2. Are you interviewing with any other companies?
Cooperation is essential and highly confidential, from both the client’s perspective and the recruiter’s. You have absolutely every right to deny sharing certain information with your current recruiter. They should only be interested in what the agency can provide for you. As far as they are concerned, you can be in cahoots with three other recruiters. Their job is just to do their job by finding you a job. Easy, right?
Apparently it isn’t, especially in the case of unprofessional recruiters. They will often be pushy or fake-polite as they ask about your cooperation with other agencies. If you share information at their request, you may hear rumors and negative opinions about that agency. This is an obvious sign of a recruiter who is not secure about their own skills or business.
Think about it. Why would any professional be concerned about his competitors? You should aim to work with people who care about bringing the best service to their customers. A true recruiter should motivate you and tell you about what they intend to do about your business situation.
Like with friends, associates should also be a positive influence on you. This is why you should immediately end an interview with recruiters who are overly nosy about personal information. You have no obligation to tell them your intentions with other companies. It’s not a crime to work with multiple agencies. It’s also not the recruiter’s job to be interested in that aspect.
3. Can you provide proof of your last year’s earnings?
This question spells bad news in two ways. The first is that your potential employer is up to no good. Also, it signifies your recruiter is also shady because they made an unreasonable demand from you. The moment you hear this question, you should pick up your coat, say goodbye and head to the exit. Nobody has the right to ask about proof of your finances.
Some shady employers resort to such tactics. This is mostly because they want to determine an employee’s future pay according to their past job. Such practices shouldn’t exist. Every company has the right to offer their employees anything above the minimum wage and the employees have the right to reject or accept offers.
Skilled, professional recruiters will simply ask for a letter of recommendation from your past employer, a fairly normal practice. You should always bring one with your CV, just in case it’s requested. Professional companies also don’t care about your past and are willing to negotiate.
If you’re applying for a high-ranking position at a company, you have every right to negotiate your pay. Too much much negotiation is unprofessional, though. Consulting agencies also shouldn’t associate themselves with employers who ask their future employees for private information. An employer and a consultant are not the IRS, and they shouldn’t care about your pay.
4. Can you send me a list of references right now?
Slow down there, partner. Everyone knows letters of recommendation and references are normal things to include with your CV. However, there is a time and place for everything. There shouldn’t be a case where you have to present this information immediately. Asking for things in a hurry is a sign of a bad recruiter who is rushing the job. They just want it done, which is a big no-no.
References should only be written and used for a specific employer. They are to be read confidentially by the CEO or hiring official they’re meant for. The basics of professional etiquette dictate that references should only be shown or asked for when there is strong mutual interest between a company and a potential employee.
By asking this question, the recruiter basically outs himself as a person without sufficient knowledge about the corporate world. It’s unheard of to ask for general references that can be used with any particular employer. Anyone skilled in the business world should know that, and so should you recruiter. Do you really want to place your career in the hands of a person who is less knowledgeable than you?
Any question concerning references should be in the form of “Are you willing to provide references to a potential employer if there is mutual interest?” Everything is hypothetical in the beginning stages of working with a recruiter. Anything more is just pushing it too far. Avoid recruiters who use right now/ASAP or similar phrases.
5. What’s the lowest salary you would accept?
There is a certain way a job search should be conducted. Not everything is about pay and your recruiter should know it. Focusing only on pay is a bad sign, especially asking you the lowest salary you would accept. Who in the world wants to look at the worst-case scenario? If a recruiter raises this question, it spells bad news for you.
First of all, your recruiter should know every line of work isn’t solely about money. Company reputation, office location, average employment time by others – all are very important, too. A good search consultant will ask about your profession, experience and additional wishes. Only after narrowing down a list of potential employers should he dare to TELL you about the pay.
Notice we put the word “tell” in all caps. This is because such information should come in the form of an announcement. “Company X is offering you $140,000 annually, how does that sound?” Pay is not a filter used to search for companies in the beginning stages. It’s something you personally negotiate at the time of the interview. Anything before that is simply rude and pushy.
It’s up to you to tell your search consultant whether a pay rate is acceptable. You and the recruiter should be on the same page, and that is simply aiming for the best. Calculating pay and bonuses only come after you decide you like the position and the workplace. If someone asks about the minimum desired pay or anything similar – run. And don’t turn back.
6. What makes you an outstanding candidate?
Most things recruiters say they “need to know” is a bunch of nonsense. Aside from asking too much about personal information and payment issues, there are other bad things. Such is the always-irritating question about describing why you’re so great. This is okay in college-level business classes, but doesn’t quite belong in the realm of search consultancy.
