The Only One Not Wearing a Skirt and Heels: Why Graduating Seniors Should Approach Recruiters

One of the many interviews I had as a Boston College graduating senior this year started off poorly. I walked into the office and felt an immediate blow to my confidence.  As I looked around and sized up my “competition” I noticed I was the only female not wearing a skirt and heels. My pants suit and ballet flats stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt anxious and unprepared at the worst possible moment—I needed all of the self-assured coolness that I could muster, and I was starting off on the wrong foot.  Before the interview, I had checked with my friends (a group of fellow undergraduates) to make sure my outfit was appropriate.  They all supported my pants suit choice.  But what did my peers really know? We were all trying to navigate the overwhelming experience of trying to land our first “real” job.  Looking back, I realize that this moment of inadequacy could have been avoided--if only I had been able to confide in someone and ask the countless questions the interview process posed. Newsflash to undergrads everywhere: this someone can be a recruiter.

A good recruiter can serve as a trusted adviser, guiding candidates throughout the interview process, starting even before the resume submission all the way to the offer negotiation. While selecting proper attire can often be stressful, it is far from the only stumbling block faced through the job search. Consider all of the applications submitted online that never receive a reply.  Recruiters have strong relationships with hiring managers and can bypass the “slush pile” of resumes, cutting down the noise of applications with a clear recommendation and a known voice. Using a recruiter is like taking the express train to the hiring manager.

Photo by crossstudio/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by crossstudio/iStock / Getty Images

Undergraduates are in an especially vulnerable position because they have very little experience with the job search.  In fact, many recent graduates aren’t even sure where to start when it comes to identifying the types of jobs they want to explore. Upon applying, excellent candidates may be overlooked because they have had little practice writing resumes or describing their background as it relates to gainful employment. Through years of experience witnessing career transitions, recruiters can help undergraduates identify positions and industries that would play to their strengths and leverage pre-grad experience. Furthermore, they can help candidates tell a clear and compelling story, both on paper and in conversation. In other words, from narrowing down opportunities to focusing a resume and sharpening your communication skills: recruiters can help you get that interview.

The best part is, it doesn’t stop there.  Once recruiters have helped open the door to an opportunity, they then also help candidates land the job.  Recruiters have deep industry knowledge within the areas they represent. A psychology major, I remember my panic as I readied myself for interviews in the financial services sector.  I knew nothing about finance, so I scrambled to contact my parents’ friends who worked in the industry.  The result was a series of disorganized, somewhat helpful advice that wasn’t at all geared towards the positions I was applying for. A recruiter would have walked me through the industry, the company, the position, and the essential research for a successful meeting. Recruiters will discuss specific interview questions to expect, how to write successful follow-up emails, and of course, the most important detail, what to wear!

In the end, I have no idea if my outfit choice affected the interviewers’ perception of me. But I do know that it affected me. And the last thing anyone wants to feel on an interview is self-doubt. So, graduating seniors, take it from me: if you want to avoid being that candidate, approach a recruiter.

Written by Eugenia Neri

Post Script: Admittedly, I didn’t just choose to use a recruiter after my various interview experiences, I became one. I’ll be starting as an Executive Recruiter in August with CFW Careers.