How to Talk to a Recruiter: An Insider Shares What You Need to Know


Ever wonder what recruiters are really thinking when you contact them for help finding a new job? Learn how to talk to a recruiter, including the do's and don’ts for standing out, rallying their support and making them your best advocate during your job search.

If you are searching for a job, chances are that you have been contacted by or are looking to connect with a recruiter.

As a professional recruiter with experience in the office support, administrative, and accounting and finance fields, I can tell you that there are some things that definitely capture my attention — both in a positive and negative way.

How to handle initial conversations

Before you even get to a recruiter, let me tell you who you really need to be nice to: the receptionist. Just as food is the gateway to many a man’s heart, my receptionist is the gateway to the jobs I’m filling. Rude to her? Oh, she lets me know about it. Be kind, be professional, be patient. I promise it will pay off and help your call get transferred a lot faster.

Now, once you get a recruiter on the other end of the telephone or meet in person, please treat us like a partner! I once had a candidate tell me that she didn’t dress up for an interview with me because she didn’t think that it was a real interview. Do you want to know how to talk to a recruiter? This would not be how I would open up the conversation! My job is to partner with you in your job search and to secure the best candidates for my clients. The first thing that I would ask that you keep in mind is that partnership mentality.

We are working with clients to make the best match with regards to culture and skill set, but this is not a one-way street! You need to openly share information, too. I anticipate that when I call you about opportunities that you will be able to let me know what jobs you are currently being considered for and what you have recently applied for. These conversations help give me a good idea of jobs that you may be interested in in the future.

How to email a recruiter

The way that you communicate with me is the way I imagine you communicating with my clients. This is why every correspondence (email included) is taken into account when matching you to opportunities. I once had a client discredit a candidate entirely after their interview because of a poorly written thank-you email.

Spell-check is your friend. Want to tell me you’re detail-oriented? Your spacing, bad grammar and terrible spelling tell a different story.

When sending an email to a recruiter, use a subject line and make it count! Include your name, the position and/or some of your skills. I literally get hundreds of emails a day and it would be great if I could remember yours. Additionally, double-check that you have included an attachment if one is promised. One of the worst things recruiters experience is being excited to look at a resume and it ends up not being there.

What to say when calling about a job

If you are calling to inquire about a specific job, please have a few things ready for your conversation:

  • The job description (including reference number)
  • Your resume in an email attachment, ready to send if recruiters don’t have it already in front of them or they have a hard time finding it in their pool of applicants
  • Your ROI or return on investment. This is a quantitative statement you can refer to that outlines what you bring to a company. Maybe you saved a previous employer time or perhaps you saved them money. In any case, this information is always better to share than just a list of job responsibilities and duties … and really makes you stand out.

Additionally, eagerness helps. I cannot tell you how excited I get when I talk to someone who is ready to go to work tomorrow — those are the people that I want to work with and support in finding a new job.

Do you have any tried-and-true methods that help you to secure interviews or grab the attention of recruiters and other decision makers? Recruiters: Anything that you think candidates could do to stick out in additional ways? Share your advice on how to talk to a recruiter below.

More advice for working with recruiters on your job search