Career Counselling and Guidance

18 Questions Recruiters Ask Candidates (+Examples)

Shreya Matta

Shreya Matta

November 02, 2022

Three categories of recruiter interview questions that hiring managers ask

The hiring manager and recruiter interview questions are generally grouped into three categories: Behavioral questions, “What if” queries, and Role-playing.

Behavioral questions: You’ll be asked to describe in detail how you handled various workplace scenarios in past jobs, such as solving a specific employee problem, creating a new management process, or winning a tough sale. Your answers will prove that you’ve successfully managed situations in this type of role and can continue doing that for a new employer.

“What If” queries (situational questions): Just like it sounds, you’ll describe how you would handle different workplace scenarios if they arise. Most answers can and should be based on your past experiences. However, if you haven’t dealt with the issue you’re asked about, be ready to think of out-of-the-box solutions.

Role-playing: Interviewers do this to watch how candidates react in real time to a potentially challenging situation or issue. Usually, this is set up well in advance of the interview with all characters and dialogue ready when you arrive. Be your best self and work the role-play as if it were an actual scenario. Show them how lucky they’d be to have you!

Examples of recruiter interview questions to ask a candidate

This first group of recruiter interview questions is asked in just about every interview. From my experience, there are three words to remember when giving your answers: examples, examples, examples.

Q1. If a company is looking for a specialized skill set, where do you look for candidates?

Recruiters usually have a surprising number of potential sources at their disposal. However, not all recruiters tap anything beyond the traditional options they’ve used for years.

Hiring managers ask this question to see if you’re willing and able to think outside of the box. They want to know that you’ll head out into uncharted – or, at least, lesser-used – territory to find the job seekers they need.

Example answer: 

“When I need to find a candidate with a specialized skill set, I use a multi-faceted approach. While I want to make sure the job ad is in traditional places, like the company’s career page and major job boards, branching out is also part of the plan.

I find that using social media for recruitment can be incredibly beneficial. Along with LinkedIn and Facebook, I’ll also turn to other popular platforms. Instagram can be a great choice for artistic roles, and YouTube and TikTok can be great options to share details of an opportunity in a video.
I’ve also found that niche job boards are incredibly effective, as well as connecting with local chapters of professional organizations. Certain forums are also underutilized resources, particularly options like Stack Overflow and GitHub if you’re looking for tech skills.

Ultimately, I’m open to any resource that speaks to the target audience, which, in this case, is candidates with specific capabilities. That openness is part of what makes me effective, as I’m always willing to try something new to secure the talent a company needs.”

Q2. When a candidate doesn’t get the job, how do you let them know?

Just because a candidate didn’t land this job doesn’t mean the company doesn’t want them to stay in the talent pool. Many second or third-place finishers could be great additions to the team; they just happened to get outdone by a different candidate.

Hiring managers want to know that you’re going to maintain positive relationships with all job seekers, including those who don’t get an offer. After all, applicants in this group are 80 percent more likely to try for a position again if their experience was positive.

Since how you deliver the bad news is their final impression of the hiring process, hiring managers favor recruiters who can get this step right. That’s why they ask this question.

Example answer: 

“During my time as a recruiter, I’ve found that personalized communication is often a differentiator. It can help a company stand apart from the competition, making the organization a more attractive option to candidates.

Whenever a job seeker isn’t selected, I reach out – either by email or by phone – and let them know personally. I focus on showcasing my appreciation for their time and effort, and I also offer them feedback whenever I have it available.

I find that using that approach keeps the candidate engaged and leaves them with a positive final impression. They are more likely to feel valued even though they were selected, increasing the odds that they’ll remain in the talent pipeline.”

Q3. What steps do you take to stay on top of recruitment trends?

Every field changes over time. Hiring managers want to know that their recruiters will stay on top of new developments, both in the world of recruitment and when it comes to candidate preferences.

Example answer: 

“Staying on top of recruitment trends is always a priority for me, and I use a range of resources to ensure I stay informed. Along with trade publications and networking events, I also find following thought leaders on social media valuable. They typically talk about what’s on the horizon, giving me a chance to prepare for what the future may hold.

However, I don’t stop there. I also make an effort to gather feedback from candidates who go through various hiring processes. This helps me understand how their needs or preferences may be changing, allowing me to get the inside scoop on how I can be more effective moving forward.”

Any time you can provide a concrete example of your experience, you go up another notch in the eyes of the person interviewing you. Here are the recruiter interview questions you should be prepared for:

Q4. Why are you interested in this job/company?

Don’t just talk about the responsibilities of the role. Share your passion for doing this type of work and mention how the company’s values speak to you.

Q5. What are your current responsibilities?

“I ask this because I want to get a better understanding of what the candidate is currently doing and how that might compare to the job opportunity I have in mind for them,” says Rob Paone who focuses on recruitment in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries as Founder & CEO of Proof of Talent. “I’m visualizing the job description’s must-haves and performing a side-by-side comparison as the candidate speaks to mentally check the boxes.”

