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Preparing for a Meeting with a Recruiter – Written by Marcia Ballinger, PhD

Written by Marcia Ballinger,  PhD, SPHR – Co-Founder, BallingerLeafblad

I asked Marcia to write this post because she has consistently met with individuals in transition at the request of people in her network.  The perspective of a recruiter when it comes to networking with candidates will help us all prepare better.  My thanks to Marcia – MJR

I’ve been in search longer than I care to admit.  During that time, I’ve met with hundreds of executives and formed hundreds of impressions.  The following are some of my thoughts intended to help you make the best possible impression with a recruiter.

First, get the meeting off to a good start:

  • Be on time, but not too early.  It can be uncomfortable having someone waiting in the lobby for 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
  • Find your own way to the recruiter’s office.  It does not make a good impression to call the recruiter from your car and ask where they are located or where to park.
  • Do some homework.  Look at the firm’s website and the available information about the recruiter.  What might the two of you have in common?
  • Bring a folio and something to write with.  Does this seem obvious?  You’d be surprised!


If you are meeting with the recruiter to network:

  • Remember that there is a very (very!!) low likelihood that the recruiter will be hired for an assignment that you’d be interested in during the time you are in transition.  This is a courtesy meeting.  Reiterate that you are very grateful for the opportunity to meet and only expect 20 minutes of the recruiter’s time.
  • Be a little flexible.  Come prepared with your own agenda but know that some recruiters will want to control the meeting.  Either way is fine.
  • Send the recruiter your resume ahead of time.  Be prepared to give a short synopsis of your background and a description of the types of assignments you are most interested in.  Be specific.
  • Before you leave, ask the recruiter, “Is there anything I can do to help you or your firm?”  Recruiters are frequently asked to help but are rarely offered help.
  • Your objective in this meeting is to make an acquaintance and leave a positive impression.  Be brief, be positive, be gracious.
  • The recruiter is meeting with you to be helpful to you, with no other agenda.  Be a bright spot in their day!


If you are meeting with the recruiter to interview for a specific job:

  • Recruiters all have different styles, but you should expect that most of the time will be spent asking questions posed by the recruiter.  Do not prepare “formula” answers ahead of time.  You want to appear genuine, not false.
  • The recruiter will be meeting with a number of candidates, not one of which is “perfect.”  Be honest about your strengths as well as areas where your background does not entirely match up.   If the recruiter didn’t think you were a likely candidate, you wouldn’t be in the interview!
  • The recruiter’s purpose in the interview is to confirm your qualifications for this position, assess your “fit” to the culture of the client organization, and clarify any open issues.  The purpose is NOT to screen you out.  Because the recruiter has specific objectives for the interview, he or she will likely have a list of questions to ask you.  Let the recruiter control the meeting.  Answer each question, but don’t “over-answer.”  Many candidates have talked themselves out of a job, but I’ve never seen anyone talk themselves into a job.  Give thorough but brief answers.  If you’re not sure, ask the recruiter if they’d like more depth.
  • You’ll probably have an opportunity to ask questions about the position and organization.  This is your chance to ask the recruiter about some of their impressions of the hiring executive, the staff and the organization’s culture.  Bring your most pressing few questions to this meeting.   This is not the time to go through a laundry list of specific issues; you will have ample occasions to ask more detailed questions later.


Finally, follow up promptly:

  • Some folks prefer a handwritten note, but I appreciate the immediacy of an email.  Use the same level of professionalism in your correspondence with the recruiter that you plan to use on the job.


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