“Ahh, Mandy, I have a recruiter call tomorrow. What do I do!?”
At least once per cohort, I get this message from IDOL courses Academy mentees. Newness can be scary, and I remember how uncertain I felt when recruiters started reaching out for the first time.
Here are some general guidelines that may help.
The First Call
The first call may feel informal, and the recruiter may come across as really friendly. But don’t mistake this tone to mean that you’re not being evaluated on some level. It is an interview. You want to be prepared.
In the first call, they tend to ask some of the basic questions:
Practice your answers out loud and have a copy of your resume out for the call. You don’t want your mind to go blank when they ask about your experience.
The recruiter may also take time within the first call to tell you about why they like the company. This is a good thing. Recruiters want you to continue to be interested in the company as much as you want them to be interested in you.
Questions to Ask
The part of the first call that often tripped me up was “Do you have any questions for me?” Something about that question creates a blank for me, even if I know I have questions to ask.
So here’s a quick list of the questions I tried to always ask:
Could you please confirm this is a [contract/full-time/etc.] role?
Recruiters often juggle a lot of different openings. You may have applied to one, but they contacted you for a different one for which you’d be better suited. Make sure you’re both on the same page.
In this role, what does “Remote” mean?
I’d sometimes run into job ads that say “Remote” but actually meant “Traveling” or “Remote for now.” And sometimes something is marked as remote by mistake.
When are you looking to hire?
Recruiters often answer this one before you ask, but list it in your questions too, just in case. If timing is an important factor in your decision, you need to know how firm their start date is.
Tell me some about the benefits package.
If the recruiter can ask about salary this early, you can ask about benefits. I actually made it a habit to ask for a benefits pamphlet they could share, even if it was last year’s.
What are the next steps in the interviewing process?
Asking this tells you how many interviews you can expect to have, whether or not they’re going to ask you to take any tests or create any pieces, etc.
When will I hear back about next steps?
I often forgot to ask this one and then sat in dread wondering if it was too soon to check in. If you get the date from them about when you should hear back, that helps a lot. (I sent a check-in email the day after whatever deadline they gave me.)
Trust Your Instincts
Even though you may have never worked with a recruiter before, do trust your gut reaction to their professionalism (or lack thereof). I’ve only had one instance where the recruiter proved my gut reaction wrong and that was after apologizing for standing up our appointment (she had fallen ill). She changed my mind and then wowed me throughout the interview and salary negotiation process.
Other times my gut reaction of “Wow, this individual isn’t respecting my boundaries” or “Did they even read my response?” has been on point.
Ultimately, it’s the recruiter’s responsibility to represent the company to you, which includes helping your comfort levels through the entire process. Don’t let your inexperience with recruiters let you doubt whatever discomfort you might be feeling. And if you need validation, reach out to a mentor or trusted colleague to get their take.
💜Mandy Brown (she/her) is a fiercely neurodivergent, all-boats-rise kind of person who is writing a book to help people in toxic workplaces grow bandwidth and make safety plans. She posts about that and other topics on LinkedIn. And yes, she loves emojis and would be happy to connect. 😉