There you are, at home or the office. You pick up the phone and the voice at the other end says: “Hello. My name is ______ and I am an executive recruiter. I am looking for _____________. I would like to talk to you about this opportunity.”

When this happens, I recommend the following:

  1. Listen carefully when the position is described. Ask clarifying questions with the aim of knowing as much about the position as the recruiter does. A good question? “Describe what success looks like after being in this position for six months.” A competent recruiter will have an answer.
  2. With the third party recruiter, it’s OK to exchange your compensation information with their compensation.
  3. Ask them how long have they had the search. There are two answers that should raise pink to red flags for you. The first is: “We just started” and the second is: “About six months” or more. In the first case, know that the first candidates presented are rarely hired. In the second place, if they haven’t filled it in a long time frame, they are probably on the verge of being fired. Besides, why would you be head and shoulders above the fifteen candidates they have already submitted? Maybe the job just isn’t doable.
  4. Ask them if they have submitted any candidates. If so, what was the feedback? Now many recruiters won’t share this information with you. But it helps them help you to give your relevant qualifications based on their experience with the client.
  5. What is their track record working with this client? If they have several years of experience, then they are indispensable in terms of knowing the political landscape, understanding of how the hiring decision will be made and negoiating an offer. If, on the other hand, this is their first assignment, they are on a learning curve. Enough said.
  6. Have them describe the screening process from beginning to offer stage. They should know this one.
  7. Ask them about their backgrounds. How senior are they? Not too long ago the term “senior” meant a minimum of 5 years.
  8. And of course, “What are next steps?” If there isn’t an immediate invitation to come in for an interview, then ask when would be a good time to “touch base”? This is usually accomplished with a telephone appointment at some future date. If they refuse to set up such an appointment, then remove this opportunity form your radar.

Remember, companies are paying the recruiters. Many will not follow up with you after a phone screen or an initial interview. They should. But that’s not how it works these days.

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