6 Things I’ve Learned About Top Job Candidates as a Startup Recruiter

It wasn’t long after I started my career in public accounting that I realized it wasn’t for me. I have always enjoyed working directly with people, and I quickly realized I would need a more interactive role to be successful long-term. When BVOH Finance & Accounting Search reached out to me regarding a position, everything clicked. I realized that, as a recruiter, I could combine my accounting expertise with my interest in working with people. The dynamics of recruiting make it possible to have insight into both sides of the job search and hiring processes. I spend 50 percent of my time supporting clients, most of whom represent young, high-growth, venture-backed startups. The other 50 percent is spent with candidates, so I learn not only what companies look for in new hires, but also which traits the most successful candidates possess.

The Top Attributes of Highly Sought-After Candidates

After five years as a startup recruiter, here are the top six attributes highly sought-after candidates have in common:

Responsiveness and Availability

Candidates often want to know how long their job search will take, especially when they’re working with a recruiter. The answer largely depends on the candidate. How much time and energy are they willing to invest in the process? The candidates who quickly land interviews and receive multiple offers are fully invested in their searches. They’re prepared to go on interviews right away, and they respond to requests for information within a day, if not within hours.

“Candidates who have a few non-negotiables but are flexible in their job criteria fare much better at finding great opportunities faster.”

The candidates who say they want to find a new job immediately but then have multiple delays or vacations lined up, or only offer limited windows of availability, might go months without real traction. Hiring managers want to move quickly on filling positions, and they won’t put their searches on hold for a candidate’s personal schedule. Availability really refers to your flexibility as well. If you have a laundry list of 15 must-haves for your next role, chances are you’ll search a long time for the right opening. Candidates who have a few non-negotiables but are flexible in their job criteria fare much better at finding great opportunities faster.

A Career Narrative

You can also think of your career narrative as your career intentions. Essentially, you should be able to articulate why you chose this industry and why you’re interested in this particular job. Hiring managers pick up on generic answers, and they can be quick to dismiss candidates who are simply looking for “any job”. They want to know what resonates with candidates about the particular role they are offering. Now more than ever, decision makers think about their corporate culture when making hiring decisions. They are looking for candidates who are more than just technically competent, who also bring the right energy, enthusiasm, and purpose to their work. If you are unable to sincerely explain why you want to work with a company, your chances of success are slim. Before agreeing to an interview, ask yourself why you are saying yes. Are you simply open to all job opportunities that come your way? Or does something about this company inspire you? If your eyes glaze over before you’ve finished reading the job description, you will be better off rejecting the opportunity and holding out for something more relevant to your interests.


We are in a candidate-driven market right now, but that doesn’t mean you should become complacent. Due to the supply and demand issue in this market, candidates assume that companies are lining up to hire them, so they can breeze into interviews having done little research. Rather than study up on the company’s history and prepare thoughtful questions that show they’re genuinely interested in being there, they offer pat answers to the interviewer’s questions. Hiring managers really take issue with this approach. Having a strong résumé doesn’t guarantee you a job. Successful candidates show up well-informed and ready to engage the interviewer in a meaningful discussion about the company, the industry, and the open position.

“If you are unable to sincerely explain why you want to work with a company, your chances of success are slim.”

Decision makers want to hire people who want to work with them. If you come in having studied up on the team and the organization and you are eager to meet everyone, they will know your enthusiasm is genuine.


Successful candidates are up front with their prospective employers. They don’t disguise the fact that they’re interviewing with other companies or that they’re not available to start for another month. The more direct and honest you are with a hiring manager and with your recruiter up-front, the better your chances are of landing a job. They appreciate your honesty and the fact that you are not hiding information. Even if you are not outwardly lying, glazing over important facts can come across as being deceptive.


Because it’s a candidate-driven market, job seekers sometimes feel free to accept an offer and then go back on it when something better comes along. A successful professional wouldn’t do this. The finance and accounting world is small, especially in the Bay Area. As your career progresses, you’ll realize that the boss you burn today could be the person you desperately want to work for tomorrow. Your reputation carries a lot of weight in closely knit industries, so don’t be callous with offers. Treat every interview not just as an opportunity for a new job but as a chance to build your network. Even if you don’t get hired, the people you meet during the interview will remember how you conducted yourself and they may consider you for other openings in the future.


Courteousness is a hallmark of successful job candidates. Be sure to look interviewers in the eye, shake their hands, and sincerely thank them for their time. Better still, send a thank you email or handwritten note reiterating your enthusiasm and your appreciation for the interview. Hiring managers are extremely busy, and they’ve made time to sit down with you. Acknowledging that opportunity goes a long way toward bolstering your personal brand in their eyes.

Making a Good Impression

The things that make successful candidates stand out are surprisingly small but sometimes it’s the smallest actions that have the biggest impact. Answering emails promptly, being honest, and doing your homework on the company you want to work for may seem like common sense, but many job seekers overlook these things in favor of boosting their résumés or chasing too many opportunities at once. Grounding yourself in these behaviors can dramatically impact your search and how quickly you find your next dream opportunity.

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