Ask a Recruiter: What are the Top Questions Recruiters ask Executive Candidates?

Ask a Recruiter, For Candidates

It’s the job of executive recruiters, acting on behalf of their client companies, to discern what skills, talents, abilities and personal characteristics add up to the perfect hire. Often that mission requires “reading between the lines” when interviewing candidates. As a result, recruiters will ask questions and get answers that may reveal more than just the answer to the question.

In search of the perfect candidate, Bristol’s Ben Farber and Nora Bright each gave us their top three questions…and what the answers reveal about the candidate.

What Recruiters Ask and What the Answer Reveals:

How would you describe your leadership style? For management and executive positions, this question helps us to understand how a candidate sees himself or herself as a leader, and whether they might fit in with the culture of our client company. Also, it helps us to understand their values more generally in relation to business and management.

Are you actively looking for a new position? We often speak with candidates who we have approached on LinkedIn or through our database—not jobseekers who have applied to the job online. Asking this question helps us to discern how serious the candidate is about finding a new job, and also if they might be interviewing for other opportunities. Knowing whether the candidate is “active” or “passive” (not actively looking), will also help us to predict how they might behave throughout the hiring process, and during any salary negotiation.

Why are you interested in this position? If we are discussing a specific open job with the candidate, this question also helps us to assess how serious the candidate is about the role. It’s always frustrating when a candidate pulls out of the interview process in the middle, or turns down a strong job offer with a competitive compensation package. Part of the reason our client companies hire us is so that we can screen any candidates who aren’t serious about the role.

How much are you currently earning/where would you like your compensation to be? The dreaded salary question. Yes, you should answer. Not answering only raises a red flag. Trust that the hiring company will value your skill set enough to give you a worthwhile bump in salary for making the move. Anything in the range of 10% to 15% is solid and is more than the average raise given on the job. If the hiring company is tied to a range due to corporate structure, etc., so be it. If they can offer more but won’t simply because they are playing hardball, that tells you something else. If you are working with a recruiter during the process, they should be able to provide insight here. If you are unemployed, what you were earning in your last position is most relevant.

Why are you interested in this opportunity? For passive candidates, this question is important because the answer will reveal the candidate’s motivation. This answer may lead to additional follow-up questions, and that is a good thing. Understanding a candidate’s motivation from the beginning helps determine whether the given career opportunity is worth pursuing. Honesty is key and will save everyone in the process a whole lot of time and energy.

What sets you apart from your professional peers of the same skill set? Tricky. Affectionately known these days as the humble-brag. Let the ego out of the bag too much and you lose interview points. Can’t come up with an original answer that proves you have confidence, interview points deducted. This question is one of the many reasons it is important to be prepared to talk about who you are as a professional and as a person before interviewing for your dream job. Cliché advice perhaps but true, be yourself. Become familiar with personality tests such as Myers-Briggs. They are becoming more common in the executive hiring process.

Prepared candidates should be able to answer questions like these with an eye towards the employer’s overall impression of the candidate: their abilities, motivation, skill set, company fit and future goals. Employers should be prepared to ask the questions that will accurately gauge the same parameters.

Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 50 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for the Casino Gaming; Hotels and Resorts; Travel, Tourism, and Attractions; Facilities and Concessions; Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Restaurant; Hospital and Healthcare; and Nonprofit industries.

If you’re interested in working with Bristol Associates, click here if you’re an employer or here if you’re a candidate.

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