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Executive Recruiter Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Updated January 24th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Business    
Question 1 of 30
What do you believe to be the most significant change in recruitment this year?
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How to Answer
Recruitment is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. Your approach will need to change with economic ebbs and flows, workforce legislation, and other trends related to human resources. Show the interviewer that you remain up to date on trends and changes in the recruitment world. Name the resources you utilize for your news and updates. If you would like the interview to have a more conversational tone, feel free to ask the interviewer what they think will be a significant change affecting their industry, this year.
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Answer Examples
1.
What do you believe to be the most significant change in recruitment this year?
Recruitment is a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. Your approach will need to change with economic ebbs and flows, workforce legislation, and other trends related to human resources. Show the interviewer that you remain up to date on trends and changes in the recruitment world. Name the resources you utilize for your news and updates. If you would like the interview to have a more conversational tone, feel free to ask the interviewer what they think will be a significant change affecting their industry, this year.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I believe that virtual reality interview simulations are a game-changer for the interview process, especially when it comes to executive recruitment and the fact that it's difficult to always align interview schedules, for first interviews. Virtual reality technology can help with skills assessment and response analysis, helping clients to 'meet' high-level candidates faster."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Considering the eco-movement, along with significant changes in technology, I believe we will see a significant shift into video resumes, with a move away from paper versions. Keywording and SEO will still be important for applications such as LinkedIn profiles and personal websites; however, I feel that the traditional resume is on its way out for major corporations, in the next few years. With that said, small business will still rely on paper resumes for a long time, as they cannot afford the expensive VR technology."
2.
When interviewing a candidate, what is the most important question you could ask?
There are a plethora of essential interview questions that, as a recruiter, you could ask an executive. The most crucial first step is for you to ensure that the opportunity you are presenting is a fit for your candidate. If you do not vet your candidate correctly, they could be a big disappointment to your client; making you appear unprofessional and inexperienced. Show the interviewer that you are capable of digging deep in your candidate interviews.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"One question that I always ask, no matter the role my candidate is seeking, is 'Describe for me in detail your ideal opportunity.' This question puts the responsibility on them to tell me, very specifically, what they seek in their next opportunity. I ask them to include the workplace environment, team size, location, type of industry, amount of travel, and more. If their response feels like a solid match, only then will I submit their executive summary to my client."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have a no-fail question that I ask in most interviews, and it's 'Why would you accept this job over any others you are entertaining?' See, I want them to desire the role genuinely. If they cannot show enthusiasm for this position, I will eliminate them from the competition right away."
3.
Walk me through your approach when asked to poach a specific executive for your client.
In recruitment, the term poaching refers to the act of decidedly pursuing top talent from a competitor. For instance, if Microsoft recruiters were given instructions to lure employees specifically from Apple, that would be poaching.

