Good posture, enthusiastic inflection, and other ‘green flags’ recruiters want to see

Recruiting is like matchmaking. Here’s how to get it right.
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· 3 min read

Recruiting is like dating. First impressions are formed in a matter of minutes, and decisions are made on a dime.

Just ask Lauren van Duyn. A recruiter at HR tech firm WorkHuman, she told HR Brew that most screening interviews are only 30 to 45 minutes, and in total, she expects to personally spend just an hour or two with a candidate throughout the recruitment process. During that time, it’s her job to assess if they’re a “match” for the role.

“Not to be too cliched or cheesy, [but] it’s like finding a partner in life or in a relationship,” Van Duyn said. “Both parties have to be really excited about the other person and about what that partnership could look like.”

While there are no guarantees, many recruiters do, over time, develop a list of “green flags” that can help them expedite the hiring process.

With feeling! All of the recruiters interviewed for this piece agreed that their biggest green flag is demonstrated enthusiasm about the role at hand. For Katie Birkelo, SVP of the Western United States at Randstad, enthusiasm is often characteristic of a collaborative employee, one who is committed to the final product, and unlikely to “quietly quit.” Though she said enthusiasm was easier to assess when recruiting was done in person, she now uses posture and inflection to gauge genuine interest over Zoom. She also asks candidates for examples of leaders who have motivated or inspired them.

For Van Duyn, enthusiasm is indicative of an employee who will thrive on a mission-driven team. “It really helps to drive you through those tougher days when you maybe you have lower energy.”

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Start your own engine. Josh Brenner, CEO of job-search platform Hired, said that on his platform, recruiters’ top picks are often applicants who are proven self-starters—those who, for example, take the initiative to learn coding through a boot camp or YouTube videos. Brenner suspects this could be because these candidates demonstrate internal drive.

“Maybe it shows that they are someone who has a natural drive toward that technology and someone who has gone above and beyond,” Brenner said. “They spend their time and potentially their own money outside of colleges to invest in these types of boot camps or self-directed learning courses.”

Birkelo and Van Duyn also look for signs that candidates are adaptable and self-motivated. It’s not uncommon for Birkelo, for example, to begin interviews by asking, “Tell me what life was like growing up?”

She explained that how a candidate responds to a behavioral question like this can help her understand how they function and interact, calling these questions the “human” part of recruiting.

“I’m looking for that adaptability. I’m looking for, ‘My grandfather taught me how to farm,’” Birkelo said. “I’m looking for things about work ethic that you can’t find on a résumé.”—SV

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HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

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