5 Things Recruiters Say and How to Interpret Them

Talking to a corporate recruiter is tricky. A recruiter's objective is to fill open positions, and to some extent, recruiters are playing a numbers game. The more candidates they put in front of hiring managers, the more likely they'll place someone. That's why it's so important to read between the lines when you're working with a corporate recruiter. Here are five common things recruiters say and how you can interpret them.

1. We'll be in touch

This is one of those vague, friendly statements recruiters pull out when they want to keep you interested but aren't ready to commit. Consider it the "I'll call you" of the job-hunting world. You might not hear back, but the recruiter isn't ready to let you off the hook just quite yet.

You can turn the tables on this by asking specific questions such as "When can I expect to hear from you?" or "Will you be notifying all candidates of your decision?" You might not get a straight answer, but it doesn't hurt to try to pin a recruiter down on a timeline. (And it's smart to follow up if you haven't heard back according to the provided timeline.)

2. You're a great fit, but we're still interviewing candidates

Same song, different chorus. This probably means you're likely a backup candidate—either the hiring manager is waiting on a first-choice candidate to accept an offer, or the recruiter thinks you're a stronger possibility than the decision maker does and believes the decision maker might change her mind. At this point, you should continue interviewing for other positions, keep your options open, and be upfront with the recruiter about doing so. To use another dating analogy, playing hard to get might move you to the top of the list.

3. An internal candidate has emerged

Barring something extraordinary, if a recruiter tells you an internal candidate has emerged, it's time to send your resume on to the next opportunity. Internal candidates are almost always known quantities before the hiring process begins, and they've automatically got the edge. The hiring manager already knows whether the internal candidate meshes well with company culture. The unfortunate part for job-seekers is that many companies require that all positions be posted externally before a hire is made. This means many applicants go through the charade of an interview process when the decision was made on day one.

4. You'd be coming at the right time

Similar to "like a start-up within an established company," the statement that "you'd be coming at the right time" is likely code for "you're walking into a messy situation." Perhaps the team is under new leadership or has just inherited a major project that needs cleanup. This statement isn't a sign you should run for the hills, though. It just means you should be prepared for challenges and "opportunities to shine."

5. We'll keep your resume on file

This is another way for the recruiter to let a candidate down easily. It sounds far less harsh than "you'll never hear from us again." And, in truth, your resume is already part of the recruiter's database—along with hundreds of others. Chances are the recruiter will never look at it again. It's not a reason to be disheartened, but it's a sign you should make sure your resume is on the way to someone else's desk.

The recruiter's job isn't to select the job candidate. It's to make sure the decision maker has plenty of options. It's to the recruiter's benefit to keep you feeling good about the process. Remember this, and the situation will be less frustrating. And who knows: you might just make it through the process. Someone must. It's a numbers game, after all.

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