How to Impress a Recruiter

Top tips from working recruiters

Many job applicants express frustration with the post-interview process due to not receiving any follow up. They want to know what they can do to improve future interview performance. However, interviewers are unable to provide this information, often because of potential legal issues or simply not having the time to write personalized letters for each applicant.

At Express Employment Professionals, our recruiters interview numerous job seekers every day. They know what works and what doesn’t, at both the staffing agency and client levels. We asked our top recruiters to tell us what they look for in job candidates, as well as characteristics job seekers should avoid.

What Makes a Great Job Candidate?


A promising candidate is one who arrives to an interview (either by phone or at the worksite) fully prepared.

“They come with a resume, references, and any supporting documents or credentials that could potentially give them a step up in the hiring process,” said Shannon Jacoby, a recruiter at the Bellingham, WA, Express office. “They know what they are applying for, they have done research on the company, and they know how they could fit into the organization.”


A candidate should also be friendly and personable. This is your chance to make a good impression.

“I like candidates that have friendly, personable attitudes,” said Carlos Delafuente from the Portland, OR, Express office. “I should be able to tell that they are reliable, punctual, and dependable. They can impress me by showing that they can hold a normal conversation, that they have a sense of humor, and optimism.”


“Ideally, a great job candidate should have a relatively stable work history,” said Desiree Stevens of the Littleton, CO, Express office. “However, we understand that there may be mitigating circumstances as to why a position ended. Be honest about those reasons.”

If you’re looking to contact a staffing company, be truthful with what you know and what you want.

“Being honest about your skills is huge,” Stevens said. “That helps us market the candidate to clients. If the candidate lies about the level of proficiency in a particular program and they’re placed in a position that requires it, it not only makes us look bad, but the candidate as well.”

What Makes a Poor Job Candidate?

Not Being Prepared

There is no way to hide a lack of preparation. And if you aren’t prepared for the interview, then why would a recruiter think you would be prepared on the job?

“An unprepared candidate is more difficult to place,” said Lee Cox from the Woodbury, MN, office. “If a job candidate has no idea what they want to do, or has done little or no research about the field or position, I have no reason to expect them to perform well on the job. A candidate should know the company inside and out—their job duties, distance they are willing to travel, their minimum required wage, etc.”


An interview is a chance to impress. Regardless of how casual the interview is, what you may see as overdressing could show how serious you are as a candidate.

“Just the other day, I had an administrative candidate come to her interview in see-through leggings, a baggy sweatshirt and gym shoes,” Stevens said. “I expect, at the very least, dress slacks, a blouse or blazer, and dress shoes. Shirt and tie aren’t necessary, but are a good indicator that the candidate cares about first impressions.”

Never talk over your interviewer or insult a previous employer.

“Talking over me while I’m asking a question is an indicator that the candidate has passive listening skills or thinks they already know what I have to say and has no reason to listen to what I am saying or asking,” Stevens said. “And as for bashing employers, there’s a way to tactfully state why you left a positon. Instead of saying ‘My boss was a jerk,’ note that management didn’t see eye-to-eye with you on your vision for the position or the company.”


Showing the interviewer why you’re right for the position is important. A great job applicant understands how to do this quickly and succinctly.

“Don’t take 20 minutes to answer the first interview question,” Jacoby said. “Focus on how your experience applies to the job, not on covering everything you’ve ever done. Answer each question quickly and succinctly.”

“Try not to bring personal issues into the interview,” Delafuente said. “Instead of talking about your personal life, focus on the professional.”

Know What You Want

Getting a job isn’t easy. Applicants know that. But the key to a successful interview is knowing as much as you can. Know the company’s history and culture. Know what you want, both in terms of your career and your monetary requirements. Know yourself and your personality, and how that plays in an interview.

Questions for our recruiters? Ask them in the comments below!

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “How to Impress a Recruiter”

  1. Sherry Walls #

    Hi, my question is, I had an interview with Home Depot, I thought it went very well. I dressed to impress, I had all my needed documents needed, via resume, copy of the email that confirmed me as a candidate for the in person interview. The interview to me went well. But a couple of days later I got a email saying, they weren’t hiring.
    I’m so confused if they weren’t hiring why did they waste my time?

    March 7, 2018 at 8:49 am Reply
    • Movin' On Up Staff #

      Hi Sherry,

      Sometimes companies hold interviews for a position that ends up either getting filled internally, or eliminated altogether. However, these companies frequently keep resumes on file so they can contact star candidates later on for other opportunities.

      Thanks for the comment!

      March 7, 2018 at 10:16 am Reply

Leave a Reply