Recruiters know — better than anyone on the planet (except perhaps for journalists and a handful of other professionals) — the importance of asking questions. It’s that necessary step in every interview when they hand the proverbial mic over to the candidate to see what they want to learn about the job. And for a long time, not asking questions of an interviewer was seen as the kiss of death, an immediate write-off that sent countless candidates packing due to a perceived lack of interest, passion, curiosity or preparedness.
Even today, I’d guess that almost every career guide out there tells candidates to come up with a few questions to ask, the logic being that the interview works both ways. It is the company’s chance to get to know the candidate and the candidate’s opportunity to figure out whether or not they want to work for these people.
Likewise, when the recruiter becomes the candidate, questions are sure to follow — as they should. But this isn’t the time for “What do you enjoy about working here?” No, we need to go deeper and get down to the heart of the function, starting with the three P’s: people, process and product.
Questions about People
It’s unusual in recruiting for a candidate to talk to just one person at the hiring organization. That’s why you should feel empowered to interview the whole dang talent acquisition team, from top to bottom and everyone in between — including hiring managers — because not every company is recruiter friendly, and it pays to know what type of culture you’re dealing with upfront.
So here’s what I suggest: flip the script on your interviewers and spend 15-20 minutes interrogating them. Gain as much intel as humanly possible. Talk to lateral counterparts, subordinates, even candidates if you can. Learn about the hiring experience, try and find out who gets hired, who doesn’t and why.
You want the good, the bad and the ugly on the people inside — plus those on the outside looking in. Determining if toxicity exists and at what level will help inform your decision.
Questions about Process
Of course, when it comes to recruiting in 2019, people are only one part of the puzzle. There’s also process and product to contend with, arguably more than human interaction in many cases.
Here, you should ask about current tactics, typical workload (i.e., the average number of reqs), the most recent audit, monthly or quarterly results and any underlying concerns. You’re looking to unearth what’s already in place as well as any sacred cows that you’ll need to avoid going forward — something that applies to everything from sourcing to recruitment marketing.
Traverse the recruiting funnel and learn about the candidate journey by making an unlimited number of queries — there’s no question too small when it comes to process. If anything, you want to dig into the minutiae, leaving no stone unturned. If process is where you’ll focus your energy, you need to know whether you’re working in concrete or retain some level of flexibility. Perhaps you’ll get handed a blank slate and the option to do what works. Either way, you’ll need the answers sooner rather than later if you’re going to do well at this particular organization.
Questions about Product
That leaves us with one more bucket to fill: product, aka technology. You can’t recruit without it (well, you could, but it would take twice as long and set you up for a whole mess of trouble). That said, ask about the organization’s full stack, including but not limited to the ATS or CRM, onboarding solutions, training and development software, any plugins, ad buying, social scheduling — basically, any tech that talent acquisition touches, even tangentially. And more than that, you want to know if everything works, if the technologies fit together and what business critical needs they serve.
Once you know the high level of what the recruiters are using, find out who is doing the work and why that person is responsible for that particular technology. Talk to them about their depth of usage, untapped functionality, how this relates to the team’s strategy and the organization’s employer brand. Ask about budgets and costs, the selection process, the length of each contract, satisfaction rates and whether or not they intend to use it in the future. Doing so will shine a spotlight on where you fit into the picture, what you’ll need to be successful and what they’re providing.
After all that, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of the organization’s approach to recruiting — for better or worse. Go from there.
William Tincup is the President of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.