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10 secrets recruiters prefer to keep to themselves

Recruiters sometimes seem intimidating, but you really need to know that they want the best for you and the company they are looking for the right candidate. Yet sometimes, they omit some information.

While you throw all your trumps on the table, recruiters are often less likely to let them look into their cards. Here are some things they may not have entrusted to you.

1. If you had negotiated better, we could have gone higher

Pay bargaining is often a challenge. Many candidates will accept the first offer, just happy to have the job or at least qualify. They also rarely dare to make a counter-offer because they fear missing out on the job.

Yet, recruiters do not quickly put their best offer on the table. They usually get some leeway, also in terms of fringe benefits. But if you accept the basic offer, they will not tell you of course. It is therefore important to check whether there is more in it than is on the table.

2. Don’t cover yourself with ‘buzzwords’

Rather, it is smart to work with keywords in your resume and cover letter. Be sure to use vocabulary that is characteristic of your sector and job. But don’t overdo it. Definitely don’t try to appear smarter by using these words if you don’t have a handle on them. Authenticity is generally more appreciated. So don’t hide your personality behind these ‘buzzwords’. Who you are is more important to the people you will work with. Managers easily give extra weight to ‘soft skills’ than to competencies alone.

3. You don’t really stand a chance after that bad first impression

The first impression does a lot that we cannot emphasize enough. Few recruiters can ignore a bad first impression. Not calling back after a missed call, bad manners, awkward interviews, sloppy clothes… All things that can hurt your chances of progressing to the next round. It is impossible, certainly not, but you will definitely have to get back to you to let that second impression take over.

The interviewers often look at ‘likability’ rather than whether a candidate is the most qualified for the job. Especially if the person conducting the conversation is also someone you will work with in the future. A strong interview is a conversation in which you create a bond with the interviewer. So don’t beat your strengths like a robot, but show your personality.

4. Your references weren’t very positive

If an HR manager or a recruiter is not entirely sure, he/she might contact your references. If those references don’t have many good things to say about you, that says enough for them.

Your references don’t even have to say anything negative about you, if they can’t provide more than basic information, that’s also a ‘bad reference’. A good reference should at least be able to elaborate on your character, your projects, your work ethic, how you put yourself in the spotlight… They should be specific and give examples of your strengths.

So only list people who know both you and your work as a reference. Colleagues who, without a doubt, have something positive to say about you.

5. I asked around about you and found out who you really are

Recruiters do not always stick to the references you provide yourself. They sometimes dare to look behind your back to see if they have any common contacts and then ask for their unvarnished opinion. Especially in the times of LinkedIn, this is easier than ever.

This phenomenon is called ‘back-channeling’ and is a way of gathering references through the proverbial back door. Maybe just check your contact list and see where your contact list intersects with that of the recruiter. Do not put lies on your resume. In this way, they come out faster than you think.

6. We have actually already filled in the job internally

Unfortunately, it still occurs, and it is perfectly legal to publish a job that is likely to be filled by an internal employee. Such ‘ghost jobs’ can be very annoying when you are looking for a new interesting position.

Then why are employers posting those jobs? HR managers often insist on giving a ‘fair chance’ to anyone who feels called to do the job. Often to be able to show options to the managers. But studies show that an internal candidate often outperforms an external one, and they’ve already had the chance to prove themselves. There is usually little you can do against that.

Obviously, few recruiters will entrust you with this information. It is not pleasant to know that you had so much hope for a job and that you hardly turned out to be eligible.

7. Your latest social media posts killed you

About 80% of the people you recruit look at social media when they scrutinize your application. So make sure you have a semi-professional presence on the internet and check those security settings again. You can post nice photos, but if they are ‘too nice’ for potential employers, don’t let them be seen.

Your online profile tells a lot about who you are and who you want to be to the outside world. Employers look at this to identify your background, identity, and reputation, as well as alarm bells. Do your profiles (LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter…) and online activity match who you claim to be on your CV and cover letter? No one will hire someone who has reports everywhere about how much he/she hates his or her job.

8. We are still waiting for the answer to our first choice

Even the most direct HR manager will be reluctant to let you know that you are actually Plan B and that they are still waiting for an answer from another candidate. If you have to wait a long time for an answer whether you have been selected or recruited, that may well be the reason.

Don’t take that personally. Being number 2 is especially tricky because you are not moving forward and is not a commentary on you personally. It means that they are still considering you. There are often many candidates, and it is difficult to make choices.

During the selection process, people often drop out because they change their mind or get a better offer, which are extra opportunities for you. Do you feel you are being held on a leash? Good, that means you are worth it, and they don’t want to lose you just yet. It gives you extra time to convince them that you are the best choice. You can always take a look at the competition. You know you are the best person for the job, let them know that too.

9. The manager is terrible to work for

Now that is only a secret. This is often glossed over with “The manager sets the bar high” or by describing him or her as capricious, and saying that employees are given the space they need (but no more than that). ‘Delegating’ can suddenly mean that the boss takes over all the fun tasks and lets you do the less fun ones… or takes the credit yourself.

Here you may be able to do some ‘back-channeling’ yourself. Do you know someone at the company or someone who knows the company?

10. The manager is not prepared for the interview

Recruiters are usually well prepared and know what to ask when they see a candidate in front of them. That is their job. But if you get the boss in front of you, it can sometimes look more like improvisation. They rely more on their feelings and sometimes do not know in advance which profile they are looking for exactly. They see application rounds more as a kind of candidate market and a first look around what the labor market has to offer. That may seem like a slightly sloppier approach, but it can be beneficial.

Do you end up in such a situation? Ask questions yourself. You immediately have an idea of the personality behind the company. If your conversation with a recruiter is alone, then you work with an intermediary, and the feeling with the company is sometimes a bit vaguer.

For example, ask what the manager expects from a candidate, what a working day looks like at the company, what the ideal candidate looks like. They need to think more consciously about who they are looking for and see a motivated, determined candidate with confidence in front of them. And in the meantime, you can decide whether you want to work for this manager and this company.

Do you think a recruiter is withholding information? It’s not to hurt you or to catch up on a conversation. Rather reversed. Do you feel that not all cards are on the table and that that is to your disadvantage? Ask them. Is something bothering you? Let them know. Communicate your concerns and what your goal is.

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