The Top 10 Interview Questions You Should Ask When Hiring a Recruiter

March 3, 2021

Photograph of two women talking at table

The mantra of any recruiter worth their salt is that people matter above all else — and that the key to building a lasting organization is continually hiring best-in-class talent.

It makes perfect sense then that recruiting leaders really, really care about the people they hire to fill out their talent acquisition team. And they should, because hiring a great recruiter can have a significant long-term effect on any business, providing a higher level of talent at your organization over time.

So, how do you know if someone will make a top recruiter? To help you make this determination, we put together a list of 10 outstanding interview questions you should ask any recruiting candidate.

1. “What was your relationship like with your last three hiring managers?”

Studies show that the single biggest factor in being a successful recruiter is consistently building strong relationships with hiring managers. And that means the recruiter acting as a partner in the hiring process, not just an order-taker.

By asking a candidate to walk through their relationship with their last three hiring managers, you’ll get an inside look at how they handle that relationship.

Do they describe authoritarian situations, where the hiring manager led the charge and the recruiter was reactive to their demands? Or do they discuss how they took control of the relationship early on, managing the hiring process as equals? Ideally, look for a candidate who has a strong philosophy on how to handle that relationship — as opposed to someone who’ll let each individual hiring manager act as a dictator.

2. “How do you treat candidates who don’t get the job?”

Recruiters are often incentivized based on how many reqs they close and the time in which they close them. As a result, some short-sighted recruiters often forgo providing a good candidate experience to the candidates they reject, focusing solely on the people who have moved on in the hiring process.

This approach can hurt your company’s employer brand — and potentially your consumer brand too.

Instead, the best recruiters should make it clear they provide a strong experience to all candidates. This might include responding to every candidate who applies, even if they don’t make it to the next stage, and personally phoning every interviewee who doesn’t get the job. Listen for answers that show the recruiter is committed to consistently updating candidates throughout the process, so no one is left wondering where they stand.

3. “Tell me about the last two times you used data to help you recruit.”

Data is becoming an increasingly integral part of recruiting. It’s also a way for recruiters to “swim upstream” and become more strategic partners with their hiring managers, providing them with strong talent pool data on where to recruit and what to expect.

A top-tier candidate should have no trouble listing off the last two times they used data to recruit, like leveraging a Talent Pool Report from LinkedIn Talent Insights. Conversely, candidates who have a tough time citing examples of how they use data to recruit are the ones who are not using all the tools necessary to be successful.

4. “What media do you consume to stay atop the recruiting industry?”

Recruiting is an ever-changing industry that requires constant adoption of new tools and techniques. Top recruiters can adapt to those changes quickly because they spend time each day staying informed about the industry they work in.

It doesn’t matter so much what publications, blogs, or newsletters a recruiter reads or which podcasts they listen to, as long as they’re consistently engaged with content that gets them thinking about how to become a better recruiter. A good follow-up question here is to ask the candidate what recent industry developments they find interesting. This not only tells you how plugged in they are to industry news but also allows you to hear their perspectives on innovative new recruiting concepts and trends.

5. “Tell me how you're building your personal brand — and why that's important.”

These days, it isn’t enough to simply post jobs or InMail qualified candidates and be done with it. Recruiters need to start building relationships with prospects digitally, making it easier to source positions later.

It’s essential that a recruiter have a strong LinkedIn profile, as this can make or break a first impression. Ideally, they also use LinkedIn as a way to share content, join groups, and participate in conversations — showing they understand the importance of a compelling personal brand.

The same goes for other social media platforms. While a recruiting candidate with little-to-no professional social media presence outside of LinkedIn shouldn’t necessarily be disqualified, it’s worth paying attention to those that get social media and use it to their full advantage.

6. “How do you measure quality of hire?”

This is a classic “there’s no right answer” question because the top minds in the industry have no right answer yet. In fact, talent leaders agree that defining and accurately measuring quality of hire is one of their biggest challenges, with no one clear solution out there yet.

That said, there’s near universal agreement that quality of hire is the most important metric in recruiting (even though no one truly knows how to define it). So a promising recruiting candidate should have a perspective, or at least a theory, on how to measure it.

Their answer should provide insight into both their thought process and their commitment to taking on the industry’s biggest challenges. Who knows, maybe they’ll actually have the solution.

7. “What is your stick rate for new hires?”

Recruiters are often asked to fill a lot of roles quickly, but speed doesn’t matter if the new hire quits within a month. You want to find a recruiter who never rushes to fill a req, even when time is of the essence, focusing instead on finding people who will stick around for the long haul.

While some industries tend to have a higher turnover than others, a low number here could indicate a poor job vetting candidates — or that the recruiter didn’t properly set the candidates expectations for the job.

8. “Describe how you would position our company to candidates.”

Top candidates are often chased by several similar companies at once, so you want to know a recruiter can effectively differentiate your company to grab the attention of potential new hires. Not only does this question test their creativity and critical thinking, but it also tells you how much research they’ve done on your company.

You may also want to turn this question into a work assessment, asking the recruiter to write an example of an outreach message they’d send to a candidate. If they can pinpoint some of the factors that make you unique and spin them into a compelling story, you know you have a strong contender on your hands.

9. “Tell me about a time when a top candidate rejected a job offer. What did you learn from the situation?”

Every recruiter has a “one that got away” story. But rather than brooding over it, the best recruiters try to figure out why the candidate rejected the offer and what they can do differently the next time.

Maybe the candidate had doubts about the job that the recruiter didn’t pick up on until it was too late. Maybe they felt the culture wasn’t a perfect fit for them. Or maybe they simply got a better offer elsewhere. Armed with this knowledge, the recruiter can approach the offer stage more strategically moving forward.

10. “What’s the most rewarding part of being a recruiter?”

When a recruiter is truly passionate about what they do, candidates feel it — growing more excited about the job as a result. Listen for answers that get to the root of why the recruiter got into the business.

They might be a natural people person who enjoys talking to candidates and hearing their stories. Or perhaps they love the feeling of helping people find a job they’ll thrive in. While there are few wrong answers here, recruiters who are only in it for the paycheck or who don’t have a favorite part of the job may not bring much passion or enthusiasm to the role.

Hire the right recruiter, attract the best candidates

It’s hard to complete any task without the right tools. To find a recruiter who ticks all the right boxes, explore our interview guide for recruiters, which compiles even more insightful questions to help you test candidates’ technical knowledge, soft skills, and more.

And most importantly, look for someone who is passionate about your company and who genuinely seems to care about every candidate who walks through the door. If they have that, along with the skills, knowledge, and curiosity needed to do this job well, you’re in a strong position to succeed.

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