When interviewing with this recruiter, don't ask how old the boss is

SHARE When interviewing with this recruiter, don't ask how old the boss is

Grid reporter Madeline Skaggs hangs out with Chicago’s top headhunters and in-house recruiters to learn what it takes to ace the interview and land a job at companies like LinkedIn, Dyson and Edelman.

This week, Michael Sachs — managing director of legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa.

Order is everything

“What are four or five adjectives that people use to describe you in a professional sense?” That’s a question almost everyone thinks they’re ready for. But Sachs considers the order in which people respond as important as the substance of their answer. “If one of the first things they say is ‘Intelligent,’ which some people do — there’s nothing wrong with that — but it gives you a sense of how they think of themselves more than anything else,” he says.

Jumping ahead

Sachs loves to hear candidates ask questions about what a future career path at the company might entail, but there’s a limit. “We want a healthy amount of ambition, but we don’t want people with an undue amount of ambition,” he says. So where’s the line? Well, here’s a start: asking how old the boss is qualifies as a “huge red flag.”

Opaque paper

If Sachs can’t get a sense of a candidate’s personality, he describes them as “opaque.” And you don’t want to be opaque. “There’s almost nothing I can do with this person,” he says. “At the end of the day, all they are is a piece of paper resume, and that’s basically it.” His job is to deliver an assessment of how an individual will function in an environment. If you play it too close to the vest, you don’t let him do his job. “I want to understand what their personality is, how they operate” he says.

In the middle

The worst first impression is one that fades fast. “Give a little more color to it so that myself or the client can understand a real true picture of who they are,” he says. But while Sachs wants to understand how you tick, you’d be wise to save the soliloquies for your therapist. Be efficient. “I don’t want somebody to give me a five-minute speech because frankly we usually only have an hour,” he says.

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