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Recruiters are human and other takeaways from recruiter round table

Breaking news: Recruiters are human. Last week we had an informative and really fun professional development session at the Brandeis University Hiatt Career Center with employer partners from Hill Holliday, Education Development Center (EDC), ezCater, and Amp Agency. The recruiters shared perspectives on working with students – recruiting, interviewing and hiring millennials. Some of the insights may surprise you.

Recruiters are human. I shared a draft of this piece with my manager seeking his feedback and he asked me: “What are the top three things you learned from the session?” I paused for a moment to consider the answer. Immediately what entered my mind was the answer to a question posed about the importance or not of candidates wearing suits to an interview. But I didn’t tell him about dress code. I said that recruiters are human.

Whether it be a candidate or a career center staff member, it is easy to act like we know all the answers so as to impress recruiters. I was pleasantly reminded that it is OK if we do not have all of the answers. Questions can be appreciated by recruiters. It is here that we looped back to the question about wearing a suit. The recruiters advised, “If you do not know if it is necessary or appropriate to wear a suit to an interview, ask the recruiter.” As long as you do so in a respectful and informed manner, these professionals will not look down upon you for asking.

Like all humans, recruiters have pet peeves. In advance of the professional development session, staff were asked to submit questions to the recruiters. One of the questions posted was learning more about what most irritated recruiters when recruiting millennial candidates. While I am sure that the answers could range from field or level of hire, it was very interesting to learn that each of our guests agreed on the same top pet peeve: Candidates assume they are going to get an interview and presumptuously ask for an interview date.

Recruiters do not have all of the answers. Just as students and career center staff sometimes need additional information or clarification on a specific point in order to be well prepared, recruiters need the same. One of the questions posed to the career center staff by the recruiters was “With increasingly limited resources, how can a recruiter get connected to a school?” This is an important question and one that we were able to answer openly and honestly. (Make a connection with the Employer Relations team.) It is not always this simple though because recruiters may also believe that they should already know all the answers to these questions. After all, all colleges and universities have websites with links to online resources and in some cases the employer has already participated in a campus event, wouldn’t it look silly asking a question about how to engage students now? (Answer: No. Ask away. There are always new and expanded ways to connect with students.)

However, recruiters DO have most of the answers. Ok, I get it. The reason you clicked on this article is to review a quick list of questions and answers – so, here you go. Below are some of key takeaways from our recruiter round table.

Do students need to wear suits to interviews?
Yes. No. Maybe. The answer to this question varies from employer to employer and industry to industry. The employers from advertising and marketing agencies advised that candidates not wear suits because it does not match the laid back and creative agency culture. Hill Holliday offered that candidates are given a heads-up before the interview that suits are not necessary. The recruiters from Education Development Center (EDC), a global nonprofit organization, and ezCater, a technology start-up, said that while the dress code in their offices is mostly casual – other than EDC whose dress code leans toward business casual – they appreciate a candidate erring on the side of business formal for an initial interview. All employers said that it is appropriate to inquire about the dress code and culture of the organization before an interview. Regardless of whether candidates wear black suits or dark jeans and a blazer, they should make sure that they are well groomed and present a polished look.

Do recruiters read cover letters?
Sometimes. The recruiters on our panel all agreed that cover letters do provide an important opportunity for candidates to showcase their professional writing skills and help shed light on aspects of their professional background – like a reason for a career change – which are not captured in a resume.

How much time do recruiters spend scanning a resume?
30 seconds, tops. Our guests confirmed what we already know: recruiters quickly scan resumes and candidates must tailor their resume and help guild the reader’s eyes to the salient and relevant points.

When sourcing candidates, how important are internal referrals?
Very. Unanimously recruiters agreed that candidates that come with a personal referral from within the organization will be reviewed and in most cases given a preliminary interview. Hill Holliday noted that 40% -50% of their hires come from internal referrals. ezCater mentioned that referral candidates receive additional time and feedback on their resume and interview. In many for-profit companies, a referral bonus is also on the line for current employees who make referrals that end in successful hires.

How much value do recruiters place on thank you notes?
A lot. The panel vigorously agreed that thank you notes are important during consideration of a candidate. Whether candidates send an e-mail or write a hand written note, thank you notes are a must. Notes should be sent within 24 hours of an interview. If candidates are planning to send a hand written card, be sure to also send an e-mail so that the interviewer knows you did not forget. Snail mail can be slow or fail to be delivered entirely, so it is best to send both.

What are the recruiters’ biggest pet peeves about recruiting millennials?
They’re presumptuous. Recruiters are perplexed as to why candidates think it is appropriate to demand an interview or ask the recruiter to match the job seekers with a job at their organization. All of our employer guests offered examples of instances when students connected with them on LinkedIn requesting an interview. It is all about tone and diplomacy. While it is appropriate to respectfully request time to learn more about a position or the organization, do your homework first and inquire with respect and humility. Some examples of good ways to make an initial connection with a recruiter include: “With whom may I speak to learn more about the position?” or “May I request five minutes of your time to learn more about the position”? Some of examples of how not to request time from a recruiter are: “Can you tell me which job is the best fit for me?” or “When can I come into the office to interview?”

They don’t ask questions. Our guests reiterated the importance of asking questions during an interview and answering the questions posed by the interviewer with more than a one-word answer. Help the interviewer see that you are informed about the position and company and how you can be an asset the team.

What qualities do recruiters like to see in a candidate?
Demonstrated research. Employers appreciate reading a cover letter or interviewing a candidate who has clearly done his/her research on the organization before the interview. A candidate who is able to reference a recent piece of news about the employer will stand out.

Outlined transferable skills. Our recruiters appreciate when candidates use the same language as was used in the job posting. If you have experience in “qualitative analysis,” specifically state (and, of course, demonstrate) you have experience in “qualitative analysis.” There is no need to use a thesaurus to say the same thing in a different way. Again, recruiters do not have a lot of time to devote to reviewing your resume, so make it easy for them to see why you are a good fit for the role.

So, what is YOUR take?

Special thanks to Kristen Chapin, director of talent operations at ezCater, Meghan Daniels, associate director, talent acquisition at Hill Holliday + Erwin Penland, Alyssa Pelow, human resources generalist at Amp Agency, and Lauren Bombardier, human resources coordinator II at Education Development Center, for sharing their insights, perspectives, and advice.

About the author:
Caroline's headshot.Caroline O’Shea is a connector and engagement expert working as the assistant director of employer relations at the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University. She builds relationships with employers and community partners to help develop opportunities for students around networking, recruiting, and leadership. She engages internal and external partners through innovative and nationally recognized events and programs.

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