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Whether it’s your very first interview for a role, or your second or third round interview, when you work with a recruiter, you have the advantage of someone’s support but importantly, access to insights and advice.

In addition, they want to find the best candidate for their client, so they have a strong idea of what a successful applicant is for that company.

Before you start practising and preparing for your interview, run through these 8 key questions to ask your recruiter to ensure you have as much detail and context as possible because the answers could very well mean your discussion with the hiring manager is more informed and advanced.

1. Confirm interview details

Of course, it’s vital to know all the details of your interview so confirm with your recruiter the: date, time, location (or online platform or link if it’s via video call), duration and the name of the person who will be conducting your interview. Also have your recruiter’s direct contact details available, as well as the hiring manager, in case of any issues or emergencies on the day.

2. What is the interview process and format?

While you may think it’s too early to ask, there’s nothing wrong with enquiring about how many interviews the business will be conducting in order to find a suitable candidate. Dig further and find out if they are a mix of in-person, virtual interviews or panel interviews, and whether there will be any telephone rounds, competency tests, technical interviews and presentations, even psychometric testing.

At each stage, you can enquire about how formal they will be, for example, additional interviews may be conducted. But it might be more of a casual meeting with a team member, in order to get a feel of cultural fit. Remember, though, that even informal interviews need to be treated with professionalism.

3. How has the recruiter presented you to their client?

Your recruiter will typically know and have had discussions with the hiring manager who will be interviewing you. It’s worth asking your recruiter about what details they’ve passed on before the interview so that you have a sense of what you need to cover, or expand on, during the discussion.

4. Why is the role open?

Jobs generally become available when someone leaves the company (voluntarily or involuntarily), someone goes on parental or extended leave, or there is budget for a new headcount.

It’s important to find out why the role was vacated, in order to help your case for moving forward in the interview process. For example, if the previous person left due to culture fit, there’s nothing wrong with enquiring about what the issue was and demonstrating that you align with their values and culture. At the same time, perhaps that’s an indicator that this company or role isn’t for you – watch out for red flags and discuss any concerns with your recruiter afterwards.

If the role is new, that gives you an indication that the company has budget. It may also mean more future hires in that direct team, which means you’ll have other colleagues to start and learn alongside with. This could make for an interesting discussion point during the interview, and lead to the business’s long-term goals if they are expanding headcount. Plus, a new role could mean you’ll have full control as to how you define the job and its responsibilities – find out more at your interview.

5. What do I need to know about the interviewer?

Their name and position in the business are a must, of course. Importantly, ask your recruiter a bit more about the interviewer and their style.

For example, they might be quite serious in nature and require a very professional interview due to the role being quite high-level. Or they might be described as friendly and will want to get to know more about you from a personality perspective because culture fit is important to the business. It will help put some nerves at ease too – knowing a bit about your interviewer before you officially meet.

6. What are the key skills and must-have qualities they’re looking for?

By asking this important question of your recruiter, you can spend time preparing yourself to sell these key skills and qualities at the interview.

Ensure you are able to communicate these clearly and have examples you can draw on. But do use caution at the interview – if the hiring manager wants to focus on other skills, or something else entirely, be sure to go with the flow of the discussion.

7. Are they looking at internal candidates?

It’s good to know where you stand as an external applicant.

If the business has reached out to a recruitment company and using their services to find candidates for a job, generally that means they have been unsuccessful at finding suitable personal internally. But be sure to check to give you an idea of how competitive it will be for this role.

8. Company reputation, culture and other details

While we have a good idea of a business and its work culture when it comes to better-known names and brands, if you’re applying for a company you’re not completely familiar with and can only find so much about them online, ask your recruiter for an overview.

It’s important to know about your potential new employer’s reputation in the market and get a sense of their mission and values, employee retention and career pathway, plus how they operate overall. Your recruiter’s responses may help you form some interesting questions to ask during your interview, demonstrating to the hiring manager that you have spent some time doing your research and trying to understand the business so early on.

Bonus tip: You should have already had an initial discussion about salary range with your recruiter well before locking in an interview to ensure you’re applying for a job that meets your needs and expectations. If it wasn’t made known beforehand, or needs more clarification, ask your recruiter now as you don’t want your first interview to become a discussion about salary.

Remember, your recruiter has put you forward for your interview because you are a suitable candidate and they believe you are a potential fit with the company. Utilise their expertise and knowledge by asking these questions before your interview.

You’ll stand out to your recruiter as a prepared candidate who values their help and they’ll be more willing to assist you going forward.

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