While the “tell me about yourself” question is about the birds-eye view of your professional history, this question drills down into your current role. Rebecca Siciliano, Managing Director of Tiger Recruitment in the UK says this question also allows recruiters to probe deeper into what candidates enjoy doing most. “This gives us a good idea of the tasks they’re comfortable with and the areas in which they’re likely to perform best.”

Tip: Prepare a verbal summary of your exact responsibilities in your current role that highlight specific skills most relevant to your target role. 

Q6. What’s your biggest accomplishment? 

Recruiters want to get a sense of how effective you’ve been in your recent roles before pitching you as a candidate to their clients. Your work should ideally have had a direct impact on your broader organization’s priorities and ambitions, which is an indication of your future impact.

“When we ask this question, we want to probe the candidate’s track record for adding value and creating a positive impact,” says Sarah Doughty, Director of Recruitment of Talentlab who recruits within the high-tech sector. “Asking candidates to explain how they supported the business further validates their understanding of the true goals of the work they’re doing.”

Tip: Prepare examples of key accomplishments including the context, actions, and results, ideally those that illustrate skills relevant to your target role.

Q7. What are your strengths?

Explain the things that   you excel at. What value do you potentially bring to this new company? Make sure you also keep your answers from sounding too overdone. Here’s a great sample answer from Glassdoor: “Instead of just saying ‘I’m a good listener,’ tell a story about how you caught something important a client had said during a meeting that none of your other colleagues had heard.”

Q8. What are your weaknesses?

Don’t beat up on yourself up or share a deep issue. What the interviewer is looking for is your capacity to look inward and find ways to grow. Be genuine; talk about something you struggle with and how you plan on improving that weakness. Show your growth strategy.

Q9. How do you handle mistakes?

Share how your negative experiences have helped you grow. What was the mistake? How did you fix it? What did you learn from it? How will you apply what you learned to be successful in your next role?

Q10. Why are you leaving your present job?

NEVER answer with criticism of your present or former company, manager, or co-workers. Instead, discuss the growth potential this new position would offer. Share your goals and demonstrate how they tie into both this new role and the company’s values.

Q11. Tell me about yourself.

Answering this means utilizing one of my favorite phrases: “Be brief, but brilliant.” Discuss your current role, how you got there, and where you want to go from here — always tying it to the job you’re applying for. Tell me how you got into your field and why you love it. Keep your answer focused on why you’re the candidate they should hire.

Tip: Prepare and rehearse a two to three-minute verbal summary of your career including roles, goals, key accomplishments, and transitions.

Q12. What’s your timeline for moving on? 

Aside from your qualifications, recruiters want to understand when you would be available to start in a new role to determine whether you could fill a role within a hiring manager’s desired timeline.

According to Britton, candidates who are clear about their timing allow her to put out feelers for relevant opportunities that match that timing. “It can be challenging if someone’s wishy-washy about dates because many clients have urgent needs, and it may make me question how serious they are about the job search.”

Tip: Be ready to share your ideal timing for a career move including your notice period and earliest potential start date. 

Q13. What salary are you looking for?

Research the salary for this kind of job in your area. When asked this interview question, a good response is something along the lines of, “Actually, I was going to ask you about this. I’m sure there’s a range for the position. Can you share it with me?” See what they say.

Next are some behavioral and situational recruiter interview questions that are among the many things recruiters ask candidates. Again, come up with examples and anecdotes to use in your specific interview. Stay positive and focus your answers to show off your experience and abilities.

Tip: Be clear and upfront about exactly what compensation level you hope to achieve with a target salary figure or range. This ensures you’re matched with only those roles that meet your requirements and prevents everyone from wasting time. 

32 Strategic Interview Questions To Ask Candidates

Recruiter Interview Questions candidates do not have to answer

It’s also important to know what a recruiter and hiring manager CAN’T ask during an interview. Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Coalition, it’s illegal to ask a candidate to provide information about:

  • Race, color, or national origin
  • Religion
  • Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy status
  • Disability
  • Age or genetic information
  • Citizenship
  • Marital status or number of children

If asked any of these, a good non-confrontational answer is, “I’ll be happy to provide that information if I am hired.”

Good Recruiter Interview Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview

When your interview is drawing to a close, you usually get a chance to ask the hiring manager at least a couple of recruiter interview questions before everything wraps up. This is a great chance to not only express your enthusiasm for the position – as smart questions make you seem especially engaged and excited – but also gather some important details.

It’s crucial to have at least a couple of recruiter interview questions ready. In some cases, you’ll discover something you want to learn during the interview process. However, it still doesn’t hurt to have a few options in your back pocket, ensuring you have something to ask when the time comes.

If you don’t know what you should ask the hiring manager, here are 5 great recruiter interview questions for the end of your interview.

Q14. What is the biggest recruitment challenge this company is facing?

Q15. Which ATS systems and other recruitment technologies does your company use?

Q16. What do your most successful recruiters have in common?

Q17. How many jobs will this position need to fill each month? Of those, how many are specialty or involve hard-to-find skill sets?

Q18. What metrics do you use to gauge a recruiter’s success in the role?

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