Recruiter ‘ Candidate Interview Preparation

As part of my regular process working with candidates for interviews, I always set up a call with them to answer their questions, go over the general process, and cover some HR questions. I have noticed in the last year or so that many candidates are not making the best use of these conversations; there are a lot of misconceptions and a ton of often erroneous advice from ‘influencers’ who think they understand the recruiting role from my side of the equation, but are not recent or current recruiters. The truth is that there are constant changes to recruiting practices and processes, *many of them spurred by legal updates* at city, state, and federal level. These are changes that recruiters keep abreast of as part of our regular duties, and that includes having our corporate legal counsel (attorneys) interpret and build best practices for us to use during our daily routine.

I’ve been a recruiter for over a decade, and my experience is pretty typical for a corporate (internal) recruiter. Here are some current candidate themes I have seen.

Interview preparation: it is completely reasonable to ask the recruiter what the structure of the interviews will look like, how many people will be on the interview loop, and general sorts of questions that will be asked, how to prepare, what to wear.

    • However, for most companies, the recruiter is not the person doing the scheduling, so they probably don’t know what your final interview schedule will look like. They may not even know who all the interviewers are, especially during busy times like holidays and spring/summer when lots of people are on vacation. If you have received any sort of correspondence from another person (usually a Coordinator), then that is the person who will be managing the schedule.
    • While most recruiters should be well-versed with the requirements of the roles they are recruiting for, they are not on the actual interview team. They don’t do the day-to-day work the interview team does. They can answer *general* questions about preparation for your interviews, but they won’t be able to tell what specific questions, or even necessarily detailed topics that the interview team would ask. Honestly I learn the most about what my client teams do in our interview debriefs; this is where we talk about each candidate after the interviews are complete.
    • Most interview teams are made up of a large interview pool, and most interviewers have more than one question. It is also worth noting that recruiters and teams do look on Glass Door; if someone posts that they interviewed for a specific position at a certain company and they were asked XYZ, then it is highly likely that interviewers will change their questions.
    • Even if a recruiter DOES know some of the questions you may be asked, they probably will not tell you those specific questions. Asking for this is like asking for the answers to your final exam.
    • The questions you will be asked in an interview specifically related to your experience are taken from your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your blog/portfolio/other online public sources. Everything on your resume is fair game for questions. If you overinflate your resume and skills, be prepared to justify to your interviewer WHY it is present.

As part of the recruiter’s job, they are tasked with gleaning some basic information from you prior to the interview process.

    • Your work authorization status. For US citizens, this question may seem strange, but unless you state on your resume or application that you *are* a US citizen, for legal purposes, we need to ask everyone what their authorization status is (basically whether or not they will require any sort of visa/immigration support at any point after an offer is made.) Most candidates that are on any sort of visa will understand what this entails and be able to answer this question. If you are on any sort of visa, the recruiter will be able to answer basic questions regarding applications for visas and green cards. Please keep in mind that they are not immigration experts, and will not be able to advise you on questions pertaining to issues other than ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
    • If a company offers relocation benefits, they will confirm that you do need relocation or not. In the case where a company does not offer relocation, and you have indicated that you will be moving to the city where the job is located on your resume/application, the company will assume that you are providing your own relocation. Smaller companies often don’t have money to offer individual contributors (non-management/executive) candidates to move.

Compensation: this is the ‘elephant’ in the proverbial room. This topic is one of the biggest misunderstood and hotly debated conversations. So here is my opinion, and that of the majority of recruiters.

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    • Many parts of the country have made it illegal to ask candidate what they have made in a past job. Candidates can easily find this information online, but it *is* changing regularly. Until it is a federal law, candidates should be familiar with the legalities in the areas they are applying for jobs. Here is an HR-industry <a href=””>resource</a> kept up to date with all state/city applicable laws.
    • It is a FALLACY that ‘everything is negotiable’, especially for your average employee below the VP level. The larger a company is, the more likely things will be less negotiable.
    • It doesn’t matter whether it is a $1-$2/hr or tens of thousands of dollars, *every* position has a range.
    • When a recruiter asks you for a range for your salary expectations you should be prepared to answer the question. You should have an idea of what you are looking to take home in cash at the end of the year. This would include your base salary, any equity, and cash bonuses.
    • It is totally reasonable to ask the recruiter what the breakdown of their particular total compensation structure looks like. (I actually start this discussion by giving the broader breakdown and specifically asking what a candidate is looking to take home in cash, either their base salary, or total for the first year.)

I think the single biggest misconception at this stage is that candidates believe that recruiters are asking them this question so that they can lowball at the offer stage. While this may be true when working with an agency on a contract offer, this is very definitely NOT the case for corporate recruiters. As a recruiter, I assume that if you are looking for a new job, you want at least a 10%-20% increase in your annual take home pay.

    • Salary ranges generally have a significant amount of overlap between internal levels. Many companies look for strong talent, and leveling doesn’t occur until after the interview. ‘Levels’ are different for every single company and should NOT be the sole basis for compensation decisions.
    • Having a *broad* understanding of what a candidate wants helps when it comes to the offer stage; the more information we can share with the hiring manager, the faster the offer process can go.
    • Honestly, knowing what you are worth is the sign of a self-aware candidate that has done their research. Some excellent resources include: <a href=”>Payscale</a>, <a href=””>Salary</a>, and a quite granular <a href=””> relocation calculator</a> that can help you compare cost of living between different cities and competing offers.
    • It is fine for you to ask a recruiter what the ranges look for their roles. But it is a two-way street: if you aren’t even willing to discuss your expectations at all, you do risk the chance that you may not be invited to interview.
    • The responses ‘I am looking for a fair market offer’ or ‘I prefer to discuss salary at the offer stage’ are not generally acceptable in today’s business culture.
    • If you refuse to tell the recruiter what you are looking for in broad terms, then you are starting off your relationship with your potential new employer on a sour note: coming across as arrogant and uncooperative; ill-informed about current recruiting/job-seeking practices.
    • Just as you are looking for a transparent corporate culture, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for collaborative employees.

Recruiters are candidate ADVOCATES. They WANT you to succeed and are trying to set you up for success, and that includes being honest with you if your salary expectations are something the company is unable to meet. Honestly, we are trying to make sure that we aren’t wasting YOUR time as well as the interview team’s.

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