What questions should you ask of a recruiter who calls you about a job?

For some of you, a recruiter will connect with you on LinkedIn, or by email or phone. While it can be flattering, you need to ask questions so you understand the process and how that individual recruiter works. As a reminder, recruiters are paid for by the employer and you are their “product”. The recruiter needs to understand what skills you have to offer. If a recruiter contacts you at a time when you are NOT looking for work, perhaps you have just started a new role or it is simply not a good time, always be respectful to the recruiter. I have had some clients who were contacted again, months later, with an ideal position and they have been hired. Recruiters do keep files of good candidates and will go to the database to search when new positions come up. If you have been rude to the recruiter they will not put your forward.

Here are some questions to ask the recruiter so you understand the process and who they are recruiting for.

What company are they recruiting for?

Note: If you’ve already applied directly to that same company, the recruiter would usually not be able to represent you there.

Find out everything the recruiter knows about the company. If they cannot tell you the name of the company, ask why. It may be that the person currently in the role is in the process of being let go, or that they have not yet informed the people they needed the position internally. Be aware that, sometimes, the recruiter may not tell you who the firm is when they initially talk to you as they are first trying to establish a relationship with you.

However, sometimes recruiters are looking for candidates that they can promote to an employer to generate new business and you are the “hook”. They could have a long-standing relationship with the company and know that you have the skills that this organization requires. This can be a great opportunity for you as you are not competing with anyone for the position; it is a direct match!

What are the job requirements?

Ask them to send you a job description. Help the recruiter see how you fit those requirements. Be honest about any requirements that you really don’t have.

What is the salary range defined for the position?

You should be honest and upfront about your own salary history and the salary range you would accept going forward. If your salary history and expectations do not match the job’s defined range (or seem unrealistic) most recruiters will not consider it a match worth pursuing. Like it or not, it’s a primary factor that recruiters use to decide who they’ll represent to their clients. It is important that you understand your net worth in the industry.

What is the history of this position?

Is this a new position or replacement … and if the latter, what happened to the person who left?

Who is the hiring manager, and how well does the recruiter know that person?

What is their management style? What is the company culture like? Can you get any inside intelligence?

How many other candidates is this recruiter representing to this job?

Are there other agencies that are also sending candidates, or is this an “exclusive? “The reality is that often a recruiter is representing more than one candidate. The recruiter could be referring a few candidates to the employer and, in the end, the employer makes the final decision as to who is moving forward to the interview stage and is ultimately hired.

What is the client’s hiring timetable?

Find out what steps there are. How many phone interviews and in-person interviews will there be, and with whom? When do they want someone to start? How long has this position been open? How high is their degree of “urgency” to full it? Asking these questions can ease some of your anxiety as to what is happening as sometimes the hiring process can take months (if it was easy to hire they would not need a recruiter).

What is the next step?

Will the recruiter definitely be sending your information to the client – and if so, when? How soon should you expect to hear back from the recruiter? Good recruiters should be able to answer almost all of these questions and more. Recruiters will not rewrite your resume but may give you some suggestions on what needs to be highlighted in the resume. It is your job to make these adjustments or to find a professional resume writer to assist you.

The recruiter will help you prep and coach you

They will offer advice on how to successfully interview, using their insider knowledge of the company and the decision-makers, and they will help you negotiate the best salary if and when an offer comes. Good recruiters will also follow through with things that they say they will do and will keep you informed with updates and progress reports. Expect good communication…and beware of anyone who suddenly stops returning your calls or emails — that’s a telltale sign of unprofessionalism that is certainly not limited to recruiters!

Verify that the recruiter will never submit your résumé to any companies or jobs without your knowledge and approval.

Believe it or not, this happens quite frequently. Some recruiters will send your résumé to companies without your permission and, if you are working with more than one recruiter, it can cause problems and can ruin your chances of getting the job – most companies will automatically eliminate any candidate who is submitted from multiple sources. They don’t want to get into the middle of a turf war.

This is a summary of questions to consider when working with a recruiter, but remember that a recruiter is only one source of looking for work. Don’t assume that by submitting your resume to a recruiter you are going to get a job.  The other ways are networking, responding to ads, and using social media sites such as LinkedIn, and Twitter. You are in charge of your own destiny.

About Dorothy Keenan of FutureWorks

Dorothy is a certified résumé writer with 25 years of experience in providing career advice and support to 5,000 professionals in diverse industries including technology, science, gaming, trades, finance, manufacturing, warehouse, and administration to find fulfilling careers. Through her work, she has gained a solid understanding of the needs of British Columbia’s dynamic labour force. Her expertise in developing résumés, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letters has helped her clients move forward in their careers. Contact www.fwt.bc.ca or dorothyk@fwt.bc.ca

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