5 Questions to ask during a Phone Interview with a Recruiter

Landing a Great Job Starts with the Recruiter Screen. While you may be focused on preparing for the hiring manager interview, don't overlook the importance of the initial phone screen with the recruiter. This is your first impression on the company, so you want to make it count. The recruiter screen is more than just a formality. It's an opportunity for both you and the recruiter to determine if there is a potential match. Thoughtful questions on your end demonstrate genuine interest and allow you to gather key insights before moving forward in the hiring process.

When interviewing with larger companies, you will often have a first round interview with an internal recruiter or HR person from the company. Whilst sometimes this may be short (<15 mins), it is important to note that this interview is more than a formality: It is evaluative.

Recruiters are often screening you for communication abilities, and whether you have a good story and reason as to why you are applying to this role. They are looking to ensure that the logistics all make sense (i.e., comp, location), and more so than that, want to gauge for genuine interest.

A large part of this call is usually spent on providing the candidate with ample time to ask questions. If you are lost for what to ask them, here are some ideas that can help lead to a productive chat.

Here are 5 questions to ask recruiters during the phone interview that can help lead to a second round:

1. What is the hiring timeline for this role?

Understanding the recruiter's timeline provides insight into the urgency behind hiring for the position. Some key follow up questions include:

- When are you looking to make a hiring decision by?

- How far along are you in the interview process with other candidates?

- What are the next steps after this call?

Knowing the timeline sets proper expectations and allows you to determine if their process aligns with your needs. It also gives you an idea of when you can expect to hear back next.

2. Why is this position open?

There are generally two reasons a company needs to fill a role: either the position is newly created or someone departed. Asking why it is open leads to valuable insights.

If it is a newly created role, this indicates the company is growing and expanding. You can follow up by asking what drove the need to add this position. If someone departed, understand why. Was it due to natural attrition, promotions, company restructuring? Or were there any concerns with the previous employee's performance?

The recruiter's answers provide background for their urgency in filling the role. It also shapes your understanding of the company's current needs and growth.

3. How does this role contribute to the company's goals/mission?

It's important to understand how the role aligns strategically with the company's objectives. This demonstrates your interest in making meaningful contributions, not just going through the motions.

Follow up this question by asking:

- How will the work I'll be doing impact wider company goals?

- What projects or key results will I be responsible for?

The recruiter's response gives you insight into what the priorities are for this position. It also sets expectations for the type of assignments and projects you would undertake. This helps assess whether the role is a fit with your skills and interests.

4. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?

While the job description provides an overview, you want to get a clear picture from the recruiter on the specific day-to-day tasks. This gives you a realistic preview of what you would be doing on a regular basis.

Some key follow up questions might include:

- Walk me through what an average day or week looks like in this role.

- What ongoing projects and assignments demand the most attention?

- How will my time be divided between different tasks and duties?

Listen closely to the daily workflow mentioned by the recruiter. This will help you determine if the reality of this job aligns with your strengths and preferences. The duties could end up being quite different than the general job description.

5. What qualities are you looking for in the ideal candidate?

This question puts the ball in the recruiter's court to describe the "wish list" of desired skills, experiences and other attributes. Then you can respond with examples of why you're a great match.

To get further insights, ask these follow up questions:

- What capabilities and traits are essential vs just nice to have?

- Where have you had difficulty finding these qualities in other applicants?

- How does my background line up with the qualities you are seeking?

The recruiter's answers reveal useful details about both required qualifications as well as any ideal experiences they've struggled to find. This gives you openings to speak directly to your strengths in those key areas. Describing why you're the kind of candidate they need can make you stand out.

Following Up for Next Steps

In closing the call, express your enthusiasm and reiterate your fit. Then get clarity on timelines for next steps:

- When can I expect to hear back from you?

- Will there be additional interviews required?

- Do you need any other information from me?

Thank the recruiter for their time and consideration. Following up promptly with any additional items the recruiter requested also makes a positive impression.

With preparation and practice, you can feel confident and in control during the recruiter screen call. By actively listening and asking thoughtful questions, you gather substantive intel about the company, role and hiring priorities. This enables you to present yourself as the ideal candidate so you can move onward to the next round of interviews.

Omna is a boutique search firm that specializes in helping PE- and VC-backed companies hire top business talent.