Whether it’s your very first interview for a role, or your second or third, when you work with a recruiter, you have the advantage of someone’s support, as well as access to their insights and advice.
Recruiters want to find the best candidates for their clients, so they typically have a very good idea of what makes a successful applicant for that company, in that specific role.
So before you start practising and preparing for your job interview, run through these nine key questions to ask your recruiter to ensure you have as much detail and context as possible.
1. What are the details of the interview?
Of course, it’s vital to know all the details of your interview so confirm with your recruiter the: date, time, location (or online platform or link if it’s via video call), duration and the name of the person who will be conducting your interview. You may also want to confirm what’s appropriate to wear for the interview, as you might be applying for an IT-related role at a start-up where a formal suit and tie may look quite out of place. Be sure to check these types of specifics with your recruiter.
Have your recruiter’s direct contact details available, as well as the hiring manager, in case of any issues or emergencies ahead of, or on, the day.
2. What is the interview process and format?
While you may think it’s too early to ask, there’s nothing wrong with enquiring about how many interviews the business will be conducting in order to find a suitable candidate. Dig further and find out if they are a mix of in-person, virtual interviews or panel interviews, and whether there will be any telephone rounds, competency tests, technical interviews and presentations – even psychometric testing – so that you have a clear idea of the job interview process as a whole.
At each stage, you can enquire ahead about how formal they will be, for example, a casual phone introduction versus a formal job interview. It might even be more of a casual meeting with a team member or two, to get a better feel of cultural fit and dynamic. Remember, though, that even informal interviews need to be treated with professionalism.
3. How has your recruiter presented you to their client?
Your recruiter will have had discussions with the hiring manager that will be interviewing you – after all, they are putting several candidates forward so you would have been mentioned in order to get the go-ahead for the interview.
So it’s worth asking your recruiter about what details they’ve passed on before the interview. This gives you a sense of what you need to cover, or expand on, during the discussion. In addition, the hiring manager may have responded well to your qualifications, or have raised concerns about a lack of experience in a certain area. If you can enquire further, you can make more of a case for yourself in the interview.
4. Why is the role open?
Jobs generally become available when someone leaves the company (voluntarily or involuntarily), someone goes on parental or extended leave, or when there is budget for new headcount.
It’s important to find out why the role was vacated, in order to help your case for moving forward in the interview process. For example, if the previous person left due to culture fit, there’s nothing wrong with enquiring about what the issue was and demonstrating that you align with their values and culture. At the same time, perhaps that’s an indicator that this company or role isn’t for you – watch out for red flags and discuss any concerns with your recruiter afterwards.
If the role is new, that gives you an indication that the company has budget. It may also mean more future hires in that direct team, which means you’ll have other colleagues to start and learn alongside with. This could make for an interesting discussion point during the interview, and lead to the business’s long-term goals if they are expanding headcount. Plus, a new role could mean you’ll have full control as to how you define the job and its responsibilities – find out more at your interview.
5. What do I need to know about the interviewer?
Their name and position in the business are a must, of course. Importantly, ask your recruiter a bit more about the interviewer and their style.
For example, they might be quite serious in nature and require a very professional interview due to the role being quite high-level. Or they might be described as friendly and will want to get to know more about you from a personality perspective because culture fit is important to the business.
It will help put some nerves at ease too – knowing a bit about your interviewer before you officially meet.
6. What are the key skills and qualities they’re looking for?
By asking this important question of your recruiter, you can spend time preparing yourself to sell these key skills and qualities at the interview.
Ensure you are able to communicate these clearly and have examples you can draw on. But do use caution at the interview – if the hiring manager wants to focus on other skills, or something else entirely, be sure to go with the flow of the discussion.
7. Are they looking at internal candidates?
It’s good to know where you stand as an external applicant.
If the business has reached out to a recruitment company and is using their services to find candidates for a job, that generally means they have been unsuccessful at finding a suitable person internally. But be sure to check regardless, to get an idea of how competitive it’s going to be for this role.
8. What’s the company culture like?
While we can have a good idea of a business and its work culture when it comes to better known names and brands, if you’re applying for a company you’re not familiar with and can only find so much about them online, ask your recruiter for an overview.
It’s important to know about your potential new employer’s reputation and get a sense of their mission and values, employee retention and career pathway, plus how they operate and their position in the market. Your recruiter’s insights may help you form some interesting questions to ask during your interview, demonstrating to the hiring manager that you have spent some time doing extra research and trying to understand the business so early on.
9. What’s the salary range?
You should have already had an initial discussion about the salary range with your recruiter well before locking in an interview to ensure you’re applying for a job that meets your needs and expectations. If it wasn’t made known beforehand, or needs more clarification, ask your recruiter now as you don’t want your first interview to become a discussion about salary.
More questions to ask during an interview
Below are some examples of general questions you can ask during your official job interview. Tailor your selection around the aspects of the job that concern you the most.
Remember to only ask questions that you cannot research yourself and listen carefully to information given during the interview, in case your questions are answered before you have a chance to ask.
Some questions may be relevant to certain industries while others are not and some may not be right to ask until you are in your new position and learning the ropes. Follow your instinct and clear up any important questions that you’d want to know upfront before accepting an offer.
Questions about the role you are applying for
How has the position become available?
How is performance measured at your company and how often is it reviewed?
What long-term career opportunities are available and how do you support the upskilling of staff?
What are the key challenges of the role, particularly in the first six months?
How would you describe the core day-to-day responsibilities for this position?
Questions about the team you will be working with
How many people are on the team and what are their roles and responsibilities?
How does the relevant team fit into the organisation as a whole?
How would you describe the culture of the team?
Who will I be working most closely with?
What are the manager’s or company’s plans for this team over the next few years?
Questions about the manager you will be working under
How would you describe your management style?
Can you tell me about your background at this company and the strengths of the team under your leadership?
What do you like most about working at this company?
What are the qualities you do and don’t like to see in your team members?
Questions about the company and its culture
How would you describe the culture of the company?
What are the working styles of the business stakeholders and leadership team?
I read about (issue) in (research/source). What other key challenges is the company facing in the current climate?
What are the major plans for the company in the next three to five years?
Stepping up your job search? Talk to a Page Personnel recruitment specialist about opportunities in your field.
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