Ace your interview: 10 types of recruiters and how to handle them

May 23, 2022

8 mins

Ace your interview: 10 types of recruiters and how to handle them
Coline de Silans

Journaliste indépendante

In today’s world, jobs that last a lifetime are becoming extinct. The more likely we are to have several different jobs throughout our working lives, the more job interviews we will inevitably go through. Interviews can often be nerve-wracking, so here’s a list of the types of recruiters you’re likely to come across and a few tips on how to handle them. Forewarned is forearmed!

1. The (overly) kind one

This recruiter is easy to recognize: they’ll welcome you with a nice cup of tea or coffee, make a few jokes, and sit you down on a comfy sofa. They’ll instantly put you at ease and would rather talk about your bowling skills than your most recent job.

How to handle them: Don’t be too trusting. Underneath their affable exterior, they’re trying to figure you out and see whether you can keep things professional, no matter what. If you can show them you’re up to the challenge, you can get on friendly terms later. For now, hold back on confiding in them, don’t talk to them as if they were your friend, and remember you haven’t got the job yet.

Julie, 26, Business Developer shares her story, “It was the end of the day when I got to this start-up for my interview and they were in the middle of a foosball match, so I had to wait until they finished. The interview only started once they were done. The manager was the same age as me and it felt more like I was chatting with a friend. I had a good feeling about it, but it turned out I was wrong. In hindsight, I should have been a bit less relaxed, but I got caught up in the festive atmosphere.”

2. The silent one

This type of recruiter is the one that sits in front of you, barely speaks, and lets you run through your resume without responding. Big gaps in the conversation are standard. Although they may seem to be listening carefully to what you’re saying, it’s pretty hard to tell as they give nothing away. Not a single smile or grimace passes their lips, no flicker of acknowledgment, just two eyes, staring at you.

How to handle them: Whatever you do, try to avoid word vomit at all costs, filling the gaps in conversation with anything that springs to mind. Speak confidently and let the gaps happen. If you feel like you’ve said everything you wanted to and there’s no response, ask the recruiter if they have any questions for you. Who knows, they might find their tongue after all!

Pauline, 26, Digital Project Manager shares her experience, “It was my first interview for a job with a pretty well-known advertising agency. I was expecting the recruiter to be talkative, but it was the complete opposite! I found myself in front of someone who barely spoke at all, it felt like I was talking to a wall. I tried hard not to speak too quickly so that the recruiter wouldn’t be able to see how stressed I was. It seemed to work because the next day they called me back.”

3. The good cop/bad cop one (or two)

In this case, two recruiters work as a team, and from what we can see they have their job interview skills mixed up with Mindhunter-style interrogations (unless of course, you are a serial killer?). While one seems generally quite nice, the other is clearly out to get you and they both stick to their role.

How to handle them: Answer both of them in the same way and make sure you don’t only talk to the ‘good’ one. Be polite yet firm and counter any attacks, show them you’re not impressed with their little set-up.

Arthur, 28, Data Scientist explains what he did when it happened to him, “The whole thing was so calculated it was almost laughable. While the HR representative was friendly, the Operations Manager was quite aggressive and kept cutting him off to ask me questions. It was kind of disorienting, but I just carried on like it was normal, making sure I looked both of them in the eye.”

4. The rushed one

The rushed recruiter has no time - and they want you to know it! Whether it’s because they’ve got several interviews back to back, or they’re handling lots of different tasks, they usually only have a few minutes to talk to you.

How to handle them: Get to the point because that’s what they expect. Highlight the skills you think make you perfect for the job, only talk about the relevant experience on your résumé, and finish with a couple of questions about the job to show your potential employer you’re interested. Keep it short and sweet.

Alice, 29, Advertising Manager tells her story, “The Head of Sales met with me and he had interviews lined up, one after another. My interview only lasted fifteen minutes, tops. Right from the start, I talked about why I wanted the job, what I had understood about it, and why I thought I was the right person for it. Fortunately, I was prepared, because there was absolutely no room for small talk!”

5. The details one

The exact opposite of the rushed recruiter, the details recruiter takes their time, leaving no stone unturned. They go through your résumé line by line, all the way back to when you first left school, and expect you to tell them about your career history in technicolor detail.

How to handle them: Whatever you do, don’t let them see any signs of impatience. We know, a two-hour interview is a bit much, and the fact that you learned piano at school probably isn’t relevant anymore. But look on the bright side, at least the recruiter is trying to get to know you and find out what you’ve been up to. With a little luck, you can find some common ground. When you’re interviewed by a details recruiter you hold all the cards (and you have the time to play them). Show them what motivates you and why you’re the right person for the job. Make the most of it!

Anaïs, 30, Publishing Assistant: says, “My interview with this big publishing house lasted two hours, and then two more interviews followed … I was completely drained, but I tried to keep focused and smile through to the end as I really wanted the job and I know that it’s not an easy industry to get into. I must have managed it as I got the job.”

6. The overworked one

This recruiter is easy to identify: they’re often late, and have forgotten your name or lost your résumé. It makes very little difference as the likelihood of them having had a chance to look at it is slim.

How to handle them: The most important thing is not to take it personally. You have to show them why you’re there. Be calm and rational to balance their chaos. Remind them of who you are and systematically highlight the main points of your résumé. Don’t let their stress or lack of organization affect you (it can often be contagious).

Benjamin, 27, UX Developer recalls, “I ended up in an interview with someone who was clearly totally disorganized, they were constantly rifling through their papers, obviously had the wrong résumé in front of them, and stuff like that. At the start, it threw me off a bit, but I managed to get a handle on myself and quickly pitched my career highlights. I don’t think their behavior was intentional. At the end of the day, I’d rather that than have to deal with someone who’s very calculating.”

7. The stressed one

This recruiter is super anxious, talks at the speed of light, can’t sit still, and bombards you with questions. They’re actually just anxious and need a bit of reassurance. They want to be able to count on you.

How to handle them: Don’t let their stress make you stressed too, show them that you’re somebody capable who takes the time to think. Speak calmly, highlight any responsibility you’ve been given and show them you can work independently and handle anything that comes your way.

Julien, 28, Marketing Manager agrees, “As soon as I went into the room, I could sense that the Marketing Manager carrying out the interview was super stressed. He spoke too fast, barely listened to what I was saying, and kept coming back to the fact that he needed to delegate. I knew where he was coming from. I once worked for a company where there was a lot of pressure and I know how important it is to have someone to count on in that situation. So, I stayed calm and tried to show him that I was there to help him, even if only with my body language. I sat up straight, used measured gestures, and spoke calmly.”

8. The dominant one

Whether they’re playing the part or just enjoy feeling superior, one thing you know is that a dominant recruiter will take the lead. With fairly aggressive questions, rather direct scenarios, and even some provocative comments, this recruiter often tries to get you on the back foot to see how you behave in tricky situations.

How to handle them: Having an interviewer hassle you is never fun. But try not to let it get to you, and make sure you have your say. Is the recruiter deliberately taking the opposite stance? Stand up for yourself and explain why you think a certain way. Argue your point and don’t let them put you off. Remember: if you got an interview it means your résumé caught their eye, so you’re in with a chance for the job.

Margaux, 27, Communications Manager knows what it’s like to come up against a dominant recruiter, “A few years ago, I had an interview with a rather unusual HR Manager. Every question they asked was extremely aggressive, it was as if they had a personal vendetta against me. I remember being completely thrown by their attitude and stumbling over my words. That’s not like me at all! In the end, I didn’t get the job, but knowing I’d have had to work directly with that person, in hindsight, it wasn’t such a bad thing.”

9. The creative one

This recruiter likes to make an entrance, like they’re stepping onto the stage. They’re practically overflowing with imagination and ideas to make the interview more fun, and sometimes things get off track. Unexpected questions and disconcerting scenarios can make an interview with a creative recruiter a challenge or a great conversation. One thing’s for sure, you won’t forget it any time soon!

How to handle them: Original questions need original answers. Play the game, show them you know how to adapt, and don’t let the weirdness of the interview put you off. Highlight personal or professional situations when you have had to be creative and try to tackle any problem-solving that comes up from an original perspective.

Maxence, 26, Graphic Designer says, “The manager who interviewed me barely asked about my résumé and instead started asking random questions right away, like “What would you do if you only had two months left to live?” “What would your dream start-up company be?”, and even, “What do you think of Mark Zuckerberg?” It was pretty off-putting because we hardly talked about my career history, but I guess it was their way of evaluating my creativity.”

10. The generous one

Great news! Some recruiters aren’t out to challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable. They simply want to help you find the best job for you. What a relief! This is the generous recruiter, who’ll listen to your needs and expectations and genuinely want to have a proper conversation to find out who you are.

How to handle them: Make the most of your time with this recruiter to explain what motivates you, what you liked about the job description, and how you see yourself fitting into the company. Feel free to ask questions about anything you’re not sure about too. Just be careful not to reveal all your flaws or you’re doing yourself a disservice. As kind as they are, they’re there to spot potential talent in you, not to be your shrink.

Laure, 27, Website Editor shares her story, “The HR Manager I had in my interview was great, she really tried to understand who I was, why I was interested in the role, and what I expected from it. We had a really good chat without any trick questions or standard interview nonsense. I’d like to have interviews like that more often!”

Translated by Debbie Garrick

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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