How to Win Over a Recruiter


During my corporate career, I spent many years as an in-house recruiter. What blew my mind was how many candidates didn’t take their first interview with me very seriously.

Many were ill-prepared and underestimated the importance of our conversation. I got the distinct feeling that I was seen as an impediment, just someone to bypass. Somehow, many job seekers didn’t seem to realize that without my endorsement or support, they would never meet the hiring manager or any other interviewers. I mean, come on…didn’t they know how powerful and influential I was?

You may think I’m joking but in all seriousness, recruiters can make or break a candidate’s chances of getting the job. Recruiters play a critical role in deciding who will be moved onto the next round of interviews. They can and do influence hiring managers in the final decision making process.

Recruiters are the gatekeepers, which means you need a strategy of building a strong relationship with them so they will become your greatest advocate.

How to Win Over a Recruiter

It begins by seeing the recruiter as a person rather than an obstacle.

It doesn’t matter whether you actively sought out the job or if you were sought out for it, you want the recruiter to become your number one fan. This is especially true if you’re not a perfect fit for the role. If you’re handling your job search well, you’re going after jobs that are a stretch, not something you’re already qualified for. You want the recruiter to keep you top of mind for other roles that open up, even if the one you initially speak to them about doesn’t work out.

Let’s breakdown the most important things to keep in mind when you are interacting with the recruiter that will allow you to win them over and have them advocating on your behalf.

Be enthusiastic!  Since your first interaction is most likely to be over the phone, make sure you sound energetic and animated. Your tone of voice is critical to making a good first impression. To help boost your confidence and enthusiasm, watch Amy Cuddy’s video on power posing. It will help reduce nervousness and let more enthusiasm in. Feeling low energy? Do some jumping jacks beforehand and get the blood flowing. Smile throughout the call. It may sound silly but it really works. The last thing you want is for the recruiter to think you are uninterested or not giving your best in your conversation with them. This interview is as important as all the rest.

Ask great questions. The questions you ask the recruiter should demonstrate your interest in the company and the position but also offer them a chance to give you tips and suggestions. Asking for their input and advice will create a deeper connection. Don’t you feel more drawn to people who seek out your advice and respect what you have to say? Of course you do!

Consider these sample questions as a starting point:

  • Who is the Hiring Manager for this position (if you don’t already know)?
  • Can you tell me more about him/her?
  • What attributes and/or experience does the hiring manager value most?
  • How would you describe the company culture? What do you like most about it?
  • If I were to continue on in the process, what could I expect in terms of the interview process?
  • How would you recommend I prepare?
  • What’s the best way to communicate with you throughout the process?

During the first interview, keep away from asking questions that look to serve only you or assume you’ll get the job, for example, do they allow work from home, do you think I’m a good fit for the role, when are they looking to have someone start (because you have a vacation coming up/want to take time off), etc.). These questions may have you coming off as presumptuous or arrogant and that’s never a good impression to leave.

Show gratitude. Always thank the recruiter for their time and close with your thoughts on the opportunity. If you’re super excited about it, make sure they know. If you have concerns about it fitting what you’re looking for, bring it up. If communicated honestly and authentically, the recruiter will appreciate you being real and not faking enthusiasm. This is how you can truly build trust and openness, so the next best steps can be taken.

As a final note, recognize that recruiters typically have an immense number of job requisitions to fill (dozens) and a huge volume of candidates to manage (in the hundreds). Understand that they are most likely swamped and trying to manage the ever-changing hiring needs of the company. Throughout the recruitment process, they may not get back to you as quickly as you desire or they promise. If you haven’t heard from them when you expected, wait another few days and then drop them a line to check in.

At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to stand out amongst the crowd and inspire the recruiter to make you a top priority, to advocate for you, and help you in the interview process. Not only that but just imagine how great that offer negotiation will go when you have already built a strong relationship.

What has been your experience with recruiters? I’d love to hear how you might modify your approach to building relationships with recruiters during your job search. How might you reframe your view of recruiters to win them over?

About the Author

As a Career Stylist, Kelly Studer has been transforming careers for ambitious professionals and executives at Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and everything in between.