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Three questions every job seeker should ask when evaluating a recruiter

Recruiter and job seeker reviewing a resume in an interview setting

At the start of the new year, people are continuing to evaluate their employment options, and some are even considering alternative job opportunities or different career paths or industries entirely. Working with an experienced recruiter can lead to a more informed and impactful job search while yielding targeted job opportunities based on important preferences, like contract duration or direct-hire positions, compensation, location or hybrid options.  

Employers continue to experience the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, including continued economic uncertainty and significant employee turnover attributed to the “great resignation” of 2021-2022. This dynamic employment landscape extends to evolving job seeker priorities – particularly in areas like work-life balance and policies related to returning to the office. 

A 2023 SHRM article cited a study from Clarify Capital, a financial consultancy firm, where 68% of 1,000 participants stated they would rather look for a new job than return to the office full-time. Additionally, a recent Vaco poll of nearly 6,500 respondents found that only 18% reported that their companies had returned to a full-time in-office policy and 50% shared that their positions are still fully remote.  

Because of this, employers are working to enhance their benefits and other offerings to assist in recruiting and retaining top talent. There are thousands of unfilled job openings, especially in industries like accounting and IT where job growth is outpacing available talent – and it is only projected to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. 

While the numbers remain in the favor of workers, using the best tools available is a critical part of the process when searching for a new position. An experienced recruiter can be a significant resource to assist job seekers who are looking to find the ideal match for their skill sets and goals. 

For those considering a new position, it is important to find a recruiting partner prior to kicking off a formal job search. Considering there are a large number of staffing and recruiting firms in the market, job seekers should be mindful about carefully interviewing and vetting recruiters and the firms they represent prior to making a final decision on who to entrust their job search with – not unlike how the recruiters and firms assess the talent they work with and represent.  

Knowing what questions to ask a recruiter is an important part of the vetting process. Below are three key questions to ask a recruiter to inform your decision-making when evaluating whether or not to work with them. 

#1: How strong is the recruiter’s relationship with the hiring company?

The depth of the relationship the recruiter has with the hiring company can serve as a key indicator to the legitimacy and value they are able to provide to a job seeker through their employment journey.  

Consider if the recruiter can proficiently field basic questions about the company. This is the most foundational litmus test for a recruiter/job seeker relationship. A recruiter who is well-informed and understands the intricacies of the hiring company will be better positioned to explain the nuances and details of the role. Alternatively, not being able to field basic questions can suggest a limited ability to assist in not only evaluating how the company and job aligns with job seeker aspirations and skills but also in their ability to influence hiring decisions made by the company. 

#2: What details can the recruiter provide on the current opening? 

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the role, the next step is to ask the recruiter about the specifics of the role they are representing. To assist in gathering this information, consider asking the following questions: 

  • What are the long-term goals of the position? This question can uncover insights into overarching company goals tied to the position. Being able to understand the broader purpose of the role enables job seekers to align their professional aspirations with the trajectory of the job and the company.
  • Is this a contract position or is there a budget and plan for this to be a contract-to-hire opportunity? This information can provide clarity around the longevity and stability of the opportunity, allowing job seekers to quickly and more effectively evaluate whether the position aligns with their long-term objectives and career aspirations, especially if the position is temporary.

It is important to be prepared to ask the recruiter specific questions related to the position and to avoid focusing on superficial questions, like the number of active job openings the recruiter is currently representing. Digging into the specifics of the job and the hiring company enables job seekers to not only evaluate the recruiter’s responses and level of knowledge but also informs them of whether the position aligns with their career goals. 

#3: What is the recruiter’s history and experience working with the hiring company? 

Ask about the recruiter’s track record in placing candidates with the hiring company. This question serves as a valuable indicator of the recruiter’s standing with the company and will provide insights into the strength of their relationship. 

A higher number of successfully placed individuals suggests a strong influence and ability to secure positions with the hiring company. In this regard, it is important to work with recruiters who can serve as an ambassador to both the candidates and companies they work with. Identifying a recruiter with a say in the hiring process is key. 

In Closing 

Job seekers should conduct interviews to align themselves with the right recruiter just like recruiters evaluate candidates to determine their suitability for open roles. This relationship should be viewed as a strategic partnership that can expand opportunities in a competitive job market and provide access to a wider range of opportunities.   

An impactful recruiter can identify positions that align with workplace motivators, like higher pay and flexibility. Know your worth and work to identify a recruiter who will accurately represent your aspirations by asking them impactful questions that matter to your job search. 


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