One of our main goals for the Argentus blog is to spread the word about working with recruiters to make the process easier, smoother and more fruitful for candidates and ourselves alike. The representation of a recruiter can be a tremendously valuable thing: it can lead to unexpected job opportunities, and it’s a chance to get your resume and profile right in front of a hiring manager – with an endorsement from a recruiter – as opposed to having it end up lost in a dark corner of some online application system, probably to be never heard from again.
But not all recruiters are created equal. Here are a set of questions that you should ask a recruiter when you call them or when they reach out to you with an open role. We’re talking about questions that go beyond the given (what’s the salary for this job? What’s the location? Etc.) to ask about their recruitment philosophy and help you assess whether this recruiter is really going to be a good long-term partner, or not:
What’s your background in this area?
The first thing you should try to be assessing during the conversation is whether the recruiter really understands the role they’re recruiting for. It should be a given, but some recruiters try to be jacks of all trades rather than specialists. A recruiter who doesn’t understand the job is less likely to land you in it. And if you’re represented for the wrong role, it makes you look bad. The recruiter looks worse, but still. You want a recruiter who at least has several years recruiting for your field, if not actual working experience in your field itself.
Are you working exclusively on this job?
In other words, is the recruiter one of many agencies working on this job, or are they the only one the client has reached out to? An exclusive relationship between recruiter and client solidifies a certain amount of trust and seriousness in the recruiter’s abilities on the part of the client. If the recruiter isn’t working exclusively, that’s not a reason to turn down the job opportunity if it seems right, because great recruiters trust their talents enough to work on jobs even if they’re not exclusive. But if it’s yes, it’s all the more reason to trust the recruiters’ effectiveness.
What’s your approach to attracting and managing candidates?
This is where you assess whether the recruiter is simply trying to put bums in seats or build longer-term relationships with candidates throughout their careers. And if it isn’t obvious, you’re looking for the latter. You’re looking to speak with a recruiter who understands your talents and your potential. The kind of recruiter who, three years from now, when they’ve placed you in a role and you’ve been promoted and are looking to hire, you call them up to help you fill the jobs. The kind of recruiter who, five years from now, is going to whisper in your ear about a confidential, exclusive VP role at a major company – who’ll remember you and your potential because they kept up the relationship. Is the recruiter going to try to cultivate this relationship, or throw your resume into a database never to be heard from again?
Have you had an opportunity where someone has stopped working with you and how did you handle it?
This is a corollary to the previous question. Just like the recruiter and hiring manager want to know how you dealt with difficulty, it’s worth asking the recruiter about times where a candidate has stopped working with them. Was it because they lost touch, or things didn’t work out, or because of some issue that came up during the hiring process? The recruiter’s response to this question can tell you a lot about their approach to managing candidates, and dealing with the inevitable difficulties of hiring.
What have been the main difficulties for the client in filling this job?
This question works to your advantage as a candidate in two ways: first, it helps you find out why the client reached out to the recruiter, and the recruiter’s answer helps you further assess their understanding of the role. But second, it can also give you a further leg up on your competition – especially those who aren’t working with a recruiter – by helping you understand the company’s difficulties and how you, as a candidate, might best be positioned to solve them in a big-picture way. It helps you figure out where you stand not just in terms of “checking the boxes” of experience, but in terms of making an impact in the role, and you can speak to that in an interview.
As we said above, the representation of a recruiter can be a tremendously valuable thing. But only the right recruiter. And sometimes that’s less obvious to assess than it might seem. So we hope these tips give you some ideas for how to determine who the right recruiter is for you.