When I first started working with recruiters, I was so nervous about their questions. Then I noticed that every single recruiter regardless of their agency or the job opening asked the SAME questions.
Remember how I said that luck favors the prepared? That works for conversations with your recruiter too. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll come across and the smoother the conversation will go.
1. What’s your current salary?
Did you know that several states across the US are banning this practice? This question needs to go away because it’s not relevant, it deters women (or anyone) from equal pay for equal work, and most people lie about it anyway.
Push back on this question especially if you’re in a career transition mode. Let’s say you were a school teacher and now you’re going to be a project manager at a bank. Why does your pay today have to do with your pay tomorrow? If you’re comfortable with a target range, feel free to share it. If not, go on to the next question.
2. What’s your desired pay?
This is a bit tricky. If you know a target range and want to share it, then the question is answered.
If you’re doing a career transition, this is sticky because you’re not entry-level yet you may not be sure where you slot in the pay scale yet. In that case, do your research beforehand. Research salary insights online and have an idea of a decent range. You could use a line like this.
Since I’m in career transition, I’d like to see what opportunities you have available regardless of the pay range. If the right opportunity presented itself, I may be willing to take a step back in pay to get my foot in the door for relevant experience.
But if that statement isn’t true, if you’re not willing to take any job for any price, then be honest. In my case, I said,
I’m in a career transition mid-career and I have relevant experience. I’m not interested in entry-level roles although I may be willing to take a slightly junior role if it helps make the transition. My absolute minimum is $$ although I’d much prefer in the $$-$$$ range.
<< Fill in your numbers for the $$.>>
3. Where do you want to work? Are you willing to relocate?
Be prepared to answer this. If you’re not willing to relocate and you live in a big city, be prepared to drill into details. I live in Charlotte, NC which is the biggest city in my state. Recruiters wanted to know specific neighborhoods and I had that information ready to go. I also knew where some of the big firms were in local towns and areas that I wasn’t willing to commute. I let my recruiter know ahead of time. If location is a deal-breaker, be honest and don’t waste the recruiter’s time.
4. When can you start?
If you’re currently unemployed and are willing to disclose that, then tell them you can start anytime. If you’re currently employed, then say that you’ll need to provide at least a two-week notice. If the recruiter pushes back, I like this line:
I want to be respectful of my current employer and give at least a two-week notice. If my next employer won’t respect that, then I’m not the right fit for that company anyway.
Pro-tip: Another thing to be careful is once you get the offer, don’t put in your notice at your current employer until you’re sure you can work “the next day.” That means you’ve cleared all of your background, credit, drug, and reference checks. I’ve watched folks put in the notice and then failed a check for some reason.
I’ve also seen recruiters (first hand) try to bully candidates into putting in notice right away. After all, the recruiter can’t get paid until you start working. The recruiter doesn’t care if you have a gap in your paychecks. I’ve also seen folks put in notice at their employment job only to have the background process take longer than two weeks. Then that person gets to sit around for weeks unemployed until the next job starts up.
Don’t let the recruiter bully you into putting in your notice until you’re cleared to work!
5. Why are you job hunting?
If you’re unemployed and/or underemployed, then your answer is easy. If you’re gainfully employed but looking for a transition, be prepared to share your why. Don’t make it too complicated. The recruiter doesn’t want or need your life story. Recruiters just want a simple explanation for why you’re in the market. Changing jobs is longer frowned upon, it’s simply a way of the world now. Job hopping is on the rise per this NBC news article.
Here are a few simple reasons:
- My significant other/spouse is (or I am) relocating and I’m looking for work in this city.
- I’m looking to transition careers for better opportunities.
- I recently graduated and am wanting to utilize my new credentials.