A recruiter should be the mediator between successful companies and people looking to find a job fast. They shouldn’t interview you in the literal sense of the world. They should help you prepare and choose the right option. Questions that require describing yourself in order to obtain a certain position are a clear sign of unprofessional behavior. They should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
This question is even worse if you came across the consultant via LinkedIn. They should help you emphasize your best traits and fix the less desirable ones. It’s something that exists as an unwritten rule in the realm of job-hunting. Everyone has certain characteristics that are better than others. It’s not about the characteristics themselves, but how they work together and how aligned they are.
If anything, your conversation with a search consultant should be relaxed, not tense by any means. A real recruiter needs a nose for talent. They also must know how to see the best in people and help them find their way. If your recruiter asks you this, you’re going to have to find a new recruiter. Why do their job for them when you hired them in the first place?
7. What would you manager say if we asked him about your most recent performance review?
This is middle school all over again – “What would your parents say if we called them now?” Please. Search consultancy and middle school don’t really belong in the same sentence, so it’s pretty much in vain to focus on recruiters who pose such questions to their clients. Asking about your manager’s opinion of you or other personal information is a clear red flag that should let you know to get out of there ASAP.
There is simply no point in such a conversation if your consultant doesn’t think you’re the right person for the job. If they are in any way concerned about your accomplishments, qualification or competences, they shouldn’t snoop for personal information. They should just say something along the lines of “Look, this job may be demanding and requires knowledge about X and Y. Should we continue with the search or would you like to take a shot?” Your recruiter should be your partner, not your supervisor.
Even if an employer asks for previous performance reviews, it’s uncomfortable and awkward. Imagine how would it feel to hear something like this from a person who is supposed to help you find a job. A professional recruiter should know how to recognize talent in their clients without needing confirmation from previous supervisors.
If an employer has unreasonable demands, your recruiter has the obligation to tell you. If you decline to go forward with an interview, that decision is made by you and you alone. By pressuring you, a recruiter only signifies they aren’t trustworthy. Any sign of nonprofessionalism should be handled by finding another recruiter.
8. How big was your most recent pay raise?
Again with the financial questions! Sometimes, they can really get on your nerves and disrupt the rhythm of conversation. If your search consultant brings this up, think about why would this interest your recruiter. Does your last pay raise affect your future work and the way you handle your next assignment? No? Then your recruiter has no right to ask for information that is irrelevant to the services they provide.
Sometimes, employers task recruiters to get personal information about the financial status of potential employees. They do so in order to manipulate the pay in their company and to save money by not offering a lot. This is borderline criminal and any indication that your recruiter is doing something similar should be a good enough reason for you to head for the exit. Be careful about who is asking when it comes to conversation about financial endeavors.
The only conversations about money should revolve around finite offers from different employers. Anything above and beyond is pushing too hard and not being professional. A good recruiter’s personal goal is to get you the best possible job with the best possible pay. Under no circumstances are things like previous pay raises and performance at work their concern.
Truthfully, not even an employer should be allowed to ask you such questions. A true professional and a corporate expert should have a subtle approach to financial matters. It’s important that you know what you want and how much you want. A recruiter’s role is only to look at potential offers and give their opinion concerning the general state of the market.
9. Are you considered a top performer at your current job?
Hang up if you hear this, or shut the door loudly. It’s not the recruiter’s duty to give you tests or to ask about your experience at your current or previous workplace. It just doesn’t make sense why someone tasked with finding you a job would be interested in things like this from your past. This is too nosy and is, by chance, an excellent way to bust annoying and unskilled recruiters.
You probably know this, but it’s still important to note – being a top performer in one workplace doesn’t mean you’re going to be the best in the other one. In fact, your recruiter has the job of getting to know you and using his assessment of you and some basic info to help you land a job. Anything aside from that is just pushing it too hard. It isn’t their job to correlate your past performance to your future options.
There are many instances in which a top executive goes to another company for a pay rise and flops epically because they just can’t find their place. Every HR executive and interviewer knows that hiring a stranger into a company holds an amount of risk, no matter the previous accolades of the potential employee. Therefore, it might be illogical for an employer to ask you about you being a top performer, let alone a search consultant.
The only performance questions should be related to facts provided by the employer to the recruiter. Working hours, traveling conditions and rewards, if known, should be the only factors that you would have to take into account when it comes to your performance.
10. What was your compensation from your last job?
This is another piece of information that should not be revealed to the recruiter, let alone asked by them. Each employee is entitled to a sufficient financial amount when he or she is let go by a company. If a recruiter asks you the amount, he may be looking to find out things that are absolutely not his business under any circumstances.
The amount of your compensation might give your employers an idea how often were you let go and how much of a risk it would be to hire you. If you’ve been given high compensation before, a shrewd or greedy employer might decide not to hire you simply because it would cost him too much to lose you. That sounds like that girl from high school we all know who is afraid of relationships because she doesn’t want to get hurt. Search Consultancy is not high school.
