How to get (and keep) a recruiter’s attention

March 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

Just as in developing any relationship in life, catching a recruiter’s attention is a key step toward getting to know an organization or company, which could lead to a job. And keeping that relationship going involves another whole set of steps!

This past weekend I was reminded of some effective ways to get a recruiter’s attention (mostly in a positive way, though sometimes in a negative way as well) as I was recruiting for my company at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism’s annual job fair in New York. I met a lot of good candidates and it got me to thinking about what impressed me right off, and what will keep my attention going forward in coming months. (Also see Feb. 10 post, “What impresses hiring managers.”)

Here are some tips from my experience, and what other recruiters say about what gets and keeps their attention:

*Know what an organization is looking for in candidates and what they are all about. Prepare well. First, when you have only 15 to 20 minutes to chat with a candidate (about the standard amount of time for interviews at a job fair — see Jan. 12 post, “Job fairs — are they worth the time of job hunters or recruiters?”) you want to try to find out as much as you can about their skills and qualifications rather than going into a long explanation of what the organization does. And it’s much better for the candidate to be able to focus on their “elevator speech” and explanation of their resume and materials. Also, it shows preparation and real interest on their part to already know what the company’s about and what it needs.

*Try to engage the recruiter in a conversation. Be friendly and chatty (though not overly so, don’t ever become too familiar with a recruiter). Rather than merely listing your skills and experience (the recruiter can presumably read the resume you just handed him or her) seek to discuss what really motivates you and why you think you’d be a good fit for this position. Look for commonalities with the recruiter — a good recruiter will try to draw you out with questions (oh, I grew up in the Midwest too; or I had a friend who went to that college — were you happy with that choice?), take the bait and seek to come off as an interesting human being, it will aid your candidacy. Try to slip in one interesting fact about yourself that they may remember later — you did a stint in the Peace Corps; you helped start a publication one summer in college; you just got a black belt in tae kwon do. This will separate you from the rest.

*Be polished and professional but beware of becoming the robo-candidate. You want a recruiter to be impressed with your professionalism as that will lead them to think you’ll be a pro on the job as well. Politeness and good manners (and a firm, though not hard, handshake) always count as does having a well-organized presentation and effective materials. Yet you don’t want to sound as though you’re giving the same “stump speech” to every recruiter or hiring manager you come across. And beware of sounding forced or insincere, that’s a real turnoff.

*Remember that all recruiters are different and have different kinds of personalities, so adjust your introduction and follow-up accordingly. If the recruiter is friendly and wants to engage in a conversation, do so. If they seem very busy and just want to get your material, stay more on-point. Ask them how to best follow up. And don’t ask for jobs at the beginning. You want to hear about potential openings and you want to pitch your skills but at the first meeting — whether at a job fair, an informational interview or a coffee meeting that came about through your contacts — you don’t want to be directly asking for a job; those discussions will come down the road.

*Stay in touch on their terms. Most recruiters will tell you to stay in touch by email (as I’ve said before, call them on the phone only when specifically invited to do so) and to let them know what you’re doing. Often a good time to get in touch is when you’ve just accomplished something — had a free-lance article on a relevant topic published, or taken an internship that will put you in that recruiter’s city — that is a good way to continue the conversation. If you are going to be coming to the recruiter’s city, let them know well in advance and perhaps you can meet with them then. Find reasons to be in touch but don’t be a pest. Also, recommend colleagues or friends for positions you aren’t interested in and for which you aren’t well-qualified, this impresses hiring managers and is often a good, positive way to keep their attention.

*And here is a variety of job leads to consider at the start of this work week:

*NBC in D.C. is looking for a content manager for one of its editorial platforms:

Platform Manager
NBC Universal – Washington, DC
Requirements Basic Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, Communications or equivalent work experience. Eligibility Requirement: External…
From GE Careers

*For those with energy policy knowledge, Booz Allen Hamilton has an opening in D.C. for an energy policy analyst:

Energy Policy Analyst Job
Booz Allen – Washington, DC
documents, corporate communications, and annual… Possession of excellent oral and written communication skills -BS degree in Engineering, Economics…
From Booz Allen Hamilton

*NPR in D.C. is looking for an associate producer for digital news in the science and health area:

Associate Producer, Digital News, Science/Health
NPR – Washington, DC
in publications generally and Web publications in particular. Strong oral communication skills. Demonstrated ability to generate and execute complex creative…
From NPR

