If you’re going to be interviewing for a job anytime soon, you’ll likely be interviewing with either a recruiter or a hiring manager. It may seem semantic, but there are real differences between a recruiter interview and a hiring-manager interview, and you should prepare accordingly.

As a very basic and broad overview, a recruiter is a person who has been hired by a company to sift through the initial candidates for a job. The hiring manager is someone who actually works at the company seeking to fill a position, either in Human Resources or in whichever department needs a new staff member.

The Details

Probably the biggest difference between interviewing with a recruiter and a hiring manager is the level of detail you’ll get into. In most cases, a recruiter has been contracted to pare down the number of applicants for further scrutiny by the hiring organization, so the recruiter is just sifting through to find people who specifically fit the requirements they've been given. A recruiter isn’t going to know the finer points the company, so they need the broad strokes. They have to present the hiring manager with qualified candidates, and it’s the hiring manager who will then determine how well your qualifications actually apply to the open position. If you’re interviewing with a recruiter, be prepared keep it simple and hit the highlights of your qualifications.

The Job Fit

While a recruiter will be looking for a 100 percent fit in a candidate, a hiring manager has more leeway to determine whether a person’s experience would be beneficial in a position—even if it's not a perfect match. A recruiter has to focus on the job requirements provided by the hiring organization and won’t usually have the insight (or permission) to make any broad leaps in comparable work. Recruiters also aren't likely to know enough about what you do to draw comparisons to the open position; that's not their job. If you’re interviewing with a recruiter, be ready with precise examples of how you meet the listed requirements.

The Culture Fit

Much like the job fit, a recruiter, based on what he has been told by the hiring organization, will only want to present candidates with the best possible culture fit. This means the recruiter has received a list of characteristics or an idea of what the right type of employee is, and he’ll be looking for indications that you fit that mold. You’ll have to show your personality and be prepared to prove how well you work on a team. Unfortunately, the recruiter may not be able to answer many questions you have about the organization’s culture, so you may need to save those for the second interview.

Your Attitude

Your attitude is the one thing that will be the same in a recruiter and a hiring-manager interview. A recruiter deserves the same deference and respect that you would give to a person inside the company you're interviewing with. The good news is that the recruiter is on your side. While this person has a lot of candidates to get through and eliminate, he wants to have the best possible people to present to his client, so he'll want you to be a good fit. Also, every interview with a recruiter is an excellent opportunity for networking. Even if you aren’t a good fit for that particular job, if the recruiter likes you, he will remember you for the next position that comes up that might be a better fit. If you’re interviewing with a recruiter, be prepared to make the best possible impression, regardless of the fact that the recruiter doesn’t work at the hiring organization.

The Follow-Up

You need to follow up with a recruiter just like you would with a hiring manager, but the follow-up will be different. First of all, keep it brief. A thank-you email is acceptable if you’ve communicated in that way already, and it doesn’t need to be much more than that. Thank him for his time and wish him the best. The good news is that, because a recruiter wants to provide the best possible candidates, he'll be more willing to help you with the next phase of interviews. If you are called back for a second interview, this one with a hiring manager at the recommendation of the recruiter, it is acceptable to contact the recruiter and ask for tips to help you prepare. He'll want you to do well, because that will make him look good.

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