How to Hire a Recruiter: 5 Interview Questions to Narrow the Field

Staffing firms play a large role in the constant effort to match quality candidates with companies looking for talent. Many staffing firm owner-operators and search consultants are extraordinary relationship managers and have extensive networks that can help find a needle in a haystack, but learning how to recruit a recruiter takes a fair amount of effort.

Staffing firms and others within the search industry are typically six months ahead of the rest of the economy in terms of forecasting the ebb and flow of labor trends. Whether the economy is recovering or there’s a tight labor market, staffing firms are often hiring new recruiters and expanding their teams in strategic ways.

Asking the right interview questions in the screening process remains a critical element in hiring successful recruiters who can pay for themselves and contribute to your staffing firm’s long-term success. The following interview questions can enable you to identify stand-out performers and hire a recruiter who’s worth the investment.

1. How do you rank competitively among other recruiters at your current staffing firm?

The sales field is all about competition. Those who perform with distinction will define themselves in terms of being in the top 20 percent of producers in their region, the 10th percentile of agents at their firm, or award winners for being recognized as top producers in their company.

Beginning with a question that addresses top-line revenue and the candidate’s ability to attract both new client companies and hard-to-find candidates can help you hire a recruiter who compliments your existing business operations

2. What are the two most common objections you face, and how do you typically overcome them?

There are typically no more than two or three major objections that any recruiter faces when marketing to prospective client companies. It’s important to hear how candidates rebut specific objections. This is also an opportunity for the two of you to match wits. The candidate’s answers to this question will provide you with insights into the individual’s sophistication and creativity.

3. How would you distinguish between your sales volume and your profitability per deal?

Discounting fees is often the norm in particularly rough economic cycles. Recruiters who drive volume placements because they give the business away at 10 percent—compared to a 33 percent full-fee contingency—aren’t necessarily going to complement your business model and values.

A logical follow-up to this query is to ask about fall-off ratios, where candidates don’t make it through the guarantee period and where fees must be returned to the client.

4. Without undue flattery, please grade me on my interview skills. What can you tell me about my sales and management style based on the questions I’m asking?

People-reading skills can’t really be taught. A recruiter’s success in bonding with candidates and clients will depend largely on their ability to “chameleon-ize” themselves and build immediate rapport. Watch for candidates who sit up in their chairs and rise to the occasion by volunteering astute observations and engaging comments.

5. How much does production vary from desk to desk in your office?

Identifying huge discrepancies in per-desk billing averages may point to a serious issue known as the “rebel producer” syndrome, which can destroy camaraderie and teamwork in your staffing firm if you ultimately decide to bring this candidate aboard.

While at first glance it may feel like you’ve found the goose that laid the golden egg if the candidate in front of you produces $180,000 in billings in a branch that garners $325,000 a year. But in fact, that may or may not be a good thing when you’re looking to hire a recruiter for your firm.

For example, if there are three other recruiters and there’s a lot of employee turnover in those other three positions, then be wary. The candidate may be cannibalizing other recruiters’ clients or candidates. However, if those three counterparts are all trainees in a newly-opened branch, then the billing disparity may make sense. The reference checking phase can help you sort that out.

Taken together, these interview questions will give you a clearer snapshot of the candidate’s manner of doing business—their drive, energy level, people-reading skills, as well as their employee sourcing, client development, and marketing abilities.

Recruit a Winning Recruiter Today

Beyond these interview questions, there are many additional resources you can tap into once you’re ready to hire. Knowing how to recruit a recruiter involves several different steps; but once you’re ready to reach out to qualified candidates, consider posting a free job ad with Monster.