Choosing a Recruiter: Key Questions All Candidates Must Ask

You excel at your job. You smash your numbers. So you’re getting calls from people who want to secure your talents.

But are these recruitment consultants as good at their job as you are at yours? Are they serious about you and your career?

You need to know they’re not just collectors searching for names to sell to clients they don’t have yet.

So qualify the recruiter phoning you. These are the questions you should ask…

Are You Calling About A Specific Opportunity?

Or are you just trawling for candidates to punt out on spec to any Tom, Dick and Harry?

Not all executive search companies work the same way.

There’s a huge difference between recruiters targeting candidates for a specific role and those merely hoovering up names to swell their books. Read more about this here.

At this point the recruiter calling might try to deflect and talk about the opportunities in general for someone of your wondrous abilities.

Don’t let them flimflam you. Delve deeper with a few more questions:

  • What is your relationship with the client?

  • Are you on a retainer?

  • Have you agreed exclusivity with the client?

How Long Have You Been Working With The Client?

You need to sign with an executive search consultant that has a long or at least strong relationship with the client. Preferably one who is exclusive or retained.

And the recruiter knows this.

So don’t expect a straight answer to the ‘how long’ question. Again you will need to dig. Ask them:

  • How many candidates have you placed with the client?

  • In what roles?

  • Over what period of time?

The phone may suddenly go quiet for a few seconds. You may hear an intake of breath. Or shuffling.

These are the sounds of squirming.

Why Are You Approaching Me?

‘Why’ is the most powerful question in the world – and the ‘Me’ adds serious focus.

But again watch out for any fluffy ripostes from your caller.

They must demonstrate they have a serious reason for phoning you and that your requisite expertise and experience suit the role they seek to fill.

There must be a clear match. Not just a load of ego stroking.

Ideally, they should be approaching you on the basis of a personal recommendation or strong qualification but don’t take that at face value.

Ask for specific details. It’s better if the recommendation came from direct contact with the individual concerned, rather than something they happened to read on LinkedIn.

The caller may have chosen you because the length of tenure at your existing role is two to three years.

But it is possible you could have been there only two to three months. And they’re phoning “just to see if you’re happy with your new role.”

They may also try the indirect approach: “Do you know anyone who may be interested in this role?” This leaves the bait dangling in the water should you choose to snap it up yourself.

Which Sectors Do You Specialise In?

It’s very easy for a recruitment consultant to say they specialise in technology recruitment.

And it’s even easier to catch them out by hitting them with some choice jargon. Their expertise (or otherwise) will become apparent in seconds.

Any recruiter going in to bat for you must know their client’s field inside out. Or they risk compromising your chances from the outset. And doing their paymaster a disservice.

That means knowing your specific technology niche – however nerdy it may be – and being able to discuss it with laser-sharp precision and genuine enthusiasm.

Like we do.