In some regions, this act is considered illegal. In other areas, it's an ethical grey area. In other parts of the world or some industries, its expected and understood. In a highly competitive industry, poaching may be a regular practice as corporations want to employ the best of the best. Discuss if you have ever been asked to poach a specific person for your client, and what your approach may be.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I believe poaching is the name of the game in executive recruitment. Frankly, if a corporation does not want to lose their top people to their competitors, they should make sure their overall employment package and experience is the best in their industry. If a client asks me to approach a specific person, I certainly will, but I will also encourage them to compare to at least two other candidates. Competition for a role should be fair. In my opinion, the recruitment process is always the most effective when you can benchmark candidates against one another."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"When I first started in recruitment, there were many 'no poaching' agreements between corporations, as a formal truce. Then, the US Department of Justice abolished this practice, realizing that these agreements were holding talented people back from growing in their career. Now, I have no problem poaching candidates competitively. The method needs to be transparent and ethical, but I will approach candidates that my client requests explicitly."
4.
How do you use data and analytics in your recruitment process?
As an executive recruiter, your clients will respond best to your recommendations if they link to data. Show the interviewer that you understand how to use analytics in your recruitment process correctly. If possible, give a specific example of a time when the use of data and analytics led to a successful placement.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"As an executive recruiter and consultant to my clients, my recommendations must always lead with research and reliable analysis of my clients' business sector and pain points. I am sure to check out their competitor performance and then leverage those insights to create a strategic approach for my client. Many recruiters rely on their intuition, which is an essential factor in the process; however, should not be 100% of the work. Most recently I helped a client to reduce their workforce by replacing three low-performing employees with one full-time and one part-time staff member. My client was thankful that I took the time to analyze their issues before recommending they continue to overstaff."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I will use data and analytics when it comes to benchmarking and helping my client to forecast their hiring needs. I also use analytics when taking on a new job order. I first calculate how many new applicants I will need to attract, how many of those I need to interview, and how many I have to send my client, to make a hire."
5.
How often do you look for opportunities to approach potential new clients?
At the executive recruitment level, business development is a job expectation. The hiring authority wants to see that you always keep your eyes open for opportunities to gain new clients, or to revive a client who has not had a project with you in some time. Discuss the ways you approach opportunities. Be sure to show that you are enthusiastic about business development!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"So far this year, I have acquired four new clients and have taken on 18 new job orders. I first look for new opportunities with existing clients, or clients who have been silent for some time. Next, I will ask for referrals from my active clients and then perform warm calls. I look for new opportunities every day, as business development is a key component to my success as an executive recruiter."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Keeping my eye out for potential new key accounts is second nature to me, at this point in my recruitment career. There are opportunities everywhere, and I enjoy finding new ways to acquire new business."
6.
What sales methods work best for you when approaching new clients?
Many sales techniques are available to recruiters looking for new clients. The interviewer would like to see that you have strong business development skills and abilities. As an executive recruiter, your wage may be on the number of placements you make. These calculations mean that the more job orders you have, the better chance you will make placements; thus, earning a commission. Show the hiring authority that you are hungry to win and that you deploy the best sales methods when it comes to approaching new clients.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I know that the best way to approach new clients is with data, results, and proof of past successes. Before approaching a prospect I will gather interesting numbers and facts related to their industry, and similar searches I have performed in the past. I will then email the prospect a customized report and ask for a few minutes of their time, for a follow-up call. When a relationship begins by adding value, it's much more likely to flourish."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"When I am ready to approach new clients I always ask for referrals from my existing clients. I use testimonials regularly as well. There's nothing like the power of proof when asking for new business. I am also skilled in research and will find the biggest pain point of a particular company or department, helping to show them what I can do for their talent pool. Another technique that I use is to shop my best candidates to other companies, providing them with a teaser and then ask for a meeting or to make an introduction."
7.
Have you ever had a project fall apart, last minute? How did you react, and what steps did you take to recover the deal?
The world of recruitment is fast-paced, and your direction can pivot without notice. Clients might pull the plug on an assignment halfway through, or your star candidate pulls out of the running at the last minute.

These circumstances are ones that you cannot control; however, you can control how you react. Walk the interviewer through the steps you take when a project appears to be falling apart. How do you recover? If you have a recent example, discuss what happened and how you saved the day!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I was six months into a search for a medical examiner. We had our candidate chosen, and when it came to the final offer, the candidate's wife decided that she didn't want to relocate after all. Thankfully, I had not yet closed off with the runner-up candidate. We called the runner up in for another interview, and luckily my client decided they were the better fit in the long run. This situation could have been a disaster, but because I keep close relationships with all of the candidates I work with, we were able to save the deal."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"My team was working on a CEO role. Four months into the search, as we were narrowing down our top 3 candidates, my client let us know their board of directors cut the position's budget by one third. Essentially, we had to start our search over. Rather than becoming discouraged, I called our candidates to let them know the reduction in salary. Most of the candidates removed themselves from the competition, but they also offered referrals from people in their network who had the qualifications, but fewer years of experience. In the end, we were able to fill the position at the salary the client wanted, through an excellent referral. It was a great learning experience, and I am happy we did not throw in the towel."
8.
How do you maintain relationships with your clients?
As an executive recruiter, your clients will be very busy people who are often challenging to reach. Or, they will be HR department heads who have so much going on, they do not have time for small talk or going out for coffee.

