30 Questions To Ask The Client at the Outset of an Assignment.

Just like a golfer tees up the ball to optimize their drive for distance and accuracy - a Recruiter needs to prepare thoroughly before embarking on a candidate search, to maximize the chances for a successful outcome.

Proper qualification of a new requirement or job order is both a critical part of the recruiting process and great opportunity to further cement the relationship with your Client. I've seen too many Recruiters scurry off at the sniff of a new job order and start blasting away without having much of a clue as to the nature of the requirement or their chances of success.

I have worked with a multitude of recruiters and account managers in my twenty years in the industry in the UK and the USA. Most recently, I was the Managing Director of Kforce's Silicon Valley Technology Practice. Everyone has their own recruiting processes and some people choose to fly by the seat of their pants. I am however, a big fan of checklists - and thought I would share one of my favorites with everyone here at RecruitingBlogs. I hope you find it beneficial - you can even follow the link at the bottom of the page to my website and download it as a PDF.

I have always made a habit of scheduling a meeting or conference call with my Client at the outset of any new assignment - contract or permanent. Once I have scheduled the meeting or call, I will also invite any associates who will be involved in the Search to join by conference call, including Sourcers, Recruiters, Account Managers and sometimes even a friendly Techy. (This really helps with "buy-in" if you are sharing the responsibilities for the Search)

The first set of questions will allow you to properly assess the value of the opportunity and prioritize resources and efforts accordingly. (Or walk away). Don't underestimate the power of these questions - they'll save you a great deal of time and wasted effort in the long run - and you will also set yourself apart from the competition by demonstrating your comprehensive and professional approach.

  1. How long have you been looking to fill this position?
  2. How many people have you interviewed for this position?
  3. What are the consequences of this position remaining unfilled? (This is a killer question for determining level of urgency)
  4. If I found you the perfect candidate today, could you interview him tomorrow and have him start on Monday? If not - what are your timescales?
  5. How many companies are currently submitting resumes for this position? What is your pipeline looking like right now?

Once armed with this information - you will in a good position to measure the business opportunity (for you) and continue your questioning accordingly. If your interest is waning already (Client has strong pipeline or urgency is low) - be honest with your client about your priorities. Better to wrap the meeting up now and save everyone some time than make promises you can't keep.

Let's continue and pursue a line of questioning to examine the type of candidate we are seeking, from a skills and experience perspective:

  1. What is driving the need for the hiring of this individual (ie: project, replacement, deadline etc.)
  2. Please tell me about the project or projects he would be working on?
  3. Can you elaborate on the business initiatives/problems that the successful candidate would be involved in solving?
  4. What are the "deliverables" for this position over the course of the first year/ duration of the contract?
  5. Please can you give me an overview of the technical skills you are looking for in suitable candidates? What are the "Must Haves" as opposed to the "Nice to Haves"? To what depth must they understand the "Must Haves"?
  6. Are you seeking candidates with specific domain knowledge? (Healthcare/ Finance/ Technology etc)
  7. Are there any other special skills you are looking for (soft skills, communication/writing etc) Maybe you can tell a little bit about one of your employees who is currently successful in this position? (Continue to probe and look for "hot buttons")

Now let's add some color to the picture by looking at the work environment:

  1. What size is the team he would be joining?
  2. Would he be reporting directly to you?
  3. What size is the company, (revenue or employees) how many locations etc.?
  4. Can you tell me a little about the culture of the company - and any differentiators that may help us in attracting high quality candidates when we are headhunting? (In other words - how does the Client “sell the opportunity” when he identifies a candidate that he wants to hire?)
  5. What attracted you to the firm?
  6. Are there any opportunities for a flexible work schedule or work from home days?

OK, now let's get some facts and figures:

  1. What is the ceiling on the compensation/rate for this position? (Client says $90k/per hr) …"So Mr Client, if I found the perfect candidate for $100k/per hr - would you still be interested in seeing the resume?
  2. I understand this a Perm/Contract position - correct? (if contract – ask rate and duration) Would you consider contract to hire? (sell the benefits).
  3. Are you open to candidates who need an H1b transfer? Do you sponsor Green Cards?
  4. Do you have a job spec? “Great – what’s your email address – I’ll drop you a line right away so you can send it over”

Now it's time to determine the hiring process and set expectations:

  1. What kind of turnaround can I expect for feedback on Resumes? (push for same day. Any more than 24 hrs is not good. Great candidates are scarce and will be snapped up).
  2. What is your process for interviewing/hiring? (telescreen/skype/face to face etc).
  3. How many interviews is standard (and with whom)?
  4. Shall I submit resumes to you?
  5. What are the best days/time of day to schedule interviews with you?
  6. Would you consider hiring over Skype (for out of state candidates- means you can broaden the Search)
  7. Confirm your Client's contact info, job title, address and email. Ask him for his Mobile number "in case I need to get hold of you in a hurry".
  8. Thank your Client for their time!

