One of our main goals at Argentus is to spread the word about working with recruiters to make the process easier, smoother, and more fruitful for candidates and recruiters alike. The representation of a recruiter can be a tremendously valuable thing for a candidate: 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, as opposed to having it end up lost in a dark corner of some online application system, probably never to be heard from again.
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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 (E.g., "What's the salary for this job?"; "What's the location?") – questions that ask about a recruiter's recruitment philosophies and help you assess whether or not a given recruiter is really going to be a good long-term partner:
1. What's Your Background in this Area?
The first thing you should try to assess during a conversation with a recruiter 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 it for you. Furthermore, if the recruiter represents you for the wrong role, it makes you look bad. (The recruiter looks worse, but still.) You want a recruiter who has several years of experience recruiting for your field, if not actual working experience in the field itself.
2. Are You Working Exclusively on This Job?
In other words, is the recruiter one of many working on this job, or are they the only one the client has reached out to? An exclusive relationship between recruiter and client expresses a certain amount of trust and seriousness in the recruiter's abilities on the part of the client.
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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 the recruiter is working exclusively on the job, it's all the more reason to trust the recruiter's effectiveness.
3. What's Your Approach to Attracting and Managing Candidates?
This is where you assess whether the recruiter is trying to put bums in seats or trying to build long-term relationships with candidates throughout their careers. 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 whom you call three years from now, after they've placed you in a role and you've been promoted and are now looking to oversee your own round of hiring; 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; the kind of recruiter who'll remember you and your potential because they kept up the relationship.
Is the recruiter going to try to cultivate this kind of relationship, or will rget throw your resume into a database along with a bunch of others?
4. Have You Had a Situation in Which Someone Stopped Working With You? 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 have dealt with difficulties in your job, you should ask the recruiter about times when a candidate has stopped working with them. Was it because they lost touch? Because things didn't work out? 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.
5. 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. Second, it can also give you a 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 be positioned to solve them in a big-picture way. It helps you figure out where you stand not only in terms of "checking the boxes" of experience, but also in terms of making an impact in the role – and you can speak to that during the interview.
As we said above, the representation of a recruiter can be a tremendously valuable thing – but only if it is the right recruiter. Sometimes, it's less obvious to assess a recruiter's fit than it might seem. We hope these tips give you some ideas for how to determine who the right recruiter is for you!
A version of this article originally appeared on the Argentus blog.
Bronwen Hann is a seasoned recruiter with 35 years of experience in the industry. She founded and currently runs Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting.