What to Expect When You’re Interviewing

Part One: Talking to the Recruiter

In many cases, a conversation with a recruiter is the gateway to your candidacy. Even if you come to the hiring manager’s attention through a referral, if they are partnering with a recruiter on the search you will often be screened by him/her first. How can you prepare for this initial conversation? Is it the same as an interview? What should you expect to be asked?

Expect to tell your story.
The recruiter has already looked at your resume and determined that you have some of the right qualifications for the job. They want to flesh out the story. They want to learn more about the nature of the work you were doing, the reporting structures, technologies used, and skills acquired and honed. We want to know more about what kind of person you are, what type of culture you thrive in and who you’re following in your industry. We also need to understand the connecting threads of your experiences. Why did you leave Company X? How did you land at Company Y? The recruiter may want to hear your story before they get to talking about the opportunity at hand, so they can get a better sense of your relevance and frame the conversation accordingly.

Expect to share your situation.
Of course, the recruiter wants to know whether you’re working now, and why you might be looking to move on. For this reason, you will want to have this conversation in a private place where you feel comfortable speaking candidly. You will be asked what your current salary is, what sort of culture exists at your company, and detailed questions about your responsibilities and how your job search is going. The recruiter will also want to know whether you are actively looking for new roles. It is in your best interest not to withhold information. Remember, the recruiter is your advocate; they are working on many searches, and opening new ones frequently. Think of these relationships as potential long-term career collaborations. The more honest you are, the better able the recruiter will be to match you with the kind of opportunities you are looking for.

Expect to be asked what you want.

Before the call, identify for yourself the conditions of your dream job. Know what your deal breakers are and what you could be flexible on. For more on how to articulate your values, see here. Expect to be asked what kinds of positions you are interested in, what salary range you are looking for, whether you’re willing to relocate (and to where), and what your time frame is. Do you have travel plans or upcoming work events in place that would delay your ability to make a transition? Being upfront about such things will serve you, as the recruiter can help relay these items to the hiring company and make you aware of other opportunities that might be a good fit in the future.

The interview with a recruiter is unique in that it can open the door to the next interview, or it may lead you to another opportunity entirely. Even if you are not right for the role at hand, a recruiter relationship can be valuable down the road and being prepared for this initial conversation will get you off on the right foot.