In conclusion I advise the following approach:

  • Confirm with the Client that you have a good understanding of the position and repeat back the salient points of the conversation so far.
  • Explain briefly your recruiting process - and set your Client's expectations on submission of resumes.
  • Confirm the Client's commitment to swift feedback on submissions.
  • If you are supremely confident or have a solid pipeline of candidates - ask for some time in his calendar next week to set up interviews!

Feel free to download the PDF here.

Views: 13622

Comment by Martin Ellis on April 10, 2013 at 2:53am

From a recent experience I would add one I think you've missed - "Do you have the authority to activate this assignment?". I asked the question, but got the wrong answer and it's caused some real challenges.

Comment by Marcus Edwardes on April 10, 2013 at 10:57am

Good point Martin. I was sort of making that assumption already.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on April 10, 2013 at 11:14am

Would love to be on a 3 way call with a recruiting coordinator at law firm to see how you would get answers to those questions.  Would you be up for it?


Theresa Hunter

Comment by Marcus Edwardes on April 10, 2013 at 11:47am

It sounds like you are not convinced that my approach would work for you Theresa - which is fine. The point of the post was to provide some value to the community by sharing a process that has worked for me.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on April 10, 2013 at 11:54am

When I first started in this business of recruiting we had a job order form that ask all of those questions and more.  I filled the form out to get to know what the client was looking for and what the client really wanted.  I agree 150% with you on what you are saying.  I am just saying that if you can show me a way to get even 50% of those questions answered I would be tremendously grateful.  I would love to hear how you would go about doing it is all I am asking.  In my current industry "most of the time" and the key word is most you are not dealing with the hiring authority you are dealing with the recruiting coordinator.  Just as an example I am trying to get the RC to understand it is not about changing addresses it is about opportunity as to why someone would want to look at their firm and all she could say was " they are a patent attorney they should know what a patent attorney does!"  This is what I am up against.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on April 10, 2013 at 12:00pm

I did not mean to come across as it does not work.  I would love to be able to get a complete JO filled out so I would be able to go out and sell the position to candidates.  I was more hoping you would show me something that I am not doing which might help with the JO getting done.  Sorry.....

Comment by Marcus Edwardes on April 10, 2013 at 12:04pm

Theresa - thanks for the clarification.  I would advise against working with clients who are not willing to partner with you up front as they clearly don't understand the true value of what you do.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on April 10, 2013 at 12:11pm

I agree but this is the way of law firms.  You need to work with the big ones as they can support paying a fee and I have tried to work with smaller more intimate ones but they can not really pay the fee so it is not feasible.  I will call the Partner when I see the firm has an opening and sometimes they will take the time to talk with me about it and than I get a call from the recruiting coordinator telling me I need to direct all of the my calls to them.  Partners are billing machines just like associates so I do understand a bit why they are the way they are.  I just wish they would give the RC the information so it makes it easier on everyone.

Comment by Terence on April 11, 2013 at 12:56pm

All good stuff Marcus and mirrors what I have been putting in to place on my desk over the last few years one new thing I have been doing this year and it has been very successful is when I speak to the client to get the spec on the vacancy is that I let them know how scarce good candidates are (they really are at the moment) and the process I follow is that when I have confirmed availability, suitability and interest with a candidate i'm going to call the client on their mobile talk through the CV and arrange an interview only when I have arranged the interview will they get a copy of the CV. You have to be brave at the front end but it's paying dividends, no more CV's disappearing in to a black hole never to be heard from again, really good relationships developing with clients and ultimately more placements !!

Comment by Theresa Hunter on April 11, 2013 at 1:06pm

@Terence  sounds really like a wonderful idea.  When you are talking about the CV who are you talking with?


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