*The Washington Business Journal has several reporting positions open at its Arlington office:

Looking for one of the best jobs in D.C. biz journalism? The Washington Business Journal, the top paper in Washington dedicated to local business coverage, is looking for experienced reporters. Business reporting experience a plus. Knowledge of D.C. economic development, technology and/or fed contracting a plus. Resume, cover letter & clips to Managing Editor Elizabeth Drachman at

*The Environmental Law Reporter in D.C. is looking for a Web editor but wants applications by April 9, so don’t procrastinate if you’re interested:

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI), a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the leading center of environmental research, policy, analysis, and training in the United States. Founded in 1969, ELI plays a pivotal role in the evolution of environmental law, management, and policy both in the United States and abroad. Support for the Institute comes from a mix of law firm, corporate, government, academic, and individual members as well as grants from private foundations, companies, and government agencies.

The Environmental Law Reporter (ELR) is an essential research tool that provides extensive coverage of developments in the areas of environmental and natural resources law, management, and policy. ELR includes both daily updates of federal administrative developments, weekly updates of congressional, state, and judicial developments, and the highly-respected monthly journal, ELR News & Analysis. ELI seeks a Web Editor to compile and edit daily and weekly updates and to manage content on ELI’s soon-to-be-launched Web portal to ELI publications. The Web Editor must have an eye for detail as well as the ability to edit for content and style and be comfortable working with websites based in Drupal. The Web Editor may also assist ELI’s Director, Associates Programs, in conducting ELI seminars on important policy topics.

Both 30-hour per week part-time and full-time applications will be considered. The position requires (1) superior writing and editing skills; (2) excellent web abilities; (3) excellent communication skills; and (4) significant attention to detail. Bachelor’s degree. Location: Washington, DC. Salary: $35,000-40,000, depending upon experience, with excellent benefits.  Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, resume (including GPAs), list of references, writing sample, and ELI standard application (job reference #100316) –available at Cover letters should address the candidates’personal goals and interests, as well as their experience and interest in carrying on the duties outlined above. Application materials should be submitted no later than April 9, 2010 by e-mail to ELI is an equal opportunity employer strongly committed to providing equal opportunity and to achieving an inclusive, diverse workforce that values every individual.

*And to wrap up today’s leads, the AFL-CIO  has an opening for a senior writer in its D.C. office:

OVERVIEW OF RESPONSIBILITIES: The AFL-CIO is seeking an outstanding writer for print and online projects ranging from speeches, columns and op-eds to blog posts and policy reports. The Senior Writer will be able to craft compelling material that will move the audience to action, basing the writing on policy positions, polling and other data and message templates. The Senior Writer reports to the Deputy Director:

Technical Skills: Translate complicated subject matter into compelling and interesting presentations.   Locate obscure information/details to support facts in speeches and talking points. Articulate goals, programs and direction of the AFL-CIO in clear and concise manner. Write a variety of advocacy and policy materials, for print and online use, that move the audience to take action. Rewrite or over-write additional materials as assigned. Use social media tools and contacts with progressive social media community to extend message reach. Work with program departments to plan, draft and revise campaign materials. Contribute creatively to message framing, audience targeting, campaign planning, etc. and execute print and online products. Keep the director fully informed on a regular basis on issues affecting all project work. Prepare and submit regular and ad hoc reports on activities as required. Performs other duties as assigned.

Additional Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in English or related field preferred. Minimum of 4 years writing for social advocacy group. Strong knowledge of the labor movement and the movement for progressive social change.  Demonstrated experience integrating messaging in social media outreach such as Twitter and Facebook. Involvement in the social media community. Ability to exercise excellent political judgment and discretion. Strong interpersonal skills. Ability to collaborate and work well with staff. Excellent research, reporting and writing skills and engaging writing style. Demonstrated success in writing a range of advocacy materials including op-eds, speeches, etc. Ability to cultivate sources and understand and translate nuances. Ability to meet deadlines while juggling several projects simultaneously. Ability to adjust tones and capture different voices. Ability to work long and extended hours.

How to Apply: Three (3) Writing Samples Required – Must include a speech and an op-ed. People of color and women are encouraged to apply.  Please send a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications for the position, a resume, and the requested writing samples to: Jobpost, AFL-CIO Human Resources Department, 815 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20006, FAX: (202)508-6961, EMAIL:

Good luck on the hunt!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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