Career Tips: An Interview with Jennifer Armitstead

Jennifer Armitstead is an independent recruiter and career coach. She shares insightful tips on how to work with recruiters to advance your career, how education helps to set you apart from the competition, and how to prepare for job interviews.

For more career tips, watch the video, check out Jennifer’s Career Expert profile, or read the transcript below.

Career Tips Transcript

I’m a recruiter and I want you to know how important education is because it is critical to the success of your career.

With different types of recruiters, you can expect to find somebody like myself who is an independent recruiter. What I do is I work on a contingent basis, so I do not get paid unless I place somebody at a company and the company will actually pay me a fee for my time once I’ve actually place the person.

Another type of recruiter is a retained recruiter. A retained recruiter is typically paid a lump sum up front, they’ll typically be on retainer for about a year, and then after the person is placed, then they’ll be paid the second half of their retention fee. Typically retained recruiters are for executive level, so maybe your CEO, your COO, your CFO level people. And then you might find them at the vice president level, too.

And then the other type of recruiter are your in-house, or your corporate recruiter. And that’s what most people think of when they think about when they’re applying to a company, and they might be thinking that they’re going through human resources that they may be talking to an internal recruiter. And so those people will work full time for a company, the candidates they’re looking for are only for that company that they work for. And that is a big difference from someone like myself where I’m an independent recruiter where I talk to a lot of different candidates because I deal with a lot of different companies.

So when companies are hiring, they typically are looking for 3 main things: they’re looking for a cultural fit, they’re looking for a skill fit, and they’re also looking for somebody who can continue to grow and learn, and typically that will happen through education. And so, when it comes to a cultural fit, every company is so very different and so in general, I can’t say that there’s one specific thing that every company is looking for, it will really depend on the different companies. That’s again why it’s so important for me as a recruiter to get to know that company and to really know and understand what is their culture? What are they all about? Different people are going to fit better in different environments, it’s just the facts of what it is.

Once somebody’s a good cultural fit, then I will typically look at what is their skill? Do they match what this company needs? If it’s a technical position, do they have the technical background that’s needed to do this position? And if they don’t have the technical skill from work experience, have they gone to school? Have they earned a degree that they can then leverage that towards their work experience. And then of course, as a person is working, once they’re in the door, how are they doing as far as continuing to learn. Especially in technology, there are so many nuances of technology and things that will continue to change.

I think education is so critical for job-seekers, certainly in today’s marketplace there are people who are concerned about okay, how attractive am I as a candidate, and whatnot. But for years as I’ve dealt with job seekers, and I’ve been in recruiting for over 12 years. The people who have really invested in their education, those are the people that are continuing to excel and they’re doing well in their careers, and actually will come back to me time and time again to help them again in their career, to continue to progress. But the education is just critical, it makes such a difference. When I’m comparing apples to apples and I’m looking at two candidates, the candidate who has a college degree, or the candidate who has gone back and has received the extra certification, they stand out to me. It shows to me that that person is committed to themselves and to being better, and that they are committed to finishing something as well. And that makes a big difference. And I can say that because of managers that I have dealt with, and I have dealt with hundred of hiring managers, they like to see that that person is going to stick with something.

So I think a really important thing for students while they’re in school is to start to build relationships with recruiters then. And to build relationships with people that are in their class, be it their professors, their classmates, there can also be even professionals that come on campus that maybe give speeches or whatnot. And so I think it’s really important students start paying attention to who those people are and start to connect with them. You don’t want to wait until after you graduate to then start doing your job search. Also, it’s really important that you connect with your career services on campus because they will be able to let you know when recruiters will be coming on campus. Those are great people to connect with because although you may have another year or two left of your education, or six months, and you might be thinking, well I won’t be getting a job just yet, by getting connected with a recruiter today will help you in six months or a year from now. It allows you to have that opportunity to build that relationship with the recruiter as well and then hopefully you’ll stand out from those other candidates, too.

I think another important thing in all of this, is that while you’re in school, it’s important to pay attention to what is it that you want to be known for. I think that’s why a lot of people go back to school and get their additional education and certification, because it helps you to be unique, it helps you continue to grow and to advance in that specific area that you’re in. And so as you know what you want to be known for –your personal brand – I think it’s really important that you communicate that to the recruiter, especially those recruiters that are coming on campus, or recruiters you’re speaking to at different companies. Let them know – what’s unique about you? How is it that you stand out? What’s different about you from the other candidates? That will help you to stand out and will help you to make sure that you are expressing your own personal brand.

Whenever I’m preparing one of my candidates for an interview, there are some critical things that I make sure that they’re aware of before they go into that interview. Dressing for the position is critical. I find that when candidates show up and they have on a nice suit, a shirt and tie, whatever it is that looks professional, they will really stand out. Granted the position while working, you might be dressed very casually, maybe even T-shirts and jeans, but dressing for the interview is really critical, and it really helps you to stand out.

Another important thing, too, is the ability to articulate. I think that it’s really important that you a practice interview, and doing a little bit of a mock interview with your recruiter can actually help quite a bit. The recruiter can give you some feedback about maybe eye contact, about maybe how you’re sitting, you know, are your shoulders square, are you shaking hands well, etc. Those types of things are really, really important and it can make all the different for you when you’re being compared to other candidates.

Another thing I think is important, too, for candidates is to find out what recruiter does that recruiter know about the company? It is my job as a recruiter to know what is most important. Does that company have something specific that they are looking for. Is there something that I can prepare you, as a recruiter, to help you understand certain questions that you might get in the interview. Maybe the company has kind of a quirky way about going their interview process, I can help you through that. And that can really make a difference so you’re not caught off guard when you go into the interview.


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