As a recruiter, you’re an expert in interviewing candidates. So, interviewing for a recruiter position should be easy, right?

I’m guessing you’re thinking “No, it sure isn’t!” As an interview coach who has prepared many a recruiter for their hour “on the other side of the desk,” I’d have to agree. If you want to stand out and get the offer, you need to prepare.

“Recruiting is sales.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this said, and that sales is a useful background for a recruiter. Whether or not you’ve held such roles, you can demonstrate your sales ability in the interview by skillfully selling yourself. This doesn’t mean coming off like a fast-talking car salesman or being pushy. It does mean knowing how your unique strengths fit the company’s needs, and clearly communicating that fit.

Salespeople talk about the “unique selling proposition,” that essence of what makes a product irresistible. In an interview, the product is you and your skills. Your unique selling proposition as a job seeker is that special something that makes you the must-have person for the job. What can you offer the company that other candidates can’t? Do some brainstorming, asking yourself questions like these:

  • What would my co-workers and managers say if asked what makes me valuable?
  • What part of my job am I most passionate about? Do I have a strong talent for that aspect?
  • Do I have an outstanding track record in some vital facet of my role, such as leveraging social media, engaging passive candidates, or managing large numbers of requisitions concurrently?
  • What is my most significant professional accomplishment of the past several years?
  • Have I successfully started a recruiting program from scratch?
  • Do I have qualifications or skills that are hard to find? 
  • Do I have an exceptional record of career growth?
  • Is there an important area in which I’m more knowledgeable than average?

If you have a good answer to even one of those questions, congratulations! Practice talking about that special experience or ability. Plan how you’ll demonstrate it in your answer when you’re asked, “Tell me about yourself.” Develop interview stories that illustrate it, and find opportunities to tell them during your interview.

Do you have good answers to more than one question on the list? All the better—you have multiple “selling points” in your selling proposition. Which ones are the most relevant, exceptional, and provable via metrics, stories or other convincing details? Those are the points to prioritize in the conversation.

Effective salespeople also know to “keep it simple” and not overwhelm with detail. They plan their presentation instead of rambling aimlessly. So, plan your answers to typical interview questions asked of recruiters. Be concise: most interview answers should be approximately a minute long. If that kind of brevity is difficult for you, try making your answers too short, then ending with a question like, “Would you like more detail?” or “Shall I tell you more about how I accomplished that?”

Good salespeople focus on the prospect’s pain points and top priorities. So, in addition to researching the company, try this: At the very beginning of a hiring manager interview, say, “Before we get started, may I ask a quick question?” Once you have their permission, say, “Of course I’ve researched your company and studied the job posting, but I’d really like to know what your number-one priority is for this hire. In your view, what does the new recruiter need to bring, or to accomplish, above all else?”

Once they tell you, win them over by addressing that priority throughout the interview. Make yourself the solution.

And of course, recruiting is about people.

Soft skills and emotional intelligence are crucial in recruiting, but there’s not much use in simply claiming to have these skills. Anyone can say “I’m a great communicator” or “I’m a people person,” but that’s a matter of opinion. Why should the interviewer believe you?

Prove it by demonstrating those skills on the spot: Pay close attention to the interviewer’s communication, both verbal and nonverbal. Listen actively and fully. Take an interest in the person. Adapt your communication style to them. Make them feel heard and understood.

Finally, one of the most important skills for a recruiter is confidence. One of the best ways to interview confidently is to be thoroughly prepared. 

Successfully interviewing for a recruiter position isn’t easy. Do your homework and you’ll be ready to show the interviewer you have what it takes to build relationships, sell their company to candidates, and bring in top talent.


Thea Kelley

Thea Kelley is a job search and interview coach serving job seekers nationwide. Drawing upon 20+ years of experience in coaching and career services, she works with professionals across all occupations and career levels, from entry level to senior executive. Her book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview has been praised as “Excellent" by Forbes. She also publishes a wealth of practical job search tips in The Great Job Sooner Blog at Thea is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP).


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