10 Good Questions to Ask a Recruiter

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn what questions to ask to empower you to make the best decision about a potential job when speaking with a recruiter.

[Featured image] A job candidate speaks with a recruiter on a video screening call.

Whether a recruiter found you on a job site or this is the first interview you’ve set up after applying to a job, a conversation with a recruiter can help you fill in crucial details about a potential position.

A recruiter will typically give you time to ask questions towards the end of a call. Take the opportunity to clarify the salary range, job details, culture, and other information to broaden your understanding of the position.

How is a recruiter interview different from a regular interview?

An interview with a recruiter, sometimes called a phone screen or introductory call, is generally the first conversation a job candidate will have with a potential employer. Unlike a standard interview, phone screens tend to be short—typically 20 or 30 minutes—and cover basic information like salary requirements, availability, and job qualifications. This is a chance for the recruiter to share more information about the job and organization and for the job candidate to learn more about the opportunity. While a recruiter might ask about your qualifications to confirm your eligibility for the job, it’s unusual for them to ask behavioral questions.

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10 good questions to ask a recruiter

Take the phone screen as an opportunity to ask questions about the work culture and gather details about the job. Remember: an interview is a two-way street. Here are examples of questions you can ask a recruiter to gather helpful information.

1. How would you describe the culture of the organization?

While a job description might provide a good picture of what you’ll be tasked with doing in the position, culture might be harder to pin down. Asking about it will give you a fuller view of what life at the company might be like and whether it fits your wants and needs. 

2. What would you say are the most important qualities you’re looking for in a person for this role?

A job description might list requirements or desired qualifications, but this question can open up the answer to revealing more about the role’s priorities. The team might be looking for somebody who will execute tasks or a self-starter who will bring fresh ideas to the table. 

This can help you determine if you’re a fit for the position and give you clues about what skills you should emphasize and what stories to prepare in a future interview.

3. What's the salary range for this role?

A phone screen is an opportunity for both parties to lay out salary expectations. Organizations typically have a budget range for roles they’re filling, and it’s fine to inquire about them. In fact, recruiters might ask about your salary expectations for the role. 

Do some research ahead of time to see the typical salary range for a person in this role. Factor in your own experience, location, and expectations and come up with a range that is fair for somebody in your position. If a recruiter asks what your desired salary is, you can provide this range. You might also use your previous salary as a reference point and lay out expectations for an increase. 

If a recruiter doesn’t bring up compensation in the interview, ask about it. Though discussing salary might feel awkward, establishing expectations ensures you won’t feel undersold or that you wasted your time if you receive a low offer. The recruiter can also make sure your expectations are within their budget.

4. Why is the position open?

Asking why an organization is hiring for a role can give you useful information about career progression opportunities, the organization’s direction, and what situation you’ll be walking into should you accept a job offer.

The previous person in the role may have moved on to a different job, been fired, or been promoted to a new position. In any case, you’ll have a better idea of the dynamics and opportunities in that role. If the position is entirely new, ask why the position was created. You’ll have better insight into whether you’ll be filling a role with clear definitions or one where flexibility will be an asset.

5. What is your organization’s remote work policy?

Remote work has become more common in recent years, and many companies are offering more remote or hybrid positions. It can be worth clarifying what a company’s remote policy is and whether the company offers any flexibility if, for example, your child falls sick or you want to spend time with family across the country. Even if the job requires you to be in an office, companies may allow employees to work remotely a few days out of the year.

Suppose you’re interviewing for a remote position. In that case, you can ask about how the company ensures remote workers feel included in company culture or if there are any opportunities to meet coworkers in person throughout the year.

Read more: Zoom Interview Tips: A Guide For Your Online Interview

6. Can you tell me about the interview process and timeline?

This question clarifies expectations around when you can expect to hear back about the next steps and what you should anticipate in interviews to come. The recruiter may share the names or LinkedIn profiles of the people you will be interviewing with and layout how many interviews the process typically includes. 

This can also help determine if the process will fit into your timeline. If you’re looking for a job to start immediately, but the position requires you to go through security clearance that will take several months, this will be crucial information to have.

7. What do people in this role typically go on to do?

By knowing what people in the role have gone on to do, you’ll build context around the skills you’ll acquire in the role, whether it seems like a transitory role, and if the organization has a culture of promoting people internally. If this is a new role, you might ask what the expectations are for somebody who has been in the position a year from now.

8. How would you describe the team that I’ll be working with?

This question can shed some light on the specific team you’ll be working with day-to-day. Some teams within companies can have their own cultures, so it’ll be a good idea to ask about the team and the larger organization. Hopefully, you’ll walk away with an understanding of how big the team is and how you’ll fit in, in addition to some details like typical working hours and the direction the team is moving.

9. What is a typical day like in this role? 

Though a recruiter may not know the details of the team's day-to-day operations, this question can reveal important information on the organization’s culture, work hours, and work-life balance. They may also have some information on specific programs or projects you’ll be working on, and enlighten you on who you’ll be working with.

10.  What do you like about working at this organization, and what’s one thing you would change about working there?

Every organization has its challenges, but sometimes it’s hard to ask directly about them. Framing a question like this can offer the recruiter a chance to be more frank about the challenges they face in the workplace without pushing them to bad-mouth their employer. You’ll also get to hear what the recruiter genuinely likes about the organization, which can be equally revealing.

Next steps

An interview with a recruiter is a chance for you to determine whether or not an opportunity is for you. Think about what information you’d like to know, and craft your questions accordingly. After the initial phone screen, you can get started on sharpening your interview skills.

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