What Entry-Level Recruiters Actually Look For (Hint: It’s Not Grades)

Posted April 22, 2014 by
Job seeker and recruiter with a quote from job seeker

Job seeker and recruiter with a quote from job seeker. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Summary: What are entry-level recruiters looking for when they size up a potential job candidate?

When you encounter a recruiter at a job fair or networking event, what traits might this person be looking for as they shake your hand and chat with you for a few minutes? And when a recruiter starts a dialogue with you online, what traits might she be scanning for as she reads your messages and skims through your resume?

What kinds of qualities and signals will make a recruiter’s ears perk up? What keywords, personal traits, and non-verbal messages will inspire them to pick up the phone and chase you down before their competitors get ahold of you? And what traits will make them glaze over and move onto the next candidate in line? Here are a few of the ways recruiters size you up, regardless of your industry.

1. Are you smart?

To answer this question, recruiters and employers may check your GPA…eventually. They might or might not get around to this small act of due diligence before they put you on the shortlist with the other finalists for the job.

Grades are nice, but the kind of intelligence they’re looking for comes through in qualities that will be assessed by looking at your face, hearing your voice, and reading your emails. If you hope to impress on this score, you’ll need to show curiosity and engagement. Brighten, sharpen, and focus. Bored know-it-alls don’t get points for smarts, but witty conversationalists, good listeners, and articulate writers do. Be a megawatt spotlight, not a dusty broken bulb.

2. Are you receptive to direction, instructions, and criticism?

Specific technical job skills are great, but as it happens, many of these skills can (and will) be taught to new employees on the job. Beyond technical skills, there are other qualities that can’t be taught and are worth more than gold to most employers. At the top of the list lies compliance. If you can show that you’ll carry out orders quickly, conform to the status quo, and correct your mistakes without complaint or resentment, you’ll take center stage.

3. Do you intend to work hard and make sacrifices for your employer?

Recruiters don’t like to present candidates who talk too often about what they want. Of course you’re an adult and you expect to be paid fairly for your efforts, and of course you have a right to clean, safe working conditions and your employer’s respect.

But recruiters would rather hear about what you have to offer, not what you’re looking for. It’s in your best interests to start the conversation by pretending you don’t care about money, commuting distance, or hours spent in the office—only about opportunities for professional growth.

4. Will you embarrass them or make them proud?

Recruiters and employers don’t always share the same goals. While employers are looking for a candidate they like, recruiters are usually looking for a candidate they believe these employers (aka, their clients) will like. So they may be viewing you through a very generalized lens. Do you fit the image of a “polished corporate employee?” Or not? Does your outfit fit the bill? How about your smile and your handshake?

This may seem like a coarse-grained way to make a hiring decision, but recruiters aren’t mind readers and they’re doing the best they can. Get their attention by showing that you get it—you know what corporate culture is and how it works, and you’re willing jump in and navigate this quirky landscape on its own terms.

LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Find LiveCareer on Youtube and visit LiveCareer’s Google+ page for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.

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