Important Recruiter Questions to Ask a Hiring Manager

When it comes to recruiting, the “devil is in the details.” All it takes is one piece of misinformation, one lapse in communication, or one missed opportunity to “upset the apple cart.” (How many idioms is he going to use, for crying out loud?)

That’s why recruiters must ask a lot of questions. They must ask candidates a lot of questions. And they must ask their clients a lot of questions. If they don’t, they put themselves at risk for having bad information, misinformation, or no information. All of that leads to no placements and a sad recruiter.

However, it’s not the fact that recruiters must ask a lot of questions. They also have to know which questions to ask. And they have to know when to ask them. This is just one of many reasons that recruiting is NOT an easy profession.

With this blog post, though, we’re going to focus on questions to ask a hiring manager as a recruiter. In other words, we’ll be addressing the client side of the equation. The client side is especially important. That’s because the client is the one that gives you the job order, and without a job order, there is no placement.

As you might imagine, there are a LOT of things that hiring managers and recruiters must discuss prior to a search. (Heck, there are a LOT of things they must discuss during the search, too.) The most common recruiter intake meeting questions fall roughly into four categories:

  1. Questions about the job order
  2. Questions about the company itself
  3. Questions about prospective candidates
  4. Last but not least, questions about the process

There are other questions that recruiters can ask hiring managers, but we’ll get into all that. First, though, let’s address these four categories one at a time.

Questions to ask the hiring manager when taking a job order

Hooray! You’ve been given a job order. Now you can run like the wind, right? Wrong. Now is the time to ask a bunch of questions and thoroughly qualify the job order. If you don’t, then you’ll be embarking upon a wild goose chase. Your client does not want you to source wild geese. They want you to source “purple squirrels.”

The beginning of the process if the best time to ask questions. That’s because the answers you receive can save you a lot in the way of time, energy, and effort later on. More questions now = fewer headaches later. With that in mind, below are recruiter questions to ask the manager when taking a job order:

  • How long has this position been open?
  • Is there a high degree of urgency associated with this position?
  • What are the consequence of this position not being filled?
  • What have you done so far to try to fill this position?
  • What channels have you used to source talent?
  • What is the salary scope?
  • How flexible is the salary?
  • What about this position would compel top candidates to consider it?
  • What career path is available for a person in this position?

Questions for recruiters to ask hiring managers about the company

Okay, now that the questions about the job order are out of the way, let’s move to the next stage. The position itself is just one part of the equation. Candidates, especially top candidates, make a move for more than just the position. They also make a move because they also want to work for the organization. Top candidates don’t make a move just for a job; they make a move if they believe it’s going to benefit in the long term.

So it’s your job to find out as much as you can about the company, as well as the position. With that in mind, below are questions for recruiters to ask hiring managers about the company:

  • How large is your team currently?
  • What is your hiring plan over the next 12 months?
  • How do you currently measure the quality of your hires?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • How have you found the current top performers at your company?
  • How long do your hires stay on average?
  • What has your turnover been like during the past year?
  • Why did your last employee leave the organization?
  • Why do people stay with our organization?
  • What perks or benefits does your organization offer to its employees?

Questions recruiters should ask clients about the candidate

But wait, there’s more! Yes, you’ve asked questions about the job order. And yes, you’ve asked questions about the company. But now it’s time to address the issue of the ideal candidate. Or more accurately, the hiring manager’s idea of what the ideal candidate looks like. Because that’s what you need to know if you’re going to identify, recruit, and present such a candidate. Basically, you must match what is in the hiring manager’s mind with what you are able to provide.

So you guessed it: here are questions recruiters should ask clients about the candidate:

  • If you’ve rejected candidates for the role so far, what were the reasons?
  • What projects will the successful candidate be working on?
  • What adjectives describe a person who would be successful within this role?
  • How important are interpersonal skills?
  • What are the “must-have” candidate qualities?
  • What are the “like to have” candidate qualities?
  • Which personality traits have worked out for your company in the past?
  • Which personality traits have NOT worked out for your company?
  • How would you measure the success of a person in this position?
  • If I found the perfect candidate, how quickly could you move on them?

Recruiter questions for the hiring manager about the process

Even if you have everything “buttoned down” to this point, things can still go awry. The reason? The hiring process. The intricacies of the process seem to differ slightly from company to company. They’re almost like snowflakes or fingerprints; no two are exactly alike.

As a result, it’s imperative to have a firm grasp on the hiring process for the organization that just gave you a job order. If you don’t, then you could find yourself running in circles. (Not literally, although if you become that angry, then perhaps that might become a literal reality.) The best way to ensure that hiring managers hold up their end of the bargain is to ask questions about their end of the bargain. Then, once you have answers, you can set expectations for what will happen at the beginning . . . while there is still time to save your sanity.