Happy client relationships are everything to an executive search firm, and the hiring authority wants to see that you are capable of maintaining their well-established client relationships while also creating new ones.

Recruitment is a competitive industry with many staffing firms vying for exclusivity with their clients. As you know, exclusivity can only happen when your clients are thrilled with your service and have an excellent rapport with you. Discuss the ways you ensure the best client service.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"My mantra is 'What can I do today, to support you?' and I ask this of my clients on a regular basis. Repeat business and referrals truly drive my business, and those only come from excellent client delivery. Great rapport starts with the ability to take and implement feedback. From there, I build relationships through active listening, ensuring that I always deliver on their needs over my own. I will never send a lousy candidate to my client, to fill the role. My clients recognize that integrity and appreciate that I never waste a minute of their time."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have a system of checking in with my clients on a weekly basis. My check-ins are not always to ask for a new job order but more often to see how a new placement is working out, or sending them an interesting article about their industry. The more value I add, without asking for something in return, the better they will trust me to understand their needs when it comes to talent sourcing."
9.
In which industry have you made the most executive placements, this year?
The interviewer would like to know what your sweet spot may be when it comes to making executive placements. Perhaps you have a degree in a specific field of work and feel most comfortable sourcing candidates from that particular line of work. Maybe you worked in medical device sales in the past, making you great at spotting terrific candidates in the medical field. If the firm you are interviewing for has a specific niche, be sure never to single yourself out or talk yourself out of the role by appearing one-dimensional.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I see that you specialize in high-level accounting and finance roles. This year, I placed six CFO's and another four controllers. Finance and accounting is a strong suit of mine, although I am comfortable covering a range of other job placements."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Before becoming an executive recruiter, I worked as a nurse's assistant. I have a solid reach into our state's medical network and also know how to spot an excellent medical candidate. For these reasons, I make fantastic placements in both the therapeutic medical industry and also medical device sales, as I know which questions are best to ask. With that said, I also made many placements this year in finance, IT, and energy-related roles."
10.
Tell me about your experience making project bids and completing RFPs.
If you do not have exclusivity with your client, you may have to put in annual bids or fill out requests for proposals. Most of the time, the agency leader or corporate office finalizes these; however, there are times when you may need to get the job done, or at the very least, assist with collecting the data for the proposals. Discuss any exposure you have with bids and proposals. If you have formal training in writing bids, be sure to mention that as well.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I have helped in the bid process many times, providing compelling data and analytics that have helped our agency to win large bids with international clients. I have some training in technical writing; however, our agency utilizes an outside agency when it comes to finalizing formal applications and bids."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Although my exposure to project bids and RFP's is minimal, I do understand the data that needs to go into them, to make the applications compelling. I have created a couple of in-depth business plans in my career, and I suspect bids are similar as far as their structure and style of writing."
11.
Walk me through the types of placements you have made as an executive recruiter. In which industries are most interested?
Share with the interviewer what your specialties are, or which areas interest you the most. Perhaps you have a degree in a specific field of work. Maybe you worked in the therapeutic medical device field before becoming a recruiter, making you great at spotting terrific candidates in medicine. If the firm you are interviewing for has a specific niche, be sure never to single yourself out or talk yourself out of the role.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Before becoming a recruiter, I worked in medical device sales. I have a solid reach into our state's medical network and also know how to spot an excellent sales candidate. I make fantastic placements in both the sales field for any industry or in the medical industry itself."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"When I read in your job posting that you are looking for a recruiter with a specialty in accounting, I knew I had to apply. Before joining the world of recruitment, I completed my CPA. After practicing for a couple of years, I found it a bit dry and decided recruitment and business development was a better path for me. I have a lot of knowledge on accounting systems and terms, making me a perfect choice for this opportunity. I can hold an excellent conversation with candidates from controllers to financial lawyers."
12.
Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed.
The interviewer wants to hear more about your decision making and critical thinking skills. Many times, a client will call you with a new job order, without giving you all the details you feel you need. Maybe you take the job order but then realize that you forgot to ask if the client would consider relocating a candidate, or you didn't gain clarification on the tech skills they would prefer to see.

