How to Deal with Recruiters Who Have No Clue What They’re Talking About
Great recruiters at staffing agencies are pretty awesome. They find opportunities that fit your skillset, coach you through the application process and can provide helpful knowledge about a client to increase your odds of winning a contract. As great as they are, though, they sometimes won’t know or understand every detail of the role for which they’re interviewing you, nor will they be completely versed in your technology. After all, if they were that capable, they’d be applying to same positions as you! Even when interviewing with a client, you may end up in a situation where the hiring manager doesn’t know exactly what they’re talking about. As former Ford executive Lee Iacocca once said, “I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.”
Independent contractors need to be prepared for these situations. Interviewers without proficient understanding of your role may ask questions that don’t make sense or use improper terminology, but you need to refrain from being discouraged or rude. Instead, when you recognize you’re meeting with somebody lacking technical knowledge, take a step back and consider some of these tips:
Figure out what they’re looking for. Depending on the stage they’re at in the recruiting process, recruiters may not even care too much about your technical knowledge. Especially in your first meeting with a new employment agency, the goal may simply be to determine if you’re an ethical independent contractor and to understand how you would fit in with their clients.
Focus on what’s happening in the moment. As already mentioned, don’t let yourself get discouraged about an interviewer who doesn’t seem to know what they’re talking about. Stay in the moment and put 100% of your attention into the questions they are asking. (see the previous point)
Tell good stories and brag about yourself. Even though the interviewer may not understand everything you tell them, continue to take the opportunity to talk about your experience and outline your accomplishments. Your goal here is not only to demonstrate your range of knowledge, but also let the recruiter see the enthusiasm you have for your job.
Don’t overdo the bragging. While you do need to demonstrate your expertise and experience, over-explaining experience using complex terminology to somebody you know doesn’t understand is going to make you appear as arrogant, not helpful. Know where to draw the line and when to stop.
Volunteer some information. Again, without coming across as arrogant, feel free to add new details to the interview. As a technology professional, you’ve been to many interviews for IT roles and know the common questions. If something hasn’t been asked, weave it into your answer or volunteer it at the end of your job interview. You can also include it in your follow-up email.
Help them learn. Like every good professional, your recruiter wants to learn and get better their job. This is a fantastic opportunity for an independent contractor to add value and build a relationship within a staffing agency. During the interview, provide them with a little bit more knowledge that will help them with future interviews. This could be explaining a technology in a bit more depth or just passing on a resource where they can seek more information in their own time.
There is no arguing that a recruiter, hiring manager, or whoever else is interviewing you for a specific contract, better have a solid understanding of the project and specific tasks that will be required of you. There is not, however, a need for them to know the ins and outs of your role — that’s why they’re seeking the subject matter expertise of an independent contractor.
Have you been interviewed by a recruiter who wasn’t sure what they were talking about? How did you handle it?