Recruitment consultants match candidates with suitable job opportunities. They act as a link between the employer and the job seeker – but it's important to remember that they work on behalf of the employer, who is their client.
It is the recruiter’s job to research the best candidates to put forward for an interview with the employer. If you are selected for interview, then you are considered to be a good match for the position.
It is important that you ask some key questions beforehand, to find out more about the opportunity and to ensure it is the right position for you. Let's look at what you should ask.
Why You Should Ask Questions Before Your Interview
There are several reasons why asking questions ahead of an interview is a good idea:
- The recruiter will know the employer. The employer is your recruiter’s client – it's likely that they will have a good relationship with them, and will have matched candidates with them previously. Therefore, remember that they are a fantastic source of insider information to tap into.
- To take control of your job search. A recruiter might be putting forward multiple applicants for every vacancy, so don’t expect them to automatically provide detailed information to you about every match. Make sure you ask though; this will demonstrate initiative and interest.
- To check you have been matched correctly. A recruitment consultant is usually paid by the employer once they have filled a vacancy. They will make the job opportunity sound tempting to draw you into the process but, ultimately, it is up to you to assess whether the job is a good fit.
- To make sure you are fully informed. Preparation is everything when it comes to recruitment, and smart candidates know that thoroughly researching the position will give them a strong advantage. It is almost a certainty that you will be competing against many other candidates for the same position – and they may well be better qualified and more experienced than you.
Depending on your questions, a recruiter's answers can provide plenty of key information about the employer and the vacancy itself.
Asking questions before an interview is a win-win: even if you don't like the answers, you will have saved yourself time and stress by not proceeding with the application process.
How to Contact Your Recruiter
It's beneficial to build up a good relationship with your recruiter. Find one that you trust, and that will spend the time needed to get to know you and properly match you to suitable positions.
If possible, always try and get a named contact who you can speak to.
You should always aim to speak to the person that contacted you about the initial application. Good practice is to email first, asking for a suitable time to phone and ask for a brief 'informational interview'. If time is short, then get on the phone straight away.
This can be intimidating – but always remember that calling in person to find out more about a job reveals determination, confidence and a genuine interest in the vacancy.
The Top 10 Questions to Ask a Recruiter Before an Interview
1. “How Long Has the Position Been Advertised?”
This question can reveal just how picky the employer is, or highlight any potential issues with the company or position.
If the job has been advertised for a long time, several factors could be at play. There could be a lack of qualified candidates interested in the position – such as a vacancy for a physics teacher in a struggling school – or there could be a problem with the company's recruitment process.
Perhaps the hiring manager has unrealistic expectations. Either way, ask this question and you will know if there are any red flags.
2. “How Many People Will There Be at the Interview?”
Find out if the interview will be conducted by one person or if there will be a panel.
If you can get the full names and job titles of the interviewers, try to find out as much as you can about their roles and position within the company. Knowing a bit of background about the people who will be interviewing you can help to quell nerves.
3. “Will There Be Any Psychometric Tests as Part of the Interview Process?”
Psychometric tests are a common part of job interviews, since they can provide valuable insights into a candidate's skills, personality and psychological profile.
The good news is that it is possible to revise for a psychometric test in the same way as any other test – by sourcing online test papers, practising them and going over your weakest areas. Therefore, make sure you ask this question prior to the interview so you have enough time to prepare.
4. “What Is the Structure of the Interview Process?”
Ask if there will be one interview or if successful candidates will be expected to attend second interviews. Find out how long the interview will be and whether you are expected to attend for the whole day.
5. “Is This a Newly Created Position?”
This is an important question, as it will give you an idea of whether the position was previously held by another person or whether it is new to the organisation, and may give you insight into the internal workings of the business.
If the position was previously held by someone else, you could ask if they were promoted, or if they will be on hand to give advice about the role during a transition period. If the job is newly created, the company may have won a new contract or be restructuring.
6. “What Are the Key Skills for This Role?”
This information should accompany the job application form. If you are using a recruitment agency and it's not yet been provided, ind out what the most essential skills are so you can determine whether you will be a good fit for the role.
You can use this knowledge to anticipate some of the questions likely to come up in the interview, plus think of past examples where you have clearly demonstrated the necessary skills.
7. “Can You Tell Me Any Reasons Why Other Candidates Haven't Been Selected When Applying for This Position?”
This is one of the key questions to ask a recruiter before applying, and a good recruitment consultant will be prepared to share this information with you, although they might not be able to divulge specifics.
It can help you identify the type of candidate the employers are searching for and how to avoid the same pitfalls. It's also wise to ask if the recruiter has ever sent any successful candidates to work at this company before and what their experiences were.
8. “Can I Have a Copy of My Resume?”
Recruitment consultants occasionally amend resumes prior to sending them to interested employers, so always ask for a copy of the resume that was sent. The same goes for any other application forms or information that your recruiter sent.
9. “What Qualities Does the Ideal Candidate Have?”
This is a good follow-up question to “What are the key skills for this role?” It allows you to assess whether you will fit into the culture of the company and will help you think of good examples to present at interview.
10. “Do You Have a Salary Range in Mind?”
Some people find raising the issue of pay awkward, but this is an important question to ask a recruiter.
Always check that the salary range they have put on the application matches with your expectations. This will prevent you from attending an interview that is not suitable for you.
Now you know some of the best questions to ask your recruitment consultant, you have the tools you need to make a success of any future interview.
Follow our advice and you will be able to approach the most nerve-wracking interview with poise and confidence.
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