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The challenge when meeting recruiters is to convince them that you have what it takes to move to the next phase of the process and have a personal conversation with someone in the organization that is responsible for the position you are interested in.

The Gatekeeper

The recruiter is the gatekeeper; their role is to sift through the herd of applicants and select only those candidates who they believe show real promise and who deserve a further investment in time by “inside” managers and leaders. 

When you meet with a recruiter, their internal currency is at stake.

If they allow you beyond the gate and you turn out to be unworthy by insiders, their reputation is tarnished, their performance is judged negatively and their fee as well as future employment is in jeopardy.

On the other hand, if they push you through and you are viewed as a star after a few more interviews, they are viewed as a brilliant judge of talent for their organization.

Knowing this, the task is to make you so desirable that it’s a no brainer for the gatekeeper to allow you — no, push you — through the gates. 

Here are 5 practical and proven ways to impress them.

1. Do Your Homework

Your challenge is to paint a picture of how you could fit into their plans. You can’t do this if you know little about their challenges and strategies.

Know facts on revenues and trends, competitors, products and services, employee benefit programs and current media attention. Know as much as you can on the leaders of the organizations and what they have accomplished.

Research their Vision and Values if they have them

Treat this as required study, and be prepared to offer where your skills and experience could be put to use given the challenges they face.

2. Make It About Them

You definitely will get the opportunity to answer their questions about you, but show an active interest in what’s going on with their organization. 

Use your homework facts to ask leading questions: what’s keeping leadership awake at night, what’s the focus on service quality, what is the level of employee engagement, how do they retain loyal customers?

Recruiters notice this attention to detail and the initiative taken by the candidate; it is rare that an applicant shows this kind of initiative. Take it.

3. Take Control 

It’s OK to take control of the interview agenda and steer the conversation to the issues you want to talk about. It’s shows that you are prepared for the conversation and that you want to ensure the organization is a fit for you. 

For example, if you believe their organization has marketing challenges, provide your views and suggestions on how things could be improved. It shows the gatekeeper that you are confident in yourself and you possess potential leadership skills that the organization could use.

4. Separate Yourself From the Herd

This is undeniably THE most critical way to impress. Virtually every other person who sits in front of this recruiter will pontificate about themselves in the same way. 

Outstanding Leader - Beat a Recruiter

They will all go on and on about what they have learned in school; the marks they earned and how they think their skills could be put to use in a work environment. Don’t go there — or at least don’t stop there. 

Your agenda must be to paint a picture for the recruiter that shows specifically how you are NOT like other applicants

Work on the question: “Why should we recruit YOU when there are so many others who want to work for us?”.  And if the recruiter doesn’t ask it, beg the question and answer it yourself.

5. Market Yourself 

Think of yourself as a bundle of value; a package of skills, competencies, attitudes, knowledge and experience an organization can take advantage of given the “what keeps you up at night” facts you discovered while doing your homework on them. 

Express yourself as more than just the sum of your parts — more than someone who has achieved a formal education. Don’t forget, other candidates are likely to focus on their academic credentials (which makes the all the same); you need to break away from this approach and show yourself as much more than school marks.

Think about your education as merely your means to THEIR end; the ante to play their game. The real challenge is to go beyond your education and describe your “box of goodies” that makes you irresistible to them.

My formal degree is in mathematics yet I never used a differential equation to do ANYTHING in business. What a competency in math allowed me to do, however, was solve complex problems fast so I leveraged my problem solving skills and achievements as part of my personal value proposition whenever I was interviewed for a new opportunity. 

Your end game is to dazzle the recruiter and make yourself indispensable to them; practice these 5 tactics and I guarantee you will.



Written By
Roy Osing is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead. You can also read more of Roy Osing's articles at his website.

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