A question like this should be a clear indicator that something is not right with the recruiting agency. This case is the same as every other question on this list. A recruiter has an obligation to inform you about potential employer requests or explicit information about the amount of compensation, in case something goes awry.
A professional and polite search consultant will advise you on the average compensation amounts for each position you want to apply for and give you their personal opinion on whether that amount is too high or too low. Remember, you are working with your partner to find you a job, not getting interrogated by the IRS.
11. Do you plan to get married or have kids?
This is one of the worst sins of search consultancy and job interviews. There is no logical explanation for why a recruiter would ask about your future family plans. It’s digging deep into personal territory and should be off the limits. In recent decades, employers have faced consequences for discriminating against married or pregnant women. Recruiters shouldn’t be an exception to the rules of corporate etiquette.
Asking this is a way for some companies to shield themselves against the controversy that might arise when firing a single mother or a future mother. This also goes for single fathers, but men, in general, are much less vocal about their struggles in this area. They are expected to be the stronger gender and face little sympathy from society on such matters. The threat is real for both sexes, as revealing private information to fall into the trap of an immoral employer or consultant.
A professional recruiter shouldn’t even cooperate with companies that discriminate against marital status. Some jobs may not be suitable for people with families, and consultants can present it to you in a way similar to this: “This position provides a lucrative pay but also comes with a lot of traveling all over the continent. Do you think you can handle the pressure and the strain?” That way, you will get the information you need and be able to choose a job more easily. A piece of cake!
You have every right to report recruiters who ask you this, and an investigation can be brought upon them very easily. By making such a move, you will protect the rights of the working force around the world. Don’t be afraid to speak up against immoral questions and actions that might take place in a recruiting agency.
12. What would your current/former colleagues say about you?
Questions like this have an awful lot of high-school flair around them. Such flair and drama is something you should avoid whenever possible, especially when it comes to navigating the waters the corporate world. You probably saw that many HR departments take a look into the personalities of employees nowadays, but it’s not something they or a recruiter should be interested in.
Let’s say you’re a brilliant software technician and programmer, but you simply don’t like hanging out with people or talking to them. It definitely shouldn’t a determining factor of your performance. You’ve probably seen The Accountant. Ben Affleck is a brilliant numbers guy in the movie, but isn’t actually liked by his associates and coworkers.
That being said, your recruiter doesn’t have to run a popularity contest to see how liked you were. He can simply ask you to describe an ideal working environment. Through that description, you will be able to open up and the recruiter will realize how good with people you are, and if teamwork is the thing for you. We’ve mentioned it a gazillion times before, and we’ll stress it again – you consultant is your partner, not an interrogator. Conversations are a two-way street.
Look at it from a more social standpoint – a fresh start can motivate people to change in ways like nothing else can. You may have had troubles with your old coworkers, but you can establish new relationships and cooperate with people you meet. A fresh start is something that will rejuvenate even the most tired human being!
13. Can you clear your schedule for an interview?
You have the right to say you need at least 48 hours’ notice before an interview. If an interview is arranged during working hours, it’s okay to stress that you may not be able to accommodate the client. You want to work for a company that understands you have a commitment to your current employer and can’t just drop everything for an interview. If a company can’t understand that, you don’t want to work for them.
Recruiters may feel they work for their clients, and that their clients are their employers, but that’s a short-sighted view. Candidates are the key to their success, and they should not suggest anything to a candidate that could affect a current position. Candidates should be accommodated and treated in the same way as clients. When a recruiter expects you to go to extremes to accommodate an employer, they are not acting in your best interests.
You shouldn’t have to feel that you have to be available at any time for an interview, or that if you have any conditions, it may be taken as a sign that you don’t want the job enough. If a recruiter focuses on sacrifices you need to make to remain in consideration for an open position, they are setting you up.
If they can get you to believe you have a tentative and fragile hold on the spot, you will be prepared to do whatever it takes to try and please a future employer, often at your own expense. You are placed at a disadvantage, and the needs of the client are being elevated above yours.
14. Are you available for a practice interview?
Be wary if a recruiter wants to conduct a practice interview with you before your real interview with a client. At this practice interview, they may want to tell you exactly how to answer the questions the client is likely to ask. If you need the help and request it, that’s another story. But nobody should tell you what you should say at a job interview. You shouldn’t feel pressured to answer questions the way a recruiter feels they should be answered.
Maybe you go for the practice interview and ask about the career path for someone applying for this entry level role. The recruiter advises you to steer clear of this question. If the client doesn’t want to hear this question, it’s probably because there is no career path. It’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask, but the client has probably suggested to the recruiter that it’s a stable job without any real prospects for advancement.
