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Interview Advice

Interviewing for a Trainee Recruitment Consultant position.

Preparing for interview

Researching the company before your interview is vital.  This doesn’t mean just scanning the homepage.  Look around the website. Do they have a careers / work for us section? Are they active on social media? Have a look at the LinkedIn profiles of the key members of staff / people who'll be interviewing you.

Ensure you know the address, date and time of the interview and that you have planned your journey. Leave plenty of time and arrive five to ten minutes early. Being late is never acceptable, but don’t arrive too early as that can be equally inconvenient. Know who you need to ask for when you arrive.

Anyone can open the door to you. It could be a receptionist or the managing director.

You should look the part. Be dressed in business attire. Men should wear a suit, long sleeve shirt (top button done up), tie and clean shoes. Women should wear business suit with blouse / collared top and clean shoes. Any documentation should be carried in a simple portfolio or briefcase.

Have a copy of your CV with you and be familiar with it (you wrote it!), especially dates and relevant experience from other positions e.g. targets and sales figures. If you have had previous sales experience it’s worth bringing evidence of sales figures, targets, achievements, commission statements, payslips, P60s etc...

Have some questions pre-prepared. You are likely to be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. Your questions could be on the company (culture of the company, plans for expansion / diversification, position in the market, background?), the role (what training you’ll receive, what career progression, what incentives?) or the interviewer (how long have they been with the company, why did they join, what do they enjoy about working there, what is their next opportunity with the company?).

On arrival switch-off your mobile phone.

The Interview

Make a good first impression. Make eye contact, smile and shake hands.
Be yourself... Be relaxed... Smile… Be nice!

Interviews can take different formats but generally the interviewer(s) will spend some time giving you information on the company and the role. They will go through your CV with you and ask you some questions to assess your suitability for the position. You are likely to be given the opportunity to ask any questions that you may have at the end of the meeting.

Be conscious of your body language. Wait to be asked to sit, sit comfortably, but do not slouch. Do not fidget, twiddle your thumbs or play with your pen. This shows you are nervous. Instead, maintain a good level of eye contact and show interest in what the interviewer is saying. Keep your jacket on.

When questioning you on your CV, the interviewer will explore the choices you have made in the past. Be positive about any previous roles and explain how they have provided you with skills and experience. Make sure to focus on the successes and achievements you have had. Where you have had set-backs, be prepared to discuss them and explain what you have learned and how you have developed as a result of them.

Answer the interviewer’s questions by giving plenty of examples. Open-up and try and get your personality across. Don't swear, even if the interviewer does!

Your understanding of the job

As this is an interview for your first role in recruitment you can expect to be asked what you understand the role of a recruitment consultant to be. It is important to have thought about this, and have a concise answer prepared. You're only likely to be offered a job if the interviewer believes that you really understand what the role entails.

It is important to be clear to the interviewer that you understand that you are choosing a challenging career. Recruitment Consultancy is rewarding but demanding. Your work will include telephone sales to clients to obtain vacancies, and you’ll be working to targets such as interviews arranged, placements made etc… You’ll often have to work outside of the “9 to 5”, for example to make yourself available to candidates who can’t speak whilst they’re at work. It’s important to let the interviewer know that you’re looking for long term career you can immerse yourself in, and that you’re prepared to work hard to succeed.

“Competency Based” Questions

Often interviewers will be looking for you to give examples of where you have shown a particular competency / personality trait.

So if you are asked “Would you describe yourself as a competitive person?” don’t just answer “Yes”. Give examples such as competitions you have entered, awards you hold, being driven to move your position up the sales board in a previous role, playing a sport and demonstrating that you are passionate to win by taking time to train / practice, desire to beat friends / siblings, getting frustrated if your team doesn’t win the pub quiz etc...

Other “competencies” which you could expect to have to provide examples for include resilience / tenacity, communication skills, persuasiveness, goal oriented / self motivated, creativity, enthusiasm, ambition, self-belief / confidence. It is well worth having examples prepared of times when you’ve demonstrated these competencies / personality traits in the past.

Your motivations for wanting to work in the Recruitment Industry

You can certainly expect to be asked why you want to embark on a career as a Recruitment Consultant. Make sure you are prepared to answer this by articulating the things that appeal to you about the role - earning potential, long term career opportunity etc... Remember that most companies will be looking to hire someone who is single-mindedly looking to get into the recruitment industry. They will doubt your commitment if they believe that recruitment is just one of a number of different career choices that you are considering.

Many recruitment companies are rightly proud of the fact that they have a lot of high earners. Most people who go into recruitment do so because they are attracted by the potential to earn a lot of commission / bonuses on top of their basic salary. You may be asked what your personal financial goals are. If so, be specific, for example - saving for a deposit for a house (what kind of house, what location, how much deposit will you need?), for a new car (what kind of car?), quickly paying off a student loan / debt (how much? how quickly?) . The interviewer may ask these questions because it is typically people who are working to their own personal financial or career goals that do well in recruitment.

Typical interview questions

Tell me about yourself

They want you to open up to them. Tell them about your qualifications, career history and range of skills. You may even want to tell them a little about your hobbies and interests - it shows what motivates you. They do not want to know what you did when you were five years old, or how you didn't get on with your brother/sister.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

This doesn't have to be work related. You can use example(s) from your working life, academic, sporting, extra-curricular, gap year, hobbies / interests etc… The interviewer is trying to find out if you are an achiever. Demonstrate how you achieved and how it has benefited you. Do you still use those skills?

What are your strengths?

We all have them, it's just acknowledging them in a proficient manner. Try to look at personal attributes such as 'I’m very resilient” or I'm a team player' then give examples and demonstrate how they could be a benefit to an employer.

What are your weaknesses?

The interviewer wants to see how self-aware you are. Don't use personal weaknesses such as 'I find it hard to get out of bed in the morning'. A weakness can also be a strength. Use a professional weakness such as lack of experience (training can always overcome that) or one that can be turned around into a strength such as 'I'm very focused on achieving targets at work, so sometimes people can think I'm ignoring them'.

Biggest challenges / set backs you have faced?

How have you dealt with them? What have you learned?

How would your family/friends describe you?

Another way of asking how you perceive yourself. Choose three or four adjectives that show the positive side of your personality, such as 'they would say I'm outgoing, reliable, hard-working and loyal'.

Where do you see yourself in three years time?

The interviewer wants to know your motivations and career aspirations. Whilst wanting to progress is a natural desire, don't let this overshadow the job you are being interviewed for. Such as “I’d like to have established myself as a really successful recruitment consultant, be respected by the team and be progressing into a leadership role”.

Why should they take you on? What will you bring to the role?

It's really useful to have prepared a brief statement / Elevator pitch you can use.

Why you are looking to leave your current role?

Avoid being negative about your current employer. Instead think about how the role you are interviewing for will offer you something which your current role does not. This could include more money, long term career development, working in a bigger team, being involved at an earlier stage of a company’s growth, gaining an opportunity to take on management responsibilities, working in a new sector etc...

Other questions may include

  • Why do you want this job?
  • Who are your role models? Who do you most look up to? Why?
  • What do you know about the company? What research have you done? What did you think of the website?
  • Why do you want to work for this company in particular?
  • Have you ever failed at something? (What did you learn for this? What would you do differently?)
  • What personality traits do you think it’s important for a Recruitment Consultant to have? (likely to be followed up by asking you to give examples of where you have displayed these traits yourself in the past).

Questions for you to ask

When given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview, do so!  Ask 3 or 4 of those that you have prepared. Avoid asking a question if the interviewer has already covered it.


Leave the interviewer in no doubt that you are keen on the role, tell them... “Thanks for today. I’ve really enjoyed the interview. I’m really keen on this company and the role. Do you have any feedback at this stage? When will I find out if I have been successful?”

Ensure that they don’t have any doubts... “Do you have any concerns about my suitability for the role? Is there anything I can cover in more detail?”