You're meeting a recruiter tomorrow. Do you spend the next 24 hours researching the employer (if you know who it is), compiling your most relevant work samples, or reading recent professional journals to show you're on top of the very latest research in your field?
Those are all good preparatory steps - but only if you already have a well-rehearsed story about why the job you'll be discussing is the ideal next step in the career path you've been diligently charting for yourself over the past five years or longer.
A recent article by Bill Radin, a coach who trains recruiters, explains why. Although written for recruiters, the article in his February Radin Report newsletter offers valuable insight into what may be on your interviewer's mind when you walk in. Have good answers ready, and you'll be in good shape to outlast peers who confined their interview prep to past accomplishments and technical skills.
The article tells recruiters how to recognize "difficult" candidates - those who might become no-shows if sent to meet the recruiter's client, or who are otherwise "erratic or conflicted" about the opportunity they're interviewing for. Here's a rundown of issues recruiters who heed Radin's advice will likely grill you about, plus our tips on how to respond:
What is pressing you to change jobs? What are the characteristics of your ideal job?
Detailed Compensation History
Radin urges recruiters to "Be sure to build a complete compensation profile that includes the candidate's salary history, salary expectations and performance review schedule."
This question can be a deal-breaker: Candidates often are automatically eliminated if current or expected compensation is either too high or too low. But although experts advise ducking the compensation question the first time it's posed by an HR screener or hiring manager, that option generally isn't available when speaking with an external recruiter.
Instead, answer forthrightly and then explain why your requirements are flexible (if you think the opening pays less than your last or current job) because the role has such great advancement potential or fits perfectly into your career path. On the other hand, if the opening pays more than 10 percent above your last or current job, cite skills the opening requires that you used in previous jobs but aren't using in your current one. The underutilized skills not only justify higher pay, but show you're not just taking a flyer on landing something above your level.
Who Else You've Been Talking To
Where did you interview? Do you have other opportunities now? Where is your resume posted?
To answer this one, you must triangulate: Say you've had - and currently are interviewing for - other opportunities, but avoid disclosing just where. Both you and the employers you're interviewing with have a right to consider your contact confidential, and if disclosed it could be used against you. Vague descriptions should always suffice - "Risk management position at a bulge-bracket bank." "Portfolio administration for a regional private wealth manager."
If a recruiter says she needs the information so she won't inadvertently send a candidate already in her client's files (which makes the recruiter ineligibile for a fee), throw the question back to her. Instead of spilling the name of each employer you've applied to, ask the recruiter to name her client, and you'll tell her if you've applied or interviewed there.
What if you have nothing else going on at the moment? A candidate in whom no other employer is interested has no value in the market. I've never heard a career expert, no matter how ethical, say it's okay to admit you're talking with no one beyond the role you're interviewing for. One coach suggests a Bill Clinton-like solution: "I'm seeing a lot of activity. I'm having a lot of discussions." (The idea being, strictly speaking it isn't a lie because you meant you were having "discussions" with peers at networking events, or strictly informational interviews.)
Your Sales Pitch
Explain why you want the job, and why a prospective employer should hire you rather than someone else.
Radin tells recruiters to beware of candidates who must relocate for the job or who have "spousal resistance, long-term employment at the current job or visa discrepancies."