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What to ask an external recruiter in the first call

Posted on 17 May 2023

What to ask an external recruiter in the first call

6-minute read

It’s 11:27am, and you are two coffees into your day and completing your morning task at good pace. You decide to take a short break, hop onto LinkedIn, and just like that, you are hit with pop-up after pop-up of messages from recruiters who think you are the perfect match for a Java opening when you work with JavaScript, or how their client wants to speak specifically with you Ben, even though your name is Sandra.

Not all recruiters are bad, otherwise, we wouldn’t be in a job, but it can become frustrating very quickly and more so to that, it might turn you off working with a recruiter in the future should you be exploring new opportunities.

The idea of this article is simple. Arm you with some key questions you can put forward to a potential recruiting partner in your first call with them. The questions will help you determine their skill level, network reach, and hopefully help you understand if they see you for you, or just as a payday.

Look at it like this, you wouldn’t work with a company without interviewing, so think of the first call as the recruiter’s interview to work with you.


Two-way Relationship

Having the right recruiting partner support you in your job search is very important. They are representing you. Just as you are representing them, it is a mutual partnership that demands respect from the beginning.

If one party has the wrong intentions, it will only result in friction or a complete stop at some point down the road.

It is certainly acceptable to work with multiple recruiters. Not every recruiter has access to the same client base, so expanding your reach is sensible but expand with intent. Every person that represents you, should understand your needs and truly represent those.

If you feel that they do not have your best interests or that they cannot effectively represent you during the first call, you have the power to say no and explore other options.


Surface Level

The first group of questions are what we would call ‘surface level’. By themselves, they will give you some insightful information, pick and choose which to ask or feel free to ask them all. Remember, they are going to represent you.

A few examples could look like this...

  • How long have you recruited in the technology I work in?

  • How many hires have you specifically made in your career?

  • What is your specialism in recruitment?

  • What is the current market rate for my skill level?

  • Who is the best company you have hired for and why?

The surface-level questions are mostly directed to better understand the recruiter’s skill level and network reach. To give you reassurance that they do indeed know what they are talking about and on top of this have a network in your niche.


Digging Deeper

Once you have established a baseline, consider digging deeper to better understand specifics. You could ask them to repeat certain pieces of information you have shared with them to test if they have paid attention, you could ask for specific examples of their work to explore their approaches or previous customers.

Whatever you need to learn before committing to a recruiter, this is where you are free to ask. A few possible questions could be:

  • Can you repeat back to me the criteria for my next opportunity?

  • Can you share two recommendations within the last 6 months for me to read?

  • What support are you able to offer me throughout the hiring process?

  • What happens if I am rejected from the hiring process?

In contrast to the skill focus of surface-level questions, the second set of questions are designed for you to determine if that person truly understands what you are looking for whilst also getting further information of how they will help guide you (or not) through the hiring process.

A strong recruiter can summaries what you want with ease.


Look out for the phrases ‘I’ and ‘We’. The former if said with confidence and pace will confirm that what they are sharing with you is indeed their own work, the latter will usually be statistics they are borrowing from the team or company as they continue to grow as a recruiter.

Of course, everyone needs to start their career somewhere and that doesn’t mean a junior recruiter or someone new to your niche cannot give you the best support required in your job search however these questions will allow you to come away from that first call with whomever you speak with, a little more assured that your name and candidacy is in the best hands.


As recruiters ourselves, we know it can be challenging finding someone you trust when there is a lot of noise out there. So, if you wish t have an open chat, feel free to reach out to one of our partners. We would be happy to explore what options might suit you today as well as tomorrow.

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