The questions recruiters need to ask hiring managers

Understanding just what kind of candidate a client is looking for is essential for any recruiter. Gaining that understanding comes down to asking the right questions. We’ve asked two recruitment experts to share the key questions they ask hiring managers before beginning their search for the right candidate.

Eliza Kirkby, Regional Director at Hays says coming to a complete understanding of a client’s requirements, organisation and the type of person who will succeed in a role is essential. “A good consultant will give their time willingly to ask questions and help identify and detail the exact requirements so they can bring the right person to their client,” she says.

Get to the nuts and bolts of the role

First, it’s important to outline the fundamentals of the role and the organisation. Kirkby says these questions should cover:

  • The role. For instance, what is the salary, and how flexible is the figure? How long has the job been open, how urgently does the role need to be filled? What is the key criteria and skillset is required and why would the job appeal to a candidate?

  • The organisation. How large is the organisation and the team? Are there any workplace benefits? What’s the organisation’s turnover rate?

  • The ideal candidate. What is the ideal candidate? Are there any must-have skills?

  • The hiring process. How long will the process take? How many interviews will be needed?

Find the right cultural fit

Kirkby says recruiters should also ask questions to determine the ideal cultural fit for the organisation, such as “can you describe your work environment for me?” and “what makes someone successful in your workplace?” “Ask about benefits, development and career progression too, since these are all key in attracting talent in demand,” Kirkby adds.

Stephen Veness, Group Manager - Projects and Operations at Davidson, suggests asking targeted questions to gain insight into an organisation’s culture and environment. Veness says this could include, “If I was to ask five people on your team, what do you think they would say is the thing they enjoy the most working here?” “Touch on the things that provide insight into the culture of the organization, not just the nuts and bolts of the role,” he says.

What makes the company different?

Recruitment consultants need to unearth an organisation’s employee value proposition to work out what it is they offer people coming into the organization, Veness says.

Veness manages teams of consultants who recruit candidates in engineering, construction and technical roles. He says three companies looking for an engineer, for example, are all probably looking for the same sort of technical skills.  “But if you take into account the company’s culture and environment, a consultant will gain a true picture of what it’s like to work there, rather than just the technical components of the role,” Veness says. “If the recruitment consultant is going to effectively recruit that role for them, they need to be able to sell that position to the candidate, and to be able to sell the position to the candidate, they have to understand a lot more about the culture and environment.”

Veness says recruiters should ask whether a company has flexible working arrangements, health and wellbeing programs or employee assistance programs, as well as what the broader benefits package looks like. “Those are the things that matter a lot more to people,” Veness says. “Otherwise the jobs just appear to be cookie-cutter versions of one another. But one company might have a fantastic health, wellbeing and flexibility program that allows people to work from home and allows them to access a whole range of broader benefits. The other might not have that.”

Ask forward-looking questions

A technical job brief could be the same no matter which client you’re working with. For instance, it goes without saying a candidate will need engineering experience if they are going to work in an engineering position, Veness says. “To say somebody has to have engineering experience is too vanilla; it doesn't go to the core,” he says.

Veness suggests instead asking more forward-facing questions to understand specific success metrics and outcome-focused measures. For instance, find out what clients expect a candidate to achieve in three, six and 12 months, and have them give some examples. Ask, “What will be the tangible outcomes and outputs they will have achieved for you in order to demonstrate they’ve been successful?”

Of course, questions should be specifically targeted to each role, Veness says. “They should be linked to what tangible things you see or experience that demonstrates success, and being able to put a timeframe on that,” he says. “In any role there are key competencies which that role will be measured against.”

Don’t overlook soft skills

When asking about the role, don’t forget to ask about the soft skill requirements, Kirkby says. “For instance, what non-technical skills are required for success? Which stakeholders will this person be liaising with?”

Look ahead to a changing workplace

Some organisations may require candidates who can readily adapt to a changing environment, Kirkby says. “Organisations are constantly evolving today, so you could also ask if the organisation is expecting to undergo any transitions or changes in the year ahead,” she says. “This can help determine any additional skills, such as a flexible attitude, that a candidate will need to succeed.”