Group, likes candidates who know what they want and have considered a time frame during which they’d like to proceed. She’s always happy to hear something akin to, “I want to make a career change, and am ready to make the transition to a new employer within two months.”

Know Who You Are

Have a real, honest sense of your strengths and weaknesses, “as well as the humility to share that information,” says Eric Sullano, co-founder of Park City, Utah’s JumpSearch. Because his firm specializes in building teams for startups, it’s critical that he knows what his candidates can and can’t do. He likes it when candidates say flat-out something like, “I’m strong at project management, but not so strong at presentations.”

Express Interest

This might seem obvious, but recruiters want to hear that you’re interested in specific opportunities, says Jon Heise, senior technical recruiter at Instant Technology in Chicago. Getting a desirable candidate on board is one of the most challenging aspects of recruitment, he notes. “Our job is so heavily based on research, timing and luck, that once we have a person’s attention, their interest is the most important thing. That starts it all.”

Know What You Want

With over 15 years of experience, Rebecca White, area director for staffing firm Kavaliro in Orlando, Fla., doesn’t want to waste either her time, or her client’s. “A recruiter wants to know that the job we are offering someone is their No. 1 choice,” she says. Yes, she’s more than aware of how competitive the market is for experienced technologists right now. That said, as she works with clients, it’s important for her to feel confident that her offer is the one a candidate will accept.

Say ‘Yes’

David Knapp, metro market manager for Robert Half Technology in San Francisco, says that,“I accept the offer,” are big impact words for him, but not for the reason you might think. Surprisingly, they mark the beginning of another phase of the recruitment process. After a candidate has accepted a position, the recruiter’s commitment often continues: They may help with everything from handling resignations from the candidate’s current jobs to working through the new position’s agreements.

Knapp emphasizes that his staff works hard to maintain contact and wants to work over the long term with both candidates and clients. “We follow up with our candidates at regular intervals to ensure the job is going well and it’s a good fit,” he says. “We also speak to our clients often and obtain feedback on how the candidate is performing, as well.”

Related Articles

Image: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock.com

Upload Your ResumeEmployers want candidates like you. Upload your resume. Show them you’re awesome.

9 Responses to “5 Key Things Recruiters Want to Hear”

  1. Joe Smith

    The average recruiter is fired after a month. When they hire someone else, they call everyone again. Every month I get calls from the same companies asking me about my experience and other questions they could have gotten from looking at my resume. Everyone of them asks me what city I live in, when it is at the top of my resume.

    Does anyone care what they want. There is 500 of them for every job. If they refuse to submit you to a job someone else will. Or submit yourself, 9 out of 10 times that is better anyway.

  2. John Smith

    I just realized that what is being said above is true. In the old days, employers would be swamped resumes of local applicants. Now, they are swamped with SPAM emails from head hunters – all charging high amounts for that candidate. The client treats the head hunter like – well crap – and then that gets passed on to the one the head hunter is representing.

    One tried to write an email to the client as though it came from me – the technical terms they had were mis-spelled, terms that should have been capitalized were not – in short, if he sent that, it would have made me look like some kind of uneducated monkey.

    Working with a head hunter is a waste of time. They have no influence over the hiring managers. Even when I got the interview, they *never* know the name of the head hunter company – not even the name of the “recruiter”. One HR rep even told me “they are a dime a dozen”.

    I came to the stark realization – they are useless and (even though they try to delude themselves into believing otherwise). Linked-In will replace them soon enough.

  3. I have never found any job with a third party recruiter’s help.
    Not even a part-time job.
    Fortunately I found some work after the offshore-outsourcing few years back.

  4. You are always better off selling yourself to an employer instead of going through a recruiter. If company’s are paying a big commission on recruiters they will be very picky. If you go direct to the employer, sell yourself, skip the recruiter commission, then you get a better chance of getting a job. I have wasted tons of time with the same recruiters who give you a generic (sometimes fake job), then they say “come on down to our office”. They will waste your time asking questions that are already answered in your resume. Out of all the jobs I have had in the past only 2 temp jobs were with recruiters. If you work with a recruiter, screen them out, get all the information you need, ask what the max hourly rate is before you go see them. It’s no fun going there just have them tell you it’s a $10.00 an hour job. The company is billing you at $40.00 and you get $10.00.

  5. Noah Long

    Where else can one find where the employers are advertising – directly? Back in the stone age, actual companies would list things in the classified paper. The thing was, was that all of the companies – not head hunters – were listed in one spot. Is there a website out there that does something like this? Sounds like an opportunity for someone – make a website where employers can list jobs – no recruiters.

  6. It’s a shame that recruiters have such a bad reputation, but I think there is a difference between larger and smaller firms in this industry. The big guys churn through a lot of young recruiters, and they have a volume formula with scripts to follow and little tricks they play. Some are downright dishonest. I have seen a big difference with small firms that know their candidates well and have personal relationships with the hiring managers. I have gotten people placed who said the same thing, that a recruiter never helped them in the past.

    But I have to say that I think the content of the article above is useless at best, and downright wrong on most counts. Here is the best way to work with a recruiter from my perspective:

    1. Be honest with me about your skills – it doesn’t do either of us any good if I present you as knowledgeable in something and then you bomb the interview. Make sure your resume is accurate as well.

