Recruitment agents and “placeability”

When a recruiter is meeting with you, they are mostly trying to assess whether you are a placeable candidate or not. A placeable candidate is a candidate who will interview well, and take a job if offered. The quality of “placeability” is partly about how in-demand your skills and experience are, and you cannot do very much to influence their perception of this in the meeting. There are a whole lot of other factors influencing placability though, and how you conduct yourself in a meeting with a recruiter can have a huge impact on how much effort they put in to finding you a job.

A big part of placeablity is interviewing well. If you interview well with the recruiter, you will interview well with the line manager. All the standard rules apply. However there a few special recruitment agent questions to watch out for.

Why are you considering leaving/did you leave your current/previous job?This question has a lot of layers to it, and tells the recruiter a lot about you.  If you answer that you don’t get on well with your boss, or that you don’t like your company culture, or indeed any negative reason, then the recruiter will assume there is at least a 50/50 chance that the problem lies with you rather than your situation. Your answer will say a lot about your view of the world, you have to avoid sounding negative or naive. Your answer will also give the recruiter some idea of how serious you are about considering other opportunities. If your reason doesn’t seem to make sense, or may be subject to changing circumstances, then your placeability will go down. Finally, if the reason you are leaving your current job would also make you unhappy in the job you are applying for, then obviously your placeability goes way down! Your answer should always be positive, and be focused on the opportunities and experience that you want to get in your next job and can’t get in your current job…even if the core reason is something  like your employer closing their doors or cutting staff. 

What were your achievements in your previous job/s?You absolutely have to prepare for this question by working out how to articulate your acheivements concisely and clearly. Make it clear how much you contributed individually to any group successes. 

What are your salary expectations?This is a tricky question, as you don’t want to over or undersell yourself. The most appropriate answer is to tell the recruiter your current salary…if you are employed then this is your fall-back position and will give them a good indicator of what you would accept. If you are genuinely willing to take a salary cut for a great opportunity then this will raise your placeability…but you should only say so if it is true. If you are expecting an offer more than 10-15% higher than your current salary then this will substantially reduce your placeability unless the circumstances are very exceptional 

When can you attend interviews?If you cannot make time for interviews during working hours then this may substantially reduce your placeability. Always be on time for interviews that recruiters set up for you. They are unlikely to give you a second chance, as it reflects very badly on them if their client is kept waiting. 

resume writing mistakes

There are a couple of trends in resume writing which are popular but not necessarily appropriate.

One of those trends  is putting a list of your skills at the top of your resume;  like you are putting meta-tags on a web-page. As a recruiter I never looked at those skills because is they are  an unverifiable self assessment by the job-seeker. What a recruiter wants to know is what you did and achieved at particular employers. Recruiters have a mental ranking and categorisation of employers which they use to evaluate those responsibilities and achievements.

 The other trend is to use a one-page resume. I completely agree that it is useful to have a quick career summary on the first page of your resume that users can scan quickly, but if they are interested in reading more, you need to have the details on later pages for them to delve into. This is particularly important if you are submitting resumes that will be screened by individuals that don’t necessarily understand your area of expertise (like HR generalists). They will just be looking for key words in your resume that match the job description and if you are missing a key word then you could get filtered out before the resume reaches the real decision maker.  You need to cover all the key words in your resume that might be in the job description.

Put the one page summary first. Keep the formatting clean, simple and consistent. As a rough guide you should have at least one page for every 3-5 years of work experience. Make sure you include plenty of contextual information about your employer and business unit, and give plenty of information not just about your responsibilities, but also about what you acheived…what impact you had. As long as you do this, your resume will be great.


A lot of professionals I meet with who have been struggling with issues around job search believe that they have some inherent value, which people are just failing to see.

Of course, everyone has value in a happy, warm-fuzzy feelings way, but in a professional context we do not have inherent value. Rather, as professionals our value is entirely defined by what we can bring to others. If you cannot create value, you have no value.

This may seem a little harsh, but it throws things into a nice stark relief. When you are being interviewed, you may be fooled by the fact that everyone is asking questions about you, into thinking that they want to know about you. No, they don’t. What they want to know is what you can do for them.

This applies in every professional context, so remember to go into every encounter thinking what you can do for your interlocutor…because that is what they want to know.

raison d’etre

My purpose for starting this blog is to share what I hope are useful insights into career, professional branding, and the nature of value in the professional world.

I hope the content is useful to anyone who is anywhere on their journey through their careers.