Not all recruiters are created equal. That’s why you need to know what questions to ask and what to watch for. There are different types, levels of experience and competence. A good, seasoned recruiter can help you in your job search, but a bad one can derail your efforts. Be prepared when they call you.
What I learned From 30-Plus Years As A Recruiter
Before calling you, a recruiter needs to be well-informed about the job opportunity and their client’s industry. They should also be able to assess if a candidate is a good fit for their client. Also essential is thorough knowledge about their client’s screening process.
My years as a recruiter taught me how to be productive with my client and candidates, so take advantage of my experience, and be prepared when a recruiter calls you.
Here are the most important questions you should ask in that initial phone call:
1. Are you searching on a contingency basis, or are you retained?
There are two types of recruiters. The first is a contingency recruiter. They receive their fee after successfully filling a position. They primarily meet people over the phone, and they submit multiple candidates.
A retained recruiter, meanwhile, is paid a portion of the fee upfront. Assignments are usually C-level and up. They seek CEO, VP and board-level candidates. Before presenting a candidate to their client, there is a thorough vetting of credentials and a face-to-face meeting.
2. Can you describe what success looks like after being in this position for six months?
This question determines what defines job success in the near term. A competent recruiter should have a clear understanding of this. Moreover, their response will reveal what your potential employer will expect
3. How long have you been searching for a candidate?
The ideal time frame is about two months into the process. These two answers, however, are red flags: “We just started” or “About six months (or more).” Here’s why. Companies don’t usually hire the first list of applicants. Conversely, a six-month timeline is too long. In that situation, the recruiter may be inexperienced, or the job may not be fillable.
4. Have you submitted any candidates yet?
If so, what was the client company’s feedback on those presented? These days, many recruiters don’t share this information due to confidentiality or other concerns. Ask the question regardless. I have always maintained that client information shared helps the recruiter, the candidate and the client. When the recruiter does share this, you’ll be able to give your qualifications that are relevant to any newly modified requirements of the position.
5. Can you describe the screening process from the beginning to the offer stage?
The recruiter should know this one. They should have played a vital role in the design of the screening process, including the selection of key stakeholders (those directly impacted by the position) and the number of rounds of interviews, panels and assessments.
6. What are the next steps?
Ask for a follow-up call if you are interested in the position but not invited to interview. Offer a specific day and time. If they decline to set up such an appointment, assume that there is no further interest.
Other Things You Need To Know
Learn about the recruiter’s experience and track record with their client. They ought to have several years of experience. That gives them essential knowledge about the political landscape, the hiring process and the negotiating process. However, if this is their first assignment, they are on a learning curve, which is not in your best interest.
Know when (and if) to share your compensation requirements within the initial call. It is okay with a third-party recruiter because their goal is to make the best match. However, it is not advisable with an in-house employment representative. Note: In many states, recruiters are no longer allowed to inquire about your current salary. Some major search firms have also adopted this policy.
Always remember that recruiters are paid by a company to find the right candidates. Their mission is to fill jobs, not place people. Don’t expect them to follow up with you after an initial phone call. They should, but that’s not how it works these days. I recommend that you arrange a short follow-up telephone appointment during each step of the process.
Knowing what to ask in that initial phone call with a recruiter gives you the best chance of assessing the value of the opportunity and recruiter. It also saves you time, puts you in charge and gives you the best chance of landing a job that makes the greatest use of your talents and experience.