    2. If we are working together, be reachable and responsive by either email or phone quickly. Maybe it’s just my clients, but I frequently get short notice requests to set up interviews, and people’s schedules are very busy. If I can’t reach you quickly, we may miss that window of opportunity.

    3. Do some research before the interview – I will prep you on the hiring manager and company, but I need you to put some effort into it as well to make sure you understand the company before you walk in there.

    4. Be enthusiastic – this one is right from above. Skills and experience matter, but will be overshadowed by a dull or lackluster attitude during the process.

    5. Help me and I will help you and your friends – I get most of my best candidates by referral. Candidates who are good networkers, who pass opportunities along to their friends and colleagues, form a connection with the recruiter, and are the first ones I think of when a choice new job comes in. They get first crack at the great positions because they are at the top of your mind. Plus you are more valuable to your network when you share opportunities with them (and many of them will share back with you)

  7. Barbara

    I have had no luck going through second & third-party recruiters (those not associated with the company looking for employees). In my opinion, the typical recruiter doesn’t understand anything about the job they are recruiting for and following a script of questions makes it worse. I often find recruiters trying to capture my answers to their scripted questions miss the mark as I give my answers. This leads me to believe they are misstating my experiences and true qualifications to potential employers; areas that are difficult and embarrassing to correct while I’m in an interview with a prospective employer.

    Also, recruiters tend to leave out seemingly little things the prospective interviewer has requested, such as telling me I need to provide the interviewer with a writing sample, requiring (a) certain certification(s), etc. Their failure in providing interview guidelines in these areas has cost me a few points in job interviews.

    Worst of all is when the recruiting company edits or re-writes my resume in an attempt to make it more palatable with the prospective employer. Each time my resume has been re-written, I find the re-write to be somewhat of a fallacy of my actual talents. Again, this is difficult and embarrassing to try & correct during an actual interview. And yes, I am given the opportunity to review their re-write, usually the same day of my interview. Not exactly a good idea or time to correct their mistakes.

    The one truly, uniquely qualified recruiter I did have a good pre-interview with, was one that works for a utility company, as an actual employee of that company. The recruiter was knowledgeable of the job that was being offered and asked all the right questions, went over my resume with me, line by line to clarify any area/item that was in question and gave me a good overview of what to expect during my first interview. After the first interview was completed, the recruiter contacted me to set me up for the second interview, again giving me a good overview of what to expect and information about the people that would interview me in person. Though I didn’t get the job, (it was unexpectedly deleted by the company), I felt the company recruiter did their job well in both screening me as a potential candidate & preparing me for the interviews.

    A final parting shot to all recruiters: if you don’t intend to keep my resume on file for potential future jobs, don’t lie about it. It’s like being stood up on the alter. If you want to part ways with me amicably, then do so. All job-seekers that go through recruiting agencies talk with their fellow job-seekers about which agencies work hard with you and which don’t or leave you hanging after a failed interview.

  8. I have only been hired 3 times with recruiters.

    The last 2 times, both recruiters had a significant number of people on site – one Asian company owned the whole floor and another ~smaller~ company had 10 people onsite.

    Nowadays, most recruiters take the “throw it up on the wall and see it sticks” approach. That worked in the 2000’s but it does not work now. Especially when there are so many recruiting agencies out there.

    Working with them is a waste of time – I worked with one who was trying to write my intro. He knew NOTHING about the job he was trying to fill. I told him to send what he had written to me – it was filled with misspellings acronyms that should have been capitalized were not, key points were missing, etc. Worst of all, he was writing it from the first point of view – using the pronoun “I” – BTW, I rewrote the mess he was about to submit and at least got an interview. Another note: During the interview, I found out that the client did not know the name of the recruiter’s company; nor, did they even know the name of the recruiter himself (which says a LOT).

    His approach – just like 95% of the other recruiters out there – is to just throw anything/everything up on the wall to see if it sticks. Nothing more, nothing less. I got only ONE job with this approach and that was almost 15 years ago.

    I am seeing evidence nowadays that the client sees the recruiter the same way as potential IT employee sees them. The process has been cheapened to that of a used car salesman. From the client’s point of view, 300 of these used car salesmen are knocking on their door to fill one position – each one promising that they have found the elusive Purple Squirrel.

    One company (large) had a position open. Over 14 recruiters called me about the SAME position. I poorly chose one head hunter who later told me it was “filled internally” only for me to be contacted by head hunter #15 about the same position – again.

    Two weeks later, I am contacted by a different head hunter for a different position – again with the same company.

    By this time, I doubted the veracity of the company as well as any head hunter associated with them. I passed on the “opportunity”. The head hunter wrote a paragraph stating that she thought I was a good fit for this new position (and of course – I was to sign an agreement that only they could represent me) but – based on my previous experience – I felt that the company and any head hunters associated with it was poison.

    I came across a guy who worked at this company 10 years ago (I think). If I still try to deal with the company, I will ask him if he can verify whether or not they (the company) are actually looking for someone to fill this position or not.