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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Fair or Not, Here's What Recruiters Really Think About You

When you’re in the middle of a job search, it’s not always easy to see recruiters as people. Often, they’re thought of as the all-powerful gatekeepers of an institution, mechanically combing through resume after resume to find the perfect combination of work experience, skills, and cultural fit to fill their open positions.

For better or for worse, though, they are humans. As such, there are a lot of little things that can influence their decision on whether or not to move forward with a candidate besides just straight credentials. Unfortunately, this means that even when you fit the qualifications to a T, you’re not guaranteed a job. But while that might seem discouraging at first, you can push yourself further along in the process if you know what recruiters care about—and perhaps, more importantly, what they don’t.

Recently, my company, Jobvite, surveyed over 1,600 recruiting and HR professional nationwide to figure out what makes them tick, and the feedback we got back was pretty valuable for job seekers.

1. Interviewers Care About Who You’re Voting For

In the king for a job, keeping mum on public forums or social media platforms is definitely the safest bet. And while you probably already know to avoid this topic in the middle of an interview (and if not, let this serve as a reminder), with so many people vetting candidates online before they even step foot in the office, you might want to hold off on making your next LinkedIn Pulse post all about the last debate.

Even though most claimed that the presidential candidate a job seeker supported wouldn’t affect their decision, one in 10 recruiters (and almost one in five educational recruiters) admitted that they’d think twice before moving forward with a Trump supporter. But declarations of political affiliation don’t just hurt Trump fans. 7% would feel similarly biased against Clinton supporters, a number that more than doubles to 15% among recruiters aged 65 and older. And that’s just from the folks who admitted it outright—it’s totally possible that even if they don’t realize it, finding out which candidate a person plans to vote for could subconsciously alter how a they feel about him or her.

2. Recruiters Will Judge You for How You Dress

As a whole, today’s workplaces are more casual than ever and what were once major taboos (jeans, stubble, messy buns, and so on) are increasingly commonplace. But there’s still a big difference between dressing for the office and dressing for an interview—and too many candidates seem to confuse the two.

Even if you’re interviewing at the most laidback company around, it never hurts to err on the side of formality, especially when you consider that 62% of recruiters negatively view candidates who dress too casually. For more conservative industries, this is even more important—casual dress is a major turn-off for 78% of finance and 79% of real estate recruiters.

While it’s hard to know what formal means at a company where jeans are clearly a staple, you can often figure it out by looking at the company’s career site and social media channels (and employees’ social media channels if you’re going on a deep stalking mission) to see what people wear on a daily basis, then try to aim for one notch above that during your interview. (Think: nice pants and a button-up at a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of office.)

Remember: Recruiting should be more than just skin (or cloth) deep, but how you present yourself does play a part in whether or not you’re taken seriously for a role.

3. Hiring Managers Think This One Factor Matters the Most

We’ve actually run this survey for nearly 10 years, and time and time again, people say that their best outside hires come from employee referrals. It makes sense, because when a current team member can vouch for you, it shows that she’s confident enough in your ability to do the job that she’ll stake their reputation on it. It’s also a major indicator that she thinks you’ll be a good cultural fit—something that 60% of recruiters say is the single most important factor when it comes to hiring somebody. As a result, candidates who came through referrals tend to be viewed more positively, even if they’re just as qualified as somebody who wasn’t referred.

It’s helpful if you know someone who works at the company you’re applying to, but even if you’re not BFFs with a current employee, you can often score a referral by putting a little work into it. Often, all it takes to kick off the process is a LinkedIn message to a current employee in a position that your find interesting. You won’t want to request a referral right away—that’s way too upfront—but if you reach out explaining that you noticed he or she works at a company you’re interested in learning more about, you can establish a dialogue.

Then, once you’ve gotten to know each other, ask if he or she wouldn’t mind you listing him or her as a referral on your application. Don’t be shy or worry that you’ll come across as too self-serving—many companies offer referral bonuses to employees who refer successful hires, so it’s a win-win situation.

I can’t promise that these tips will land you the job of your dreams—any way you slice it, qualifications and compatibility are what matter most—but the good news is that hiring is on the up-and-up, and recruiters across nearly all sectors are actively looking for talented folks to fill their positions. So if you’re crazy about a particular company, use these tips to your advantage. They might just be exactly what you need to push your application over the edge.

Photo of interview courtesy of Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images.