Get the best result from an agency interview - part 2

We've all heard the stories. You get a call from a recruiter. They're describing a fantastic job with a company you're really interested in. They demand that you take time from your busy work schedule to interview with them, in order to then recommend you through to the employer. You beg/borrow/steal time away from work. You incur travel expenses to meet the recruiter somewhere on the other side of town. Of course, its always really urgent and important that you meet "right away".

They go through a random "tick the box" exercise, leaving you wondering why the heck they didn't just go through this on the phone in the first place.  Worse, they ask you to talk about your roles from 20 years ago. They assure you you're a perfect fit and they're getting their recommendation through to the client right away. 

And then........nothing.  No feedback.  No returned calls.  If you do manage to track down the recruiter, there might be some mumbled excuse about the job being pulled.  All that urgency, time, expense and inconvenience for you, for nothing.

There is unfortunately an element of this in the recruitment industry, be it with contingency firms, or search firms.  Don't you make the mistake of thinking its always like this though.

Remember, there are good consultants, who are trusted advisers to their employer clients.  I for example am regarded as the first stage interviewer for many of the hiring leaders I've worked with for years.  You don't pass me, you don't meet them.

In part one I noted some of the key things you should take into account so you don't blow a legitimate agency interview.   Here's a few more things to factor in.


You don’t have to like your agency interviewer.  You don’t have to respect them.  But if you’re rude to them, or to any of their support team, guess what will be reported back to the client.  And it’s the interviewer who already has a proven and trusted relationship with the employer….


Ask for it.  You may learn about habits you didn’t know you had.  You don’t have to agree or even take the feedback on board.  But any decent interviewer at this point has a vested interest in helping you to succeed.  Hear them out.  They may well be highlighting the one tiny thing that will stop you from connecting with the employer and landing the job.


Turn off your phone before the interview unless you’re expecting a life/death emergency call.  If you’re taking part in a VC/Skype type interview, test and recheck the tech in advance.  Basic tech savvy is now a mandatory part of HR hires.  If your incompetence is wasting the interviewer's time, the client is going to hear about it.

Virtual interviews

Move the kids/dog/party/distractions out of the room and out of earshot.  If it’s a visual interview, then additionally move the dirty dishes, raunchy pictures etc. out of the interviewer's sight line.  Lose the t-shirt/pyjamas/bosom heaving top.  Many employers are utilising tech for virtual workplace meetings.  How you conduct yourself in an interview gives your recruitment contact great  insight to how professional you would be in the workplace.

Good grace 

We make a point of advising our HR professionals right away whether we’re recommending them for the next stage of interview with our clients, or not.  We also make a point of providing the reasons why.   99% of people (whilst they might not like this outcome) do agree with our assessment.  Threatening to phone your father who plays golf with the company CEO won’t get you back into the hiring process.  Neither will a direct approach to the employer – they’re relying on the counsel of their recruiting partner for a reason.  In fact, showing anything less than good grace just calls into question your professionalism, damages your reputation with the agency, and shuts you out of any future hires they would have otherwise flagged through to you.

Of course all of these points apply once you get to interview directly with an employer.  And even when you’ve struck a rubbish recruiter it’s better to adopt this professional approach yourself rather than not.

As a senior leader in the HR profession, you simply have no excuse not to get these basics right.