The Recruitment Etiquette Guide

If You Really Want that Job or Applicant – Then You’d Better Show it


In a world of ‘always on’ communications it’s easy to overlook how our behaviour also sends powerful messages – both positive and negative!

When the stakes are high, such as applying for a dream job or trying to recruit a dream candidate, simple behavioural slips can turn the dream into a nightmare.

Recruiters Can’t Read Your Mind


When you apply for a job assume that the person doing the recruiting knows nothing about you. Inside, you might be thinking: ‘I want this job.’ But what does the recruiter see? Somebody keen, or somebody going through the motions?

Turning the telescope round to examine our own behaviour isn’t easy, yet our actions often speak louder than our words. Any recruiter will have stories of good candidates who scuppered their chances of landing a great job through a thoughtless slip or not looking like they really wanted it. Small things can tip the balance.

Nothing says you’re not professional or bothered like a covering letter to Dear Sir/Madam when the recruiter is named on the job ad. If you don’t take the trouble to specify why you want the job or why you’re a good fit, do you expect that the recruiter will do this for you?

Or if you really want to get off on the wrong foot go for a strange or inappropriate email address. These are all signals.

It shouldn’t need saying (but it does) that turning up late for an interview is a bad idea. ‘I hadn’t realised how long it would take to get here’ just says that you couldn’t be bothered to prepare. Just on time is late! Arrive 15 minutes early and you’ll look organised and committed.

Scruffy clothes, too much makeup, perfume or aftershave are all signals that you aren’t taking the interview seriously (even if inside you think you are). And don’t expect to bluff your way through the interview. This isn’t the time to work out how your experience relates to the demands of the role, do your prep beforehand.

Don’t expect the recruiter to take the trouble to discover for themselves how well your experience fits the requirements. For all you know they might not be that good at conducting interviews so your best points may remain unsaid unless you take the initiative.

And finally, clean up your social media profile – recruiters almost always do an online search to see what sort of person they might be recruiting (scary thought?).

I Can Tell Whether You Want This Job, Just by Watching You


Job interviews are stressful (no kidding!) and not just for applicants. Recruiters too can feel the pressure of finding just the right person or talking to someone they’ve not met before. Recruiters are not necessarily doing interviews all of the time.

Stressful situations can lead to your body language getting out of control. You can easily start sending out the wrong signals.

Positive body language includes making eye contact, sitting upright (but not rigidly), gently nodding to show you are listening, and even a simple smile now and then. These are important points for recruiters and candidates to be aware of (and stay aware of throughout the interview).

Slouching, crossing your arms, fidgeting, over-gesticulating, fiddling with pens or your hair are all either distracting or putting up barriers to communication. Behavioural tics become more pronounced when you’re under pressure so try to be more aware of them.

And, of course, there’s the good old handshake. Weak handshakes can come across as a lack of warmth or self-confidence, or as being socially awkward. But don’t overcompensate by becoming a bone crusher or going for the ‘alpha-shake’ that looks like you’re trying to dominate.

Rightly or wrongly, we form unconscious judgments from body language. So it helps to remain aware of the messages you are sending.

Recruiters – Remember You’re Being Interviewed Too


Talented people don’t grow on trees. If you want to attract the best, think of job applicants like prospective customers.

Acknowledging correspondence, keeping people informed if the process is delayed, being on time, polite and prepared – you’d do all of this for your customers without a second thought. Why would you show job candidates any less respect?

Remember too that candidates may have a current job and employer. Be flexible about when you contact them and respect their confidentiality always.

You may have a hundred other things to do but ‘winging it’ in the interview is a huge risk. Candidates can tell when you haven’t read their application properly, which won’t impress them or make them feel valued. And, if you don’t prepare you’ll definitely miss questions you really should have asked.

Beware of causing candidates to think: ‘If the recruitment’s this slap dash, what the hell will working for them be like?’

Recruiters have a choice. You can make interviews like an interrogation and put candidates under pressure, or you can put people at their ease. Which approach will let you find out more about the candidate and encourage them to think they might want to join you?

In a competitive job market (like construction and engineering), it helps to remember that candidates are also interviewing recruiters.

Communication takes many forms. The way we present ourselves and behave towards other people can be the most powerful communication of all.