The questions candidates have for recruiters are just as important as the questions recruiters have for candidates. By asking questions early in the interview process, both parties can gain a better understanding of how well-suited someone is for the job, saving time and frustration later on.
Asking questions demonstrates candidates have thought about the opportunity, are interested in it, and have researched the company and the position. According to Forbes, some recruiters will try to “wrest control of the call,” but don’t let this keep you from asking questions!
Here are five questions to ask recruiters and one topic to avoid asking about:
1. What’s your opinion of the company?
This open-ended question can deliver great insights into what recruiters think of the company as a whole. Since recruiters are typically on the outside looking in, their response is usually less biased than someone who works directly for the company. Notice what sort of things they mention—and the things they don’t. Do they describe a positive work environment? Or do they seem hesitant to answer or give you overly general responses? This question shows that you value the recruiter’s opinion, winning their favor which can help in later rounds of interviewing.
2. What is the employer looking for?
Sometimes the things employers want from new hires aren’t explicitly spelled out in the job description. The position may state that the successful candidate must have X number years of experience or a certain level of education. But, by asking this question to recruiters, they often reveal other important attributes not listed in the job description. For example, perhaps the employer is tired of hiring people who leave after six months, so they’re looking for someone who is loyal and committed. The recruiter would know this because they’re the one repeatedly interviewing new candidates. Listen closely.
3. How long has the position been open?
Knowing how long a job position has been open helps candidates determine their negotiating power. If the job opportunity has only been open a short period of time, the recruiter will likely want to interview several people so they can evaluate who’s the best fit for the role. You’ll have less negotiating power, but you can consider yourself lucky that you were among their top picks! If the position has been open a long time, it could increase your negotiating power, but this could be a warning sign. Why don’t people want the job? What are the reasons other candidates haven’t been chosen? Ask follow up questions to learn more context.
4. Why is the open position?
This question helps candidates understand if the position is newly-created (a sign of a growing company that needs diversified roles to keep pace with demand) or if it’s open because someone has left that position. Perhaps they got promoted or are on maternity leave. Or did they quit or get fired? If you become worried about turnover at the company, dig deeper. You may not get to the bottom of this mystery, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
5. When do you expect to fill the position?
You’ll want to know what comes next in the hiring process. Perhaps the next step is a video interview with senior management. When might that happen? What’s the typical time frame for making hiring decisions? These questions tell the interviewer you’re interested, but don’t want to waste unnecessary time—yours or theirs. Having a timeline (even if it’s a vague one) sets realistic expectations and keeps everyone accountable.
All these questions can help candidates obtain valuable information from recruiters. But there’s one thing job seekers should not ask about too early in the interviewing process…
Do not ask about salary or the compensation package.
As tempting as it may be to ask about salary, benefits, bonuses and other perks of the job (half-day Fridays, child care, gym memberships, stock options, etc.), these should only be discussed after you’ve officially been offered the position. That’s your time to negotiate. If you absolutely must know, inquire about an expected salary range, but don’t demand specifics. After all, you want to sell the recruiter and the rest of the hiring team on what you can do for them—not the other way around.