Written By Chris Hart

This is the first in the series ‘Surviving Recruitment’ which will cover some of the basics and give advice on some of the main parts of our job. This issue will cover the first time you speak to a candidate, how to structure the call so not to waste your time and the essential questions you need to ask to get everything you need.

When I speak with a candidate for the first time, I always ask the same questions in the same order every time. I ask them in a particular order to make sure the person I am speaking to, is someone I actually want or need to speak to. The last thing you want to do is spend anywhere between 10-20 minutes with someone that could end up being a waste of your time.

The first time you speak to a candidate will either be because you’ve found their CV on a job board, they’ve come in as an advert response or you’ve found them on your database after someone else has interviewed them. Either way, you should follow the same process each time, consistency is key in getting this right.


So, first things first. Forget about the job you are calling them about, for now. Don’t worry about that yet. If they look like a good candidate regardless of whether they are right for your role or not, you want to get some key info down first, before you start qualifying them for any role.

The Key Questions.

Here’s what I ask and the order I ask them in, the order is just as important as the questions themselves, word these to suit your own style.

• Are they actually looking for a new role? (Sounds like a stupid question, right? especially if they’ve applied for a role. But you’ll be surprised at the amount of people who say no, or are just seeing what’s out there. You could end the call right here and save yourself a bunch of time with the first question)

• The CV I have says you currently work at …… is that correct? (Again, the number of people who send through out of date CV’s is quite high, there’s no point in talking with someone if you haven’t got the right CV)

• Nationality (Unless you have clients that can sponsor you don’t want to spend time with candidates that don’t have the right visa to work in the UK)

• Are you looking for perm or contract? (I very very rarely send a contractor to a perm role, more often or not they will always take a contract over a permanent position. This is down to you to judge. But I ask this here because I don’t want to spend 10-20 minutes talking to someone who will then jump at the first contract. I run a perm desk, but even if I was working contract, I would still want to clarify this early)

• Where are you looking to work? (This is especially important if you only cover a specific region. Or with relocators. If someone is applying from another country, always ask them to which locations they applying for work. I personally wouldn’t send a candidate out who has applications out in multiple locations across Europe for example.

• Reason for leaving the current role.

• Notice period.

• Current basic salary and package (Always get the package, so many people forget to do this. You must get their bonus, pension and other monetary info)

• Salary Sought (Most of the time this won’t bring up any issues. But there are plenty of candidates that are after a huge jump in their basic salary, sometimes unrealistic. You need to know this before you start talking about specific jobs. Also important for relocators, you never want to send someone out who hasn’t done their research into UK salaries)

• What do they want to do now? (The most important question you can ask any candidate the first time you speak with them. You always want to ask this before you start pitching roles to them, you need to understand what they want. Not if you can match them to the role you have in mind)


So, they are the first bunch of questions I go through, that’s your first 5 minutes of your call. Those questions are asked in that order to determine at any point if you want or should spend any more time with that candidate. The number of times I’ve heard Consultants on the phone for 20 minutes to only find out at the end the candidate is only looking for a contract position. Or is applying for jobs all over Europe and their preference is not in the UK for example.

At this point you still don’t want to start pitching jobs to them, you now want to interview them and understand what they do first. I follow the below structure when interviewing a candidate for the first time after getting the above info. I work in Infrastructure, but this should work for any market you work in. Again word these to suit your style.

• What does your current company do? (Sounds trivial but can be really useful to know)

• What do you do?

• Who do you do it for? (Internal users, clients etc.)

• Why do you do it? (Why is their job needed)

• What do you use to do it? (Tools, dev languages etc.)

• What happens if you don’t do it? (Is it mission critical etc.)

• How many people are in your team? (Good to know if they are stand-alone or part of a huge team)


Those questions should give you a good profile of the candidate you are speaking to, this is the info you want to put on your cover sheets. But it also means you’ve interviewed your candidate properly rather than just jumped straight into pitching them a job and trying to match their CV to the position you have in mind.

Once you have all this info then start pitching to them. And if you don’t have anything for them right now, you’ll know exactly what they want and what they do for when you do have the right role for them.



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