Aug 092013
7 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask a Recruiter When Discussing a New Opportunity

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It is sometimes difficult for a Candidate to find out everything there is to know about a new role, especially at the beginning of a recruitment process. As recruitment processes involve a lot of commitment from Recruiters and Candidates alike, it is in a candidate’s best interest to ascertain if the role is right for him/her early in the process, as it could save a lot of time and effort if it isn’t.

Here are some role-specific questions every candidate should ask a Recruiter:

1.       What company and role are you recruiting for? What are the job requirements? Find out everything the Recruiter knows about the company and role they are recruiting for. If the Recruiter is not in a position to disclose the name of the company, it is important to understand why, so you can decide if and how you want to work with them. Sometimes, employers request confidentiality at the beginning of a process because of the high-profile nature of a role. However, a good Recruiter should clearly explain the reason if this is the case. In addition, they should give information about the responsibilities, reporting structure, industry and location as well as remuneration package. Great Recruiters have excellent relationships with their clients and are able to give enough information to help a candidate make an informed decision.

2.      What is the background to the position? A lot of Candidates do not realise that the history of a position is as important as the position itself, in determining if it is right. A “new role” could mean 1) Working in a green-field environment with little or no structure, 2) An opportunity to gain new experience and put a stamp on a project or in a company, 3) An opportunity for exciting and rewarding challenges or 4) Working in a very chaotic or disorganised environment. It could also mean 5) The company is expanding its operation and doing very well, financially or 6) It is in trouble and looking for specific expertise.

A “replacement role” on the other hand could mean 7) The last person resigned because his job was “unbearable” or 8) Because there was no prospect for career growth. It could also mean 9) The last job-holder was promoted internally or 10) Reassigned to different project where his expertise could be effectively utilised. Knowing why a role has come about will hep you determine if it is right for you.

3.      How many Candidates have been shortlisted for the role? This is a tricky one and I find a lot of Candidates lack the confidence to ask it. Some Candidates assume that because a Recruiter has an excellent relationship with them, they will only work “for them”. This is a misconception. It is important to remember that Recruiters’ primary responsibility is to find the best talent for their clients. If you are in their good books, they will promote your profile for the right roles. However, they will also promote other Candidates’ profiles as companies generally prefer to interview more than one person per role.

The average shortlist for a role is 3 – 5 profiles. Any significantly higher number should raise a red flag. No experienced Recruiter will send 10 or more Candidates for one role. If they do, it is highly likely that they do not fully understand the profile their client is looking for and are “shooting at multiple directions” with the hope that one profile is right and “hits a target”. If the number is fewer than 3, it may be because the Recruiter is very confident in the profiles they are presenting or are struggling to find more suitable Candidates. As a rule, the lower the number in the shortlist, the more likely a Recruiter will work hard on your behalf.

4.      Are there other agencies working on this role? A lot of Candidates do not realise that many Recruitment companies work on either an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. When a company works on an exclusive basis, they are the only company contracted to fill the role(s) and their clients only consider Candidates who come through them. When they don’t, their clients consider Candidates from other Recruitment companies as well. Naturally, the probability of a person getting a role decreases, the higher the number of companies and Recruiters working on it. While this shouldn’t discourage you, especially if you have a good profile for the role, it is important you know, so you can manage your expectations. Where possible, it is almost always better to work with Recruiters who have exclusive employer-mandates.

5.      Who is the hiring manager? What is the reporting structure? What is his/her management style? What is the company culture? Understanding the environment you will potentially work in and the dynamics of the relationships you will have, is a part of the recruitment puzzle that should not be ignored. Who you report to, who reports to you and how their work will affect your ability to perform your responsibilities are important information to know.

Each company is different, some are more relaxed and have technologically savvy employees, others promote flexible location policies, encourage a bureaucratic reporting or have a “one man” decision making structure. Understanding your potential employer’s culture will help you determine if the company is right for you and vice versa.

6.      What is the interview process and hiring timeline? Knowing who you are interviewing with and the type of interviews you will have, will give you a platform to prepare adequately. If a presentation is part of the interview process, you may wish to research your interviewer or brush up on your presentation skills. There is a big difference between a company looking to recruit a Finance Director to replace an employee retiring in a month and a company looking to recruit an Engineering Manager for its operation starting in a year. While both roles are important, the recruitment speed will be different. Knowing the timeline will help you figure out if the opportunity fits your current and future plans.

7.      What is the next step and how will you keep me informed? Do not end a call or meeting with a Recruiter without clarifying what the next steps are, how they intend to update you and when you should expect it. Keep in mind that feedback differs from company to company and role to role. In many cases, a Recruiter will have little or no control over when they receive feedback. Never assume that they are not following up with their clients, as it is in their interest to, but true professionals update their Candidates regularly, even when they do not have feedback.

The decision to pursue an opportunity a Recruiter proposes is entirely up to you, but it is important you are sure of the opportunity before committing to the process. Not having all the information you need to make an informed decision could be costly – in terms of time, effort and sometimes finance. It could also cost you a career move that you may regret for a very time…

  2 Responses to “7 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask a Recruiter When Discussing a New Role”

  1. Great delivery. Great arguments. Keep up the good work.

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