If you’ve been an IT contractor for some time then you’ve met with plenty of recruiters from a variety of staffing agencies. Though no fault of your own, you’ve also had interviews go terribly wrong. Perhaps the recruiter is too junior, extremely busy, or just bad at their job, but when you find an interview going off the rails because they were unprepared, it’s up to you to save the meeting.
Certainly, a scattered recruiter who can’t conduct an interview is a red flag, but they may also be the key to a contract with your ideal client. Making the job interview work will make you stand out, be appreciated by the recruiter and give you more control over the outcome.
Have Empathy for the Unprepared Recruiter
This is understandably extremely frustrating for you. You gave up your time, maybe even paid time, to come into their office and meet but this recruiter didn’t even have the courtesy to be prepared. Still, this is a gatekeeper to contract opportunities so refrain from burning bridges just yet. Empathize with the recruiter and understand their situation. Maybe they’re new to the role, extremely busy, having a personal crisis, or got thrown into this interview at the last minute. None are really excusable but putting yourself in their shoes will dictate your future reactions.
Take Control of the Interview (subtly)
You took the time to arrive for the interview and still want a shot at the IT contract, so you might as well make this work. Even if you’ve determined you’re talking to an incompetent human being, let them feel like they’re still in control of the interview. Doing otherwise would not only crush their ego, but can give them a negative impression of you.
It may be their first time conducting an interview, but it definitely is not your first time being in one, so use your experience to guide the conversation. When you feel an awkward silence in the room, ask leading questions:
- Can I tell you about my background and how I can help the client?
- Would it be ok if I lead you through my resume to highlight why I’m a good fit?
- Can you tell me a bit about the client and their project?
Answer Their Questions, Even the Odd Ones
Another reason your recruiter may appear unprepared is because they do not have the technical knowledge to fully understand the job. As a result, you’ll get off-the-wall questions that make no sense. Politely answer them and then steer the response back to something more relevant. This feeds them with real facts they can use to sell you to their client and the recruiter will appreciate you helping them learn more about the technology.
Know When to End It
As alluded to at the start of this post, sometimes a disorganized recruiter is a red flag. Look around the recruitment agency’s office and reflect on your entire experience leading up to this interview. Was this mess a one-time mistake or have you found your way onto a sinking ship of an organization? If this is not going to work, end the interview and move on with your day.
As rare as they are, unprepared interviews do happen, which is why it’s important for you to be prepared! Could you imagine walking into a meeting where neither party had a clue about the opportunity or what to do? If you find yourself in the situation, remember to be polite and empathetic, and just have a meaningful conversation. A self-aware recruiter will remember your conduct, know they can count on you and, as an added bonus, will know they owe you a favour!