If a recruiter says you must have a practice interview or they will drop you and go to the next candidate, you can be sure they are not operating in your best interests. In normal life, you would probably be horrified by this manipulative behavior, but somehow in the recruiting world, you’re often made to feel you’re a loser when you fail to do what a recruiter wants.
There is nothing wrong if recruiters want to make suggestions if it’s in the interests of the candidate. They may bring up questions the hiring manager will ask and suggest suitable answers. A recruiter may also suggest a resume change that will increase the odds of a client responding positively.
15. Do you realize you’re not a strong candidate?
Poorly trained recruiters will often use intimidation and fear tactics. They may try to lower your expectations so you take the first job you’re offered. They talk about how difficult it will be to place you because of your background, and that you’ll be lucky if they can get you an interview.
If other candidates are in a much better position than you because of skills and experience, they shouldn’t tell you that. When a recruiter starts telling you about what a weak candidate you are, this is a mean, manipulative approach. If they’re destroying your confidence, you don’t have to stand for it. Don’t believe them when they tell you there are tons of other people who could do the job if you don’t want it.
Tell recruiters who use these tactics that if somebody meets you and doesn’t want to hire you, that’s fine. If they don’t think you can be placed, you’re wasting your time and theirs. This may call their bluff and prevent you from accepting the wrong job or taking a salary lower than what you deserve. In their minds, they may think they’re helping you be realistic.
It’s worth your while to continue to look for a recruiter who believes there is a job out there for you and that your background or lack of formal experience does not preclude you from finding a good one. A good recruiter will help you to appear to clients in the best possible light. If you lack formal work experience, they should help you to make your informal skills and experience count for you.
16. What are your monthly expenses?
Your current financial situation is of no concern of your recruiter. If you tell a recruiter you are running low on funds, it may be passed on, and employers will be able to use this information to their negotiating advantage. If you pass on this information, it’s much more likely to hurt you than help you.
A recruiter should not require a bank statement from you as proof of your current salary. If a recruiter does request it, make sure you delete any other details that reveal your financial situation. This is none of the recruiter’s business. How you choose to spend your salary is entirely up to you and has nothing to do with your job application. It’s not up to a recruiter to worry if you are living within your means.
All a future employer needs to know is that you’re qualified for the job and your salary requirement fits their pay scale. As long as they know what salary you expect, they definitely do not need to know whether it will cover your living expenses or anything else of that nature. They can either make you a realistic salary offer or hire somebody else.
Many professional recruiters would not dream of requesting your financial details. They are aware that this information is as private as their clients’ payroll information. Some U.S. cities have even banned the practice of asking for past salaries of job applicants. Requesting personal financial details goes far beyond what’s acceptable to any professional recruiter. The best professional recruiters won’t tolerate being asked by their clients to pry into a candidate’s finances.
17. Can you tell me more about yourself and your living circumstances?
If asked to reveal personal details, you may want to touch briefly on your interests, hobbies and pastimes. Recruiters don’t need to know whether you’re living with your boyfriend, family, husband or partner. They do not need to know if your parents are helping you financially. Also off-limits are your sexual orientation, your religion or your socioeconomic background.
Your age also has nothing to do with your suitability for a position. Recruiters can extrapolate that anyway from your resume, but it’s rude for them to ask. You don’t need to provide this information for them to determine whether you’re qualified for the job. It implies your age could influence an employer’s decision.
Don’t send out desperate signals by over-sharing, even if a recruiter seems to want to know. This is particularly true if they keep telling you to trust them. Emotional aspects of your personal life, such as a divorce or a loss, are private.
Don’t feel forced to speak about family problems or break-ups. It’s no business of the recruiter if you are a single mom with an abusive ex-husband. You can state you’re a single mom to make it clear that certain working hours are better for you. Some recruiters enjoy prying at personal details, but many consider extremely unprofessional and won’t ask for this information. They should only ask you questions directly related to the position.
18. How long have you been job-hunting?
Why would a recruiter want to know this? For the same reason real estate agents want to know how long a house has been on the market. The longer it has been standing, the more desperate the owner becomes. Many recruiters assume you’re desperate if you’ve been looking for a job for a long time.
Being asked this question can feel like a trap. You don’t want to make the recruiter think you’ve been looking forever and no one is interested in you. How should you answer? You could say you’ve been very selective about the right job or you made the conscious decision to take some time off.
Maybe you’ve been busy consulting since you left your last job. It doesn’t matter exactly how you got paid. It is nobody’s business but yours. The recruiter should not have power over you because you’ve been job-hunting for months. They should not be able to pressure you into any job or a lower salary.
You have to realize you are talented and capable and even if you haven’t been employed for a while. It can often take months to find the right job, and this does not mean you should be undervalued. If you know your value, your confidence won’t be undermined by an unprofessional recruiter and inappropriate questions. You will stick to your guns and continue pushing for the best job with a salary you deserve.