Wondering if you got the job? Decode What the HR Person is really Saying


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The recruitment and selection process is one of the most unnatural human exchanges, so it’s no surprise that candidates often leave an interview or hang up from a phone screen with no clue where they stand.  I have interviewed amazing candidates who came across very strong and later told me they felt that was the worst interview of their life, and vice versa.  So here are a few key phrases you may hear from the recruiter and what they actually mean.

1. “We’re just at the beginning of the process”

You’re the first person we’ve interviewed and we have no idea yet if there is someone better out there

2. “We would like to move your application to the next step in the process, which is confirming your references”

If your references check out we’ll be offering you the job. (Trust me, no recruiter is spending time verifying references for someone they are not interested in)

3. “You’ll hear from us either way”

If we’re interested you will hear from us very soon.  If not, you will receive a template decline e-mail in a few weeks after our top candidate has officially signed the offer.

4. “I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities”

Your resume will sit in our database until you apply for something else or contact me to jog my memory in a few months.

5. “The competition is still in progress”

We’re totally stalling for one of a hundred different reasons that I can’t disclose to you. At this point it’s really 50/50.

6. “We’ve decided to go in another direction”

I don’t want to get myself in trouble and give you a true reason that can legally come back and bite me in the butt or burn any bridges. You may see this posting up again in 2 weeks and you will know that unfortunately we just didn’t like you.

Are there other phrases a recruiter told you that you would like decoded? Tweet to us @DreamBigCareers and we’ll let you know what the recruiter is really saying!

Five Things Recruiters Don’t Want You to Know

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1. You are being evaluated at every single moment in the process. From the first time the recruiter calls, to how you treat the receptionist when you arrive for the interview, to your handshake, and of course how you behave in the interview, are all part of the evaluation process.  But it doesn’t end there.  Your follow up after the interview and even how you behave in the offer stage are still being considered.  Don’t be mistaken: If a recruiter or hiring manager sees a different person in the negotiations of the offer that sends red flags flying your offer could be revoked.   Stay professional, positive and normal each step of the way.

2. How bad you really did in the interview.  Let’s be clear: a corporate recruiter’s job is to find the right person for every vacancy that passes their desk.  In many cases, time is money.  And that means that if you are not the right person for the job, unfortunately we don’t have much time for you.  Our job is not to coach you on what went wrong (unless you are an internal candidate, this may be something your company offers), but we also don’t want to burn any bridges.  It’s much easier for a recruiter to simply tell you that you did a great job but there was someone slightly more qualified for the role, or that we decided to go in another direction all together. You can ask for feedback, but don’t expect a detailed debrief.

3. We have no intention of calling you again — for any job.  Every HR shop has a Do Not Hire list but you will never know if you are ever on this list because recruiters typically tend to be conflict avoiders.  Similar to above, it’s much easier for us to tell you we went with someone else and then add you to the “DNH” list so that our colleagues won’t call you either.  However, a good recruiter should never tell you they will keep your resume on file for future openings if they have no intention of hiring you.  Still, some will give you this line just to get you off the phone. If a company wants to hire you they will make an offer or keep in touch with you until a suitable vacancy arises.   

4. The “correct” interview answers.  A recruiter knows if a candidate is just feeding them what they think they want to hear.  Don’t assume you know the answer they are looking for. Be yourself and answer honestly.  A perfect example – I was hiring for a new HR Assistant and one of the questions we asked each candidate was what their 3 to 5 year career goals were.  A lot of candidates told us about their aspirations to complete their HR designation, move up and out of administration into more robust HR roles.  Perhaps they thought with that question that we were looking for someone eager and determined to get ahead.  In reality we wanted someone who was passionate about administration and would have longevity in the often mundane role we were recruiting for.

5. We only spend 10 to 20 seconds looking at each resume.  If your resume doesn’t catch a recruiter’s attention right away it will be passed over.  Most corporate recruiters work in a very fast paced environment.  We are trained for high volume resume review.   Job titles, previous employers and education are the key items we are looking for. 

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