Below are recruiter questions for the hiring manager about the process:

  • How far into the recruiting process are you?
  • How many people have you interviewed for this role?
  • Are we the only firm working on this position or has it been released to everyone?
  • If you’re not responsible for recruiting for your team or company, who is?
  • Who is involved in your hiring process?
  • Are the key decision makers cooperative?
  • Are the key decision makers on the same page in terms of the job order specifications?
  • Do I have direct contact with the hiring authority?
  • If so, will they respond to my requests within 24-48 hours?
  • What’s the hiring manager’s availability for interviews?
  • What talent assessment tools do you include in your recruitment process?
  • In your absence, who else can I ask about the role or candidate requirements?
  • How many stages are in your organization’s interview process?
  • On average, how long does your hiring process take?
  • Will the candidate need to do any formal presentations?

Unusual questions to ask the hiring manager as a recruiter

You could stop right here, if you wanted to. After that, that is a TON of questions. However, if you really want to make sure that you’ve “kicked over every rock,” there are even more questions that you can ask. These aren’t unusual questions, per se, but they do fall into the category of questions that the hiring manager might not expect you to ask.

Regardless of their nature, these recruiter questions can serve to further shed some light on this search. These are the kinds of questions that can help to uncover some small detail that was inadvertently overlooked. Nonetheless, that detail could be instrumental to the successful completion of the search.

Below are unusual recruiter questions to ask the hiring manager about the search:

  • What has changed at the company since you’ve been hired?
  • If you could change one thing about the organization, what would it be?
  • What are the reasons that you have personally for staying with the organization?
  • How would you describe the “perfect candidate” for this position?
  • What annoys you the most about candidate behavior during the interview and hiring process?
  • How confident are you in your ability to “sell” this position?
  • How confident are you in your ability to “sell” this organization?

Recruiter questions to ask . . . yourself

Why stop at asking other people questions? Why not ask yourself some questions, too? After all, even after all of these questions, you might not be convinced that you should actually accept the job order. The only thing worse than not having any job orders to work is working on the wrong job orders. That’s because your chances of making a placement is roughly the same: zero.

Sometimes, a recruiter is so anxious to work a job order that they don’t ask themselves if they should work the job order. All they can think about is the prospect of a fat, juicy placement check. And of course, all the things they could do with the money from said check. But let’s not put “the cart before the horse.” (Is that another idiom? A simile? A metaphor? WHAT?)

While you ponder that, below are some recruitment questions about the search that you should ask yourself:

  • Will it be reasonably easy to find candidates for this position?
  • How much work does the hiring manager seem prepared to do?
  • How well will the hiring manager “sell” the position and the company?
  • How confident am I that the hiring manager will communicate effectively during the hiring process?
  • Are there similar positions that my firm is currently working on?
  • Will this be a “cold search” or do we have a candidate pool from which we can draw?
  • What is my “gut feeling” about this job order?
  • What is my “gut feeling” about this client?
  • Can I market this position effectively?
  • Can I market this company effectively?
  • Is the position salary high enough to be worth my time?
  • Is the fee percentage associated with the placement high enough to be worth my time?
  • Can I do consistent business with this client in the future?

Recruitment client meeting questions: going onsite

As we said at the beginning of this blog post, “the devil is in the details.” The placement fee is in the details, too. Does that means placement fees are evil? Of course not! Perish the thought. It means that if you leave something to chance, chance usually ends up kicking your butt. Or at the very least, it ends up derailing the placement process and quite possibly costing you a sizeable recruiting fee.

Now, there are some recruiters who like to visit their clients in person before working a job order for them. Of course, this is only practical for recruiters who work a regional market, but it merits discussion in this blog post. That’s because an onsite visit means you can bring all of your recruitment client meeting questions with you. Not only that, but you can ask them person, meaning that there will be less that is “lost in translation.”

In addition, while onsite, you may see things that will prompt other recruiter questions, especially about the organization itself, as well as the hiring process. While asking questions over the phone is all well and good, meeting in person helps to ensure more effective communication about all aspects of the search. It also gives recruiters an idea of whether or not the client has the potential to be a long-term client.

Regardless, though, of whether you ask hiring managers questions over the phone or ask them in person, asking these questions is crucial. Without the answers to these questions, you increase the risk associated with the search. Specifically, you increase the risk of it ending badly—for you, that is. And you increase the chances that you’ll find yourself asking another question, anyway:

“What the heck happened?”