10 Best Job Interview Questions Recruiters Can Ask

These Questions Elicit the Information Recruiters Need From Candidates

A recruiter asks a candidate ten best interview questions.
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Do you know how to use the best recruiter interview questions to identify the very best candidates for your employer’s open job? The reason you hire a recruiter is to find for you the most qualified candidates. Then, the recruiter helps you convince these candidates that your business is the best place for them to work.

People often think only about the first half of that equation—finding the best people—but the second half, essentially marketing—is equally important.

Of course, you want that marketing to present an accurate picture of your company and your open job.

You don't want people to join your company and then feel miserable once they are onboard. With this in mind, here are ten recruiter interview questions that should be on every company's list.

Recruiter Job Interview Questions to Ask

This job pays between $X and $Y. Are you still interested in the position? This may seem like exactly the wrong question to ask. Shouldn't you work on finding out the candidate's current salary so that you can get the best bargain possible? No, absolutely not. Companies should base their salary offer on the market value of the position, not the last salary the candidate received.

If you rely on previous salaries, you're also in danger of perpetuating unfair pay based on a mistake a previous company made. Additionally, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and New York City have made it illegal to ask a candidate to reveal her salary.

(This is a current trend in employment law so count on additional jurisdictions to follow suit. Always know the laws where you operate as an employer.)

Why are you looking for a new job? If the candidate is unemployed, of course, this question is irrelevant to why she is looking for a new job. But for the employed candidates, this a good question to assess what the candidate is really looking for—and if your company can fulfill that objective.

Most people, of course, are going to say that they are looking for something new with opportunities for growth and further career development or similar generic reasons. So, you will want to follow up with these next two questions.

You say that you are looking for something new, what ideally would you like to see different in your new job? Is the candidate looking for a new industry? A new workload, or new coworkers? It all makes a difference. A candidate who is looking for new coworkers but is happy with their actual work is going to be a different candidate than a person who wants to change their career focus.

Both are fine candidates, but they are looking for very different solutions. A person who wants a new environment is going to be very interested in your culture. A candidate who is looking for a different type of work will be very interested in the actual job description.

What type of growth are you looking for? Is this a person who wants to move up from the role of individual contributor to a managerial job or is she hoping to climb the corporate ladder all the way to the top? Again, either is fine, just different.

What can your business offer? Remember, you want to find a potential employee who is a good fit.

If your business is family owned and operated it's not the type of place that an outsider will be able to climb the corporate ladder. That's valuable information to have.

What was your favorite part of your last (present) job? Again, what you're looking for with this question is whether this candidate is a good match for your company. An answer of “we had these amazing holiday parties” is very different from “every project had a start and an end date. I love the feeling of finishing a project.”

Again, both answers are fine, but if this job doesn't come with a holiday party culture or has more of a continuous workload instead of specific projects, this person isn't a great fit for the position.

What was your least favorite part of your last (present) job? Much like the prior question, you will find out what makes this candidate happy and what makes her unhappy.

But, watch this question’s response for excessive whining. Keep in mind that a whole host of terrible bosses exists out there so if she says, “My boss was a micro-manager who liked to interrupt me every time I spoke,” it doesn't necessarily mean that you will hire a bad employee.

It's possible that she did just have a terrible boss. You need to find out where the problem was. This may mean doing a bit more of a reference check than you'd normally do if the candidate is otherwise a good fit.

If you could go back and advise your 18-year-old self on careers, what would you tell you to do differently? This isn't just a fun, what if, question. This question is designed to elicit what struggles the candidate has had in her career and, more importantly, how she's overcome them. You should ask follow up questions depending on her answers.

So, if she says, “I would tell myself not to major in political science, but to study business instead,” you would follow up with, “How have you gained the necessary business knowledge?” On-the-job learning is often more thorough and more appropriate than any college course.

Note the difference between, “I would tell me to do X,” followed up with how she gained that knowledge anyway, with “I would tell me to do X,” followed up with how much better her life would be if she had learned X. The first is a self-starter, problem solver. The second puts her fate in the hands of other people.

How do you handle [your department's biggest business challenge—whatever your department's challenge is currently]? For example, how do you handle tight deadlines? How do you handle working for a boss who rarely shows up? How do you handle unrealistic clients?

You won't gain useful information if you ask a standard question such as “how do you handle conflict” or “what do you do when a teammate isn't working hard” when the department is conflict-free, and the job involves mostly independent work. Those questions are great for other environments though. But, recruiters need to know what the candidate is getting herself into for recruiting success.

What is your management style? If you are hiring an employee to manage staff, it's always good to know what they think of as good management. Again, you won't find a general right answer, but there probably is a right answer for the position that is open. 

If the last manager was a disaster because she was a micro-manager, you may want to hire a manager who is completely hands-off, but will the staff fall apart with a dramatic shift? If the VP over this area is an extreme micro-manager, a hands-off line manager will probably not be happy.

What questions do you have for me? Do not use this as a throw-away question. You should ask this as a genuine attempt to find out what the candidate wants and needs to know. She may ask about salary (if you didn't start with that, as suggested above).

She may ask about what a standard work-week looks like. (Is this the type of company where people leave by 5:30 pm, or is it an organization where people come in at 7 am and stay until 9:30 pm?) Whatever questions come up, it's important that you do your best to answer them. They go a long way in helping the candidate determine if the job is appropriate for her.

Keep in mind that these are recruiter interview questions—not manager ones. Hiring managers can, of course, ask some of these same questions, but hiring managers need to focus on whether the candidate can do the job. 

Recruiters aren't usually experts in the jobs they are sourcing, so their focus tends to assess cultural and other fit questions. If you are also more of a technical expert, ask away. The hiring manager will thank you for making her job easier.