True Confessions of a Recruiter

Forgive me, job search candidates, for I have sinned. It’s been 20+ years since my last confession. I ran recruiting efforts for Fortune 500 firms that included Citigroup, Warner-Lambert, and most recently Merrill Lynch and during that time, I committed many sins. I seek atonement through this article.


Sin #1: I made instant judgments about what types of candidates they would be in the first three seconds I met them. It’s true, I sized them up. I’m guilty.

I wanted to tell them that they should have tried that suit on two days before the event, so they could have gotten than stain off of their tie or jacket. I wanted to tell them to look me in the eye versus over my left shoulder. I wanted to tell them to use breath mints, because they were leaving dead bodies in their wake.

But alas, I sinned and said nothing. I just selected the candidates that had polish, that prepared, that took care in their appearance from their hair to their nails to their shoes.

Sin #2: When candidates asked why they didn’t make the cut, I never truly answered them. Instead, I avoided any potential litigation and simply said “It was a competitive process.”

I lied. I didn’t tell them they didn’t answer my questions directly, or completely, or enthusiastically, or in a “results oriented” way. I didn’t tell them that they should have clearly identified how they solved problems for their past employers – how they eased their pain! I didn’t tell them that I heard negative comments in their responses to my questions because any mention of anything negative will immediately shift me to the next candidate. I didn’t tell them it was because they were five minutes late to the interview and I feared they would be late to a client meeting as well.

Instead, I sinned and gave no feedback. It wasn’t my job to give them feedback. It was my job to hire the best candidates who mastered the art of the interview and who answered my questions directly, effectively and in a results oriented manner. I hired the person who proved why they would be indispensable to my firm.

Sin #3: When I asked the question, “tell me about your strengths”, and “tell me about your weaknesses”, if a candidate looked like they hadn’t a clue, I would move on to the next person. If they aren’t self-aware, they could never truly improve as an individual. And I didn’t hire anyone who wasn’t in a constant state of improvement.

I sinned and said nothing. I didn’t give feedback, because it wasn’t my job to do so. It was my job to award the job to the person who did a self assessment in a meaningful way. I hired the person who invested in being the best interview candidate possible.

Sin #4: If candidates didn’t maintain good eye contact, I silently shouted “NEXT!” in my head. If they didn’t look me in the eye when they shook my hand, they received a negative mark right off the bat!

I wanted to tell them how body language speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what they are saying, and that the more you looked me in the eye, the more I trusted what you had to say.

But I sinned and said nothing. Instead, as they looked over my shoulder while talking to me, I turned to see if there was someone behind me. There never was.

Sin #5: If a candidate didn’t ask good, thoughtful questions at the end of the interview, I went on to the next candidate. Not having insightful questions shows a lack of preparation and interest. It’s a rookie mistake that I won’t overlook.

I wanted them to know that a little research goes a long way. They could have walked into the interview with 5 – 7 questions written down on their portfolio pad, and they could have easily referenced those questions at the end of the interview.

But my sin was my silence. I just hired those candidates that were thoughtful and prepared, and that impressed me with their questions.

My atonement has been found in my past three years as a career coach. I tell the truth now: the good, the bad and the ugly, so candidates can improve, and so they can launch effective and successful job searches. My clients can now find the job of their dreams because I give them immediate tactical and strategic feedback from my 20+years of hiring thousands of individuals. I can rest easier now as my clients are landing the jobs they want! Amen!

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Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, is a career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart (, a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Most recently, Connie was the Chief Operating Officer for Merrill Lynch Campus Recruiting and has also recruited for Warner Lambert and Citibank. Connie is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and posts at CNBC Executive Careers and

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