Future Lawyer Blog

What makes a recruiter tick? – Sue Lenkowski

In my final blog this year I have chosen to interview a recruiter to give you an insight into the other side.

I assume you are an expert at being interviewed –the perfect candidate? But have you ever made a mistake as a candidate?

Our author, Sue Lenkowski

I have made many interview mistakes; nerves cause us all to make a gaff. Two major ones spring to mind, telling an interviewer “I don’t know the answer and I’m not going to b**l S**t you” I was rejected unsurprisingly for swearing but I was unaware I had even said it until I received the feedback! And secondly telling a story about my dislike of children at an interview for a well known retailer of children’s wear .These anecdotes make the point that engaging mouth before brain is NEVER a good idea and over confidence and relaxing too much can be a big mistake. The best interviewers will put you at your ease and that’s where these mistakes can occur.

What’s the most bizarre thing you have seen a candidate do?

That’s an easy one and you may find this tale hard to believe but I swear it’s true!
Many years ago I was running an assessment centre. A young woman arrived late and was very loud and erratic telling other candidates that she had been out all night. Not a great first impression but it got worse. In the group exercise she proceeded to grab a glass of water and pour it over her head. I thought I was about to feature on “you’ve been framed” but Jeremy Beadle didn’t appear so I removed her from the group and her chance of a legal career at the firm was no more.
To this day I have no idea why she did this but I suspect she spent many hours regretting it.

Do first impressions count?

Despite trying hard to avoid subjective judgements, recruiters are human and, faced with long days meeting many candidates, we all make judgements in the first 20 seconds.

Describe the facets of a candidate which make a poor first impression?

Handshakes are often the number one issue. Limp, sweaty, bone breaking or hesitant all serve to create a very poor first Impression .Practice a strong and confident handshake with family and friends, and the more you do this the more comfortable you will be when you meet a recruiter on the day.

Ditch the white socks! Thanks to ecneralx for image

A brand new suit and shoes may seem like the right thing to do but it can create a negative first impression if it’s too small or too big or you spend the interview fiddling with parts of your outfit. What are my most vivid memories? Women with skirts that were way too short, tops that reveal too much, jewellery fit for a night out. Men with trousers that are too short when sitting down, brilliant white socks really don’t say ‘potential young lawyer’.

Novelty ties, I still remember a candidate who will forever been known in my memory as Banana Man! To the candidate who wore a jumper to his interview I say you made a big mistake.

Finally don’t forget to take the price label off the sole of your new shoes it’s always noticed!

What is the worst answer you have ever heard?

This is tricky as I’m afraid to say there are so many. However I suppose they all have a common theme: rambling, waffling, meaningless answers which possibly show the fact a candidate doesn’t know the answer or they lack good communication skills.

But if I had to choose two they would be;

Q “What do you understand by the term TESCO law?”
A “Its legislation about shelf stacking and who can do it”
Q “What are your strengths?”
A “My good looks”

To make it worse is both candidates thought these were serious answers.

What are the worst questions you have ever heard of?

I'd be a giraffe because.... Thanks to Danielle Bauer for image

I am never sure whether some of these are urban myths. The worst example was:

    “If you were in an accident and could save only one of your parents which would you choose and why?”

I really hope that isn’t true.

But the following are absolutely true and I really dislike them:

    Describe yourself as an animal book film food etc
    If I got your colleagues /friends drunk what would they say about you?
    What is your favourite TV programme and why?
    Who do your most admire?

I dislike these questions as they throw a candidate off balance for no good reason and the answers are completely meaningless, with any judgements made highly subjective. If you get a question like this, think before you speak, make your answer logical and don’t go for the weird or wacky in an effort to be memorable. You may be memorable but for the wrong reasons (like the candidate who admired Bart Simpson).

What is the most irritating thing candidates do?

Again there are many things but the top ones for me are:

    Candidates arriving too early or too late (My timetable is tight)
    A Candidate who produced a whole A4 sheet of questions at the end of the interview and proceeded to try and ask them all (We are on a tight time schedule and we need to keep to time)
    A Candidate who told me what he had found out about me via a Google search (I knew it and it was wasting my time)
    I recall a candidate (who must have been told taking a sip of water before answering a question would help her deal with her nerves), when she started to do this before answering each question it became very annoying, and I found it hard to even listen to her answers.

If you had one piece of advice for interview success what would it be?

Plan, Prepare and Practice

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