You and a recruiter have accomplished about as much as possible over the telephone. You tried to disqualify the opportunity, and you couldn't. You're not "sold." But you are interested. So you're going to go see the recruiter...or possibly she's coming to see you. Now what?
Now you prepare for the meeting!
That's right. Even though the recruiter called you; you didn't call her. Even though you agreed to the meeting only after she drowned you in charming persuasion. Still you prepare. This meeting is far more important to you than to her. It's just part of one day's work to the recruiter. But it could change...for better or worse...your entire career.
So take some time to figure out what you want to accomplish. What questions do you want answered? And what do you want to communicate, so that the recruiter will rank you among her finalists and will accurately convey your best features to her client?
Your Two-Fold Agenda: Selling and Inquiring ...with Emphasis on Selling
One objective must be virtually in-the-bag by the end of the meeting. The other can be pursued later by phone, if necessary.
If time runs out on your interview and you haven't asked quite all of your questions...or if new ones occur to you afterward...you can always phone for answers. Is there anything wrong with this?
YOU: "A few important questions occur to me that we didn't get a chance to cover when we were together..."
No, nothing at all out of line. But imagine this call:
NOT YOU: "Unfortunately, Paula, I was so busy asking questions during my interview, that I got home and realized I hadn't told you some additional...and very impressive...things you should know about me. Make yourself comfortable, and I'll begin reciting my further virtues to you now..."
You get the point. You had plenty of chance to challenge the job during one or more phone calls before your interview. And you can phone with more questions later. The interview is your chance to let the recruiter find out how ideal you'd be for the position. Don't wind up with you convinced that the job's right for you, and the recruiter not convinced that you're right for the job.
Of course you can try to fill in omitted selling points with a follow-up letter. Indeed, that's your only shot. But the recruiter's impression will overwhelmingly be based on your face-to-face interview. It's almost impossible to raise your ranking by anything you mail in afterward.
So ask and sell. But don't fail to sell.
At the outset:
- determine how much time you have, and
- reconfirm the ground rules, if necessary.
And if you've got to leave within a limited time, let the recruiter know right away:
"I hope I've scheduled enough time for this, and I'll be glad to come back if you want me to. But I couldn't avoid setting up another meeting at four o'clock. So I'll have to leave here by three-thirty."
Forewarned, both you and the recruiter can modify your agendas to fit the pre acknowledged time slot. Such a statement isn't discourteous; it's the mark of a thoughtful and efficient executive.
Candidate interviews by recruiters usually range from an hour to an hour and a half. I personally devote far more time to them, but I also pre-screen very restrictively and invite only a few exceptional people to interview. Each recruiter has his or her own personal style. Achieve your objectives by adapting to the recruiter's game plan.
Another point. If you agreed to this meeting without knowing in advance the identity of the employer, you should also reconfirm, right up front, the ground rules that were negotiated earlier:
"You know, Paula, you still haven't told me who the employer is.
Your feeling was that at the end of this meeting, you'd know whether or not you'll be presenting me. Then you can tell me who it is... if we're going ahead...or that I'm not a finalist if we won't be going further. That's just fine with me. What I really want to be sure of is that we're agreed that I won't be presented anywhere, unless I know in advance where that will be."
Beginning with a recapitulation of points agreed on earlier over the phone is merely appropriate businesslike procedure. But if you delay them to the end of the interview, the same points will seem nagging and distrustful.
Set up an informal agenda.
Once timing is established, it's not offensive...and can be helpful to send up another trial balloon:
YOU: "I don't know where you want to start. I do have some potential reservations about the job...especially since reading the 10K and proxy statement you sent me. Or do you want to start by talking about me? I just know that before I can agree to be a candidate, I'll have to have answers to a few key questions."
Your concerns aren't such "show-stoppers" that you should have phoned and possibly cancelled your interview. But they do have to be addressed. The recruiter can now decide whether to tackle them right away, or to go ahead and talk about your qualifications, with the understanding that she can't sign off until your questions are answered. Indeed, your down-to-business approach may encourage her to proceed just as frankly:
"Let's take a look at our main questions first, and cover whatever else we have time for at the end. My two basic questions about you are: How much experience have you had in acquisitions and divestitures? And what happened at Yesterday Corporation?"
Or the recruiter may even say:
"Look, I'm already convinced that you're one of the best candidates in America for this position; let's get your questions out of the way first, and then let me tell you some further things I've learned about the job."
The better you and the recruiter know how much time you both have, and the issues of greatest interest to the opposite party, the more useful...and persuasive...the meeting will be.
Do you have a resume? And do you hand it over?
Yes! You never come to a recruiter interview without a resume. And once you're satisfied that you're dealing with a professional you respect, you don't hesitate to hand it to her.
As a successful executive at and far beyond $100,000+, you know about visual aids and leave-behinds. A resume is both. Even if you're more concerned about getting information than communicating it, the resume will still be helpful. It will speed the recruiter's inquiry...and make more time available for your questions.
If you're being courted by the recruiter, and the job seems only marginally attractive, just bring in the last resume you made...even if it's ten years old. Update your home address and phone number. Also jot down on a sheet of yellow pad the dates and titles of your more recent jobs. Your early career will be thoroughly covered, and you can talk your way forward from there. First-class recruiters always type up their own version of candidate information. So informality won't count against you, even if you wind up meeting the employer.