Keep your answer career based and discuss a decision you made where you may not have had all of the pertinent information. The interviewer would like to see that you can use logic to make a sound decision. Show the interviewer that you are capable and confident when it comes to independent thinking and decision making. Be sure to include the success you saw in your sound decision making.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"As an executive recruiter, ambiguity is a large part of my daily reality. I always do the best with the information I have to keep projects moving. I often find myself making decisions wishing I had just a little bit more data. In these cases, I look at everything I have, create what-if scenarios for several variables and select the best possible option."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Often, our clients are vague on their needs because they don't fully know themselves what they seek. I have had to fill in the blanks many times. I always know my clients well so I am comfortable making executive decisions when they cannot."
13.
Tell me about your experience in pitch preparation and giving presentations to groups of decision makers.
Executive recruiters will often have to pitch new clients or give presentations to existing ones. These presentations may be to sell your idea for a staffing plan, a new talent attraction strategy, or to pitch a new candidate.

Show the interviewer that you have experience in pitch preparation by discussing the types of meetings you have led in the past. Talk about the kind of people you have addressed, meaning their job titles. Also, if you have taken any training in pitching, or even designing presentations, it's great to mention those skills.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I recently took a training course in writing pitches. It was called 'Pitch Anything' by Oren Klaff. This course changed how I approached nearly every meeting. I now go into a presentation with a much clearer idea of my purpose, being more persuasive, and close more deals than ever. Most of the people that I present to are the decision makers in the organizations with which I collaborate. These groups may include the c-suite and often the human resources department."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Throughout my career, I have created pitch decks and given presentations dozens of times. If you would like, I can send you a former pitch deck so that you can see the style that I utilize in my meetings. I am comfortable with public speaking and addressing rooms full of decision makers."
14.
How do you quickly learn industry terminology for roles that are new to you?
As an executive recruiter, you will learn about topics, and job types that you may not have even known existed. Rather than telling the client that you don't know where to start with their project, you want to have an attitude of receptiveness, and be ready to learn. Discuss with the interviewer how you go about learning industry terminology for roles that are new to you. If you have a specific example, that's a memorable way to respond.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"There have been times when I have been asked to find a particular profession in the medical industry, and I truly have no clue what the job title even means. For instance, last month a client asked me to find a Perfusionist. I took the job order, then immediately conducted some research using Google, and medical journals online. It turns out that Perfusionists are the people who operate the heart and lung machines while patients are in surgery. I began by researching schools that offered the Certified Clinical Perfusionist (CCP) credential, and started making calls from there."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"A Space Psychologist has been, by far, the most interesting and specific assignment that I have taken on for a client. Of course, I knew how to recruit talented Psychologists but truly, had no idea there was a specialty for Space Psychologists. Rather than appearing intimidated by the ask, I dug into research, wrote down a lot of questions, and called some qualified Psychologists that I knew. Space Psychologists help selection panels decide which astronauts are best for a mission. It's a critical and interesting job that I was thrilled to learn about."

15.
Do you consider yourself a persuasive person?
The art of being an excellent communicator is also having the power of persuasion when necessary. There is a difference between persuasion and debating - or even convincing. Persuasion is used when you want to influence someone rather than tell them that they are wrong, and you are right.

As you know, executive recruiters are well-trained and highly persuasive professionals. The power of persuasion is essential if you are pitching a candidate to your client. It is also a helpful skill when you want to gain momentum with your coworkers or have your boss better understand your approach on a staffing project.

It is not a negative thing to be persuasive. Talk to the interviewer about whether or not you consider yourself to be a persuasive individual.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I can be persuasive when it comes to helping my clients to understand the logic behind my candidate submissions. It's important to lay out all data, showing my client the complete picture. I have a persuasive case built for each candidate before I even send them to my client. It's almost like how a lawyer preps for court. You have to be able to change minds from all sides and angles, to be a successful executive recruiter."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Persuasion is a key skill of an effective executive recruiter, in my opinion. