The Top 5 Things Every Recruiter Expects from Every Candidate

Posted by Mark Babbitt

What we don’t talk about enough are the basics every recruiter look for in every candidate, regardless of the job, level of experience or even the industry.

So – keeping in mind that from the research they’ve done so far, the recruiter knows you can do the actual job (or you wouldn’t have been offered a face-to-face interview) – let’s talk about that now, starting with the top five:


From the moment they meet you, the recruiter is going to be assessing how you project confidence. Several factors go into this assessment…

Do you communicate well (the anxious and unprepared typically exhibit very poor communication skills)? Are you able to engage in conversation… to co-manage the interview? Do you listen – really listen – before attempting to answer the recruiter’s questions? Does your “confidence” ever cross over into arrogance?

Most important: the recruiter wants to know if you’ll earn the respect of your potential colleagues, company managers and the executives. And the best way to do that… is to exude humble confidence.

Culture Fit

A few years ago, recruiters didn’t even talk about culture. There were more jobs open than there were candidates, so a person could be a Type A-hole and still get hired – as long as they could do “the job”. Those days are gone.

Today, a recruiter is measured (judged, even) by their ability to find talent that will embrace the organization’s mission, understands how the company functions, and has a clear ability to work well with the existing team. The perfect situation… the recruiter’s brass ring: the new hire makes the team significantly better.

The candidate who survives this test takes on a challenging task: they must learn everything they can about the company mission and culture – and be able to articulate how they are the right fit, complete with solid examples – well before the interview.


Since the demise of the entry-level position in the workforce, knowledge – not the theory you learned in school, but the real stuff that makes you employable – is king.

Knowledge of the industry and competition. Knowledge of the role (well past the job description). Knowledge gained from your internships, job shadows and informational interviews. Knowledge of the recruiter and would-be manager. And, of course, in-depth knowledge of the company mission and culture.

If there is any doubt about what you know – and exactly how that knowledge and your experience will solve the problem they are trying to fix with this hire – you will not be the top choice.


Yes, this is a bit old-school; perhaps even cliché. But from how you treat the receptionists and gatekeepers to the eye contact appropriately held; from the handshakes extended to the natural use of “please” and “thank you” – your manners are a big factor in how you are perceived as a candidate.

To many, manners also include appropriate personal space, the volume at which you speak, turning off your cell phone and even your posture. Manners can also include holding doors open when the situation arises and cleaning up after yourself while getting that cup of coffee offered to you as you began the interview.

Because manners are so subjective, we just never know what might be a “red flag” for the recruiter. So be prepared to go old-school while demonstrating excellent professional manners. If you’re ever in doubt about what are appropriate manners during your first interview, remember this advice: Act as if you are meeting your future mother-in-law for the first time ever… at church.


No matter how high-tech we get in job searches… nothing matters now more than a great attitude and a greater smile. Some of this gets back to the culture issue, yes. To the recruiter, however, attitude is more than that. Much more.

Do you approach your work with enthusiasm? Are you passionate about what you’ll be doing 40, 50 or 60 hours per week? Do you solve problems with an approach that combines tenacity with poise? Are you too cool to hustle, learn and grow? Are you willing to share what you know… and mentor others?

In the recruiter’s eyes – assuming you’ve shown humble confidence, that you’re a good fit, that you’re knowledgeable and you’ve displayed manners your momma’ would be proud of – your attitude may be all that is left between you and a job offer.

One thought on “The Top 5 Things Every Recruiter Expects from Every Candidate

  1. This is great advice. Thank you for confirming that it is not true that “nice people finish last”.

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