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Can you send me the job description?
What are the three key factors to success in the role?
What can you tell me about the client’s business? Why has the client decided to hire for this role?
Who does the position report to?
Is the role a new position, or a replacement position? Is there an incumbent in the role right now?
Where are you in the process? Has this search been open a long time?
Is your client very committed to getting this role filled? If so, why has it been open for so short / long of a time?
Is the client looking at a wide variety of candidates or have they narrowed it down to a specific type of match? Have they been very picky or more open-minded about the types of candidates they see?
What’s the compensation package? Yes, I know competitive, but how competitive?
What’s the interview and decision-making process like? How many weeks or months can I expect?
What’s something you can tell me about the company that I can’t find myself online?
Where is the job physically located? What percent is it in-office, travel, remote work?
Have you successfully placed a candidate with this client before? Was it the same hiring manager? If so, what can you tell me about how that process went?
Are you the exclusive recruiter on this role for this company? (If they are, you’re likelier to be reviewed by the hiring manager. Whereas, if the role is being shopped by multiple contingency firms at the same time, it obviously means the relationship with the ultimate employer is weaker.)
Who referred me to you?…
With those two dozen questions, you should get a pretty good feel for the role, the company, and the recruiter’s relationship with the hiring manager.
Speaking of which, the recruiter’s relationship with the hiring manager is worth exploring.
The most important thing to understand, as it impacts absolutely everything else about your relationship with them, is that recruiters are paid by the company, work for the company, and must put the company’s interests first.
However friendly, clever, accommodating, engaging, funny and sympathetic a particular recruiter is in their interactions with you, ultimately, that recruiter works for the company. That means the client calls the shots, and their friendly interactions with you, however pleasant or persuasive or compelling, are a means to an end.
As obvious as this is, especially for professionals who themselves have hired recruiters to fill dozens or hundreds of roles before, the personality, affability, and agreeableness of the best professional recruiters have a magic power that seems to cause candidates to forget these fundamental truths. I’ve personally seen it hundreds of times over the years with even very high-level professionals.
So when you find a recruiter calling up to chat, before you say “yes”, pull up these 24 questions and learn a little bit more about the landscape before marching off to your destiny.