HR (or Talent Acquisition) is the gatekeeper of a company’s recruitment, screening, and selection processes. We are the guardians of the galaxy – ok, maybe not the galaxy, but definitely the protectors of the company’s culture. We are CULTURE GUARDIANS and it’s our job to make sure that people who add to our corporate culture get through the gates and get to join us. I've been doing this a long time and have certainly learned a thing or two about how to win the hiring process and get to the later rounds of interviews.
To make sure we're on the same page, the initial interview process for job applicants is that it begins with a phone screen. Job seekers progress to the next round if they can win over the hiring manager by meeting the standard job requirements, making a positive impression, and showing great communication skills. This initial interview can be a video interview, a phone call, or in person, although it's unusual for it to be in person.
Evaluating your skills and fit for the job you are applying for is the hiring manager's job, not ours, but you won’t get to them if you can’t get past us.
So…. what does a recruiter look for in the screening process?
To be completely honest with you, we don’t read your resume from top to bottom. If you don’t catch our attention right away, we are done. We're busy people just like you and want to focus on the things that are interesting!
So, make sure that all the important relevant information that matches the position you are applying for is close to the top of your resume. If we like what we see at the top, we'll skip to your current position and evaluate industry fit and your level of experience. If we still like what we see, we will go to be bottom and look for your education and skills. If that looks good – congratulations! You passed the first test and you are likely to get a phone screen. Since you're reading this article I have no doubt you can get to this stage.
Pro Tip: make sure you have a strong skills section on your resume right up top to grab the recruiter's attention. The skills need to be relevant to the job description and follow the common guidelines of what someone in that job can do.
Pro Tip: Always customize your resume to the position you are applying for. Yes, I know, this is a total pain. Check out Placement's article that shows you how to do this in the least painful way possible.
Do I read your cover letter? The truth is that I don't 99% of the time. But you should send one anyway. It shows your level of interest in the role. We know it’s tedious and time-consuming to do these but sending one shows you have already invested time into the process. Of course, if you put in the time to send one it also has to be well-written and compelling!
Pro Tip – Make sure you don’t have any typos or misspellings in either your resume or cover letter. Have I said you can't have any typos enough? You'd be surprised how often we see them!
Alright, you made it to the screening interview …now what?
Check out our company website, make sure you clearly understand what we do as a company, and pay close attention to what we say about our culture.
Do your due diligence on LinkedIn – do you know anyone that works for us? If you do, make sure to reach out to them and let them know you are interviewing. Name dropping is a good thing in this case. We typically reach out to the person you know after speaking with you to get their thoughts on if you would be a great fit at our company. So, be sure to name drop only those people who are doing to advocate for you.
Recruiter interviews are all about your FIT and ADD into the company’s culture, so you can be sure that you will be asked about and evaluated on how you will fit in and add to the company culture. This is important for job candidates.
Focus on what we say about our culture and how you personally represent those things. Be prepared with examples. Be ready for screening questions such as:
Which one of our core values do you think most represents who you are?
One of our core values is X – can you give me an example of how you live X in your current job?
Describe the culture of the organization you are at today. What do you like about it and why? What don’t you like about it? Why?
Make sure you really understand what is important to YOU from an organizational culture perspective. Being able to articulate what you are looking for will help both of us figure out if we are a good match. Be honest in this part while also only sharing cultural elements the company has.
You can expect to hear the interview question "tell me about yourself" at the start of every recruiting screening interview. You better be prepared to nail this one! It's such a common question that there's really no excuse for not having your response down perfectly. This goes for a phone interview, a screening call, a face-to-face interview, or any other interview scenario.
We are NOT looking for a rehash of your resume (we can read!).
What we WANT is your elevator pitch – a summary of who you are, what are your core values, what your skills are, and what value you will bring to our company. You should LOVE this question because it allows you to sell yourself and tell your story.
Expect to be interrupted during this question – a good recruiter will ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into what you are saying to test that you are being authentic.
Another question we will always ask is WHY you are leaving your current organization. This question tells us a lot about you, so answer carefully. The answer should be about YOU and what you are seeking, NOT about what is wrong with your current company or boss. Stay focused on the things you want for your growth. Things like more career development or different type of work.
If the role you are interested in is a People Manager position, you are likely to be asked several other questions to evaluate your leadership style. Make sure to include facts about your current team in your elevator pitch and expect some follow-ups like:
How would you describe your leadership style?
What would your team say about you?
Tell me about a time where you had a difficult team member, what happened, how did it turn out?
We will want to understand a few more things before we give you time to ask questions.
Expect us to ask about:
We ask this not to box you in, but to make sure that your expectations are in line with what we are willing to pay for the role/skills etc. Be aware of your body language (if in person) and tone of voice when you respond to this question. Don't be nervous! This is a common screening interview question. One of the worst nightmares for a recruiter is when everyone loves a candidate, but no one checked out their salary expectations in advance and they are way out of the range.
Decide in advance what you want to share about your compensation expectations. We don’t like it when you won’t give us an answer. Is if you really don’t want to give a number, give a range.
Where are you in your job interview process? Be honest, unless you really do have an opportunity that is close to the offer stage, don’t say you do.
Make sure to be clear about the location of the position and if it requires you to be in the office or travel.
During the Recruiter interview, you should be screening us as much as we are screening you. We appreciate thoughtful questions that show us that you are evaluating your fit with us as much as we are with you.
Can you give me an example of who the company demonstrates its core values?
What types of employee engagement initiatives do you have today?
Why is this position vacant?
What is the next step in the process and when can I expect to hear from you?
An HR endorsement can make or break you in the process. When I like someone, I fight extra hard for them with the hiring manager – and more times than not, people I advocate for getting further in the process.
In the end - I want to hire you! PLEASE give me a reason to.