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Why your recruiter asked you that question

question recruiters ask

When you start working with a recruiter, one of the first things they will do is have an interview with you. There will be questions. So many questions. Some you will expect; some you won’t; and some will even seem odd or unimportant. This is the chance for them to find out all the details about your previous positions, your personality, and what you are looking for in your next role.  They are all really important. Here’s why.

Q – Tell me about your strengths/weaknesses/difficult work situation/etc.

It isn’t always the answer that’s important but how the question is answered. Are you vague, do you get flustered, do you provide an answer in 1 second without giving true thought, or do you go into every dirty detail? Though there’s no right way, per se, take some time to consider the way you answer, as it can be very telling.

Q – What salary range are you looking at? Can you live at the bottom end of that range?

Many jobs are advertised with a salary band; this is what a company has allocated for that role, financially. It is incredibly important for a recruiter to know your range so that they can put you forward for roles that match your needs. Don’t low-ball your range. Let’s say you advise your recruiter that you need 35K/year, but you actually need 50K/year to pay your bills and take care of life. If you accept a role for 35K/year, how long do you think you will be able to go to work?

While it is no one’s business what you earned in a previous role – because situations change – it is important for your recruiter to know what you need now. No one wants to waste your time in interviews for roles that don’t meet your needs financially.  And there’s nothing worse than having someone quit a job because they can’t afford it.  Be truthful with your recruiter, and let them know your proper pay scale.

Q – How long have you been looking for a job?

This excellent question gives your recruiter a “temperature read” on the response your skills are getting in the market place. It can also be a starting point for a conversation about the amount of work you have been putting into your search. You may have been looking on-and-off for 6 months, or you may have been actively looking for the last 6 months. Again, neither response is better or worse than the other; however, your recruiter will want to have a different conversation with you depending on your answer.

Q – What are your interests/hobbies outside of work?

While this may not be posed as a direct question, often recruiters will lead a conversation in this direction. This is a great chance for you to talk about the things you are passionate about –  that really set you apart and  make you “you”. This is where the recruiter gets to see you relaxed and more ‘yourself’.

Remember, a good recruiter isn’t just looking at your skills, they are also looking for a cultural environment where your professional and personal attributes will shine. Recruiters know you will be spending 40hrs a week with your new colleagues. If your idea of a good time is reading quietly or doing needlepoint, potentially you will not want to be in an open-plan office where employees have spontaneous nerf gun fights.

Q – What would you like to do more/less of in your next role?

Every job is broken up into tasks that need to be performed. Some tasks you will love and others you will want to leave behind. Recruiters often have behind the scenes knowledge of tasks involved in a job that don’t make the job description, especially in regards to time devoted to each task. If a role is 60% filing and that is the task that would make you quit – they know it is not the right fit for you. Make sure to be honest about the activities that you love, that you tolerate, and that you dislike, so you don’t get stuck in the wrong role.

Q – What other positions are you currently interviewing for? How did the interviews go?

This gauges whether the role you have applied for with your recruiter is similar to those which you have been interviewing for on your own, separate from the recruiting firm. Your recruiter will only want to put you forward for roles you are truly interested in.

Asking how your interviews have gone also gives your recruiter more insights into where potential great job matches may be for you.  Additionally, it helps a good recruiter determine whether you might need interview coaching.  Have you had 10 interviews and received no job offers?  Perhaps a little help in that area will land you your next position.

Q – Why did you leave your previous positions?

Almost every recruiter will ask you some form of this question because the answer often establishes patterns. It helps your recruiter know specifically what you are looking for and what you would like to avoid. For example: if, in your last job your only option for professional growth was taking a Business Development role and it led to the end of your career at that company because you disliked sales, your recruiter wants to know this in order to make sure that your next role won’t lead you to the same point.

Q – Do your references know they are your references, and can we call them?

Unfortunately, recruiters often learn to ask this question once they are on the phone with a Manager who is not expecting a call. Your recruiter understands that you are busy with the job of looking for a job. This helps them check in to see if you have made your references aware they should be expecting a call.  We also recommend pre-emptively advising your recruiter that you don’t want them to call your current employer in the case that you’ve not advised anyone you have started to look for the next leg of your career path.

Q – Upon hire, can you provide proof of your legal right to work in XYZ Country without the current or future need for sponsorship?

If you work in an industry that has a lot of workers from international countries, do not be surprised if you are asked this question. While many companies are happy to sponsor new employees, there are just as many who are not in a financially viable position to do so. By establishing your needs in this area straight away, your recruiter will know exactly what roles will offer this opportunity.

Q – Are you working with any other recruiters/agencies?

If they are asking this, it should be to make sure you are exploring every option available to you. A recruiter should never ask you to only work with them. Your recruiter will often use this question to lead into how you can expect them to interact with you moving forward. As every person has a different way of doing things, so will each of the recruiters you work with.


Every interview you have with a recruiter will be different. Walk into each with an open mind and a willingness to work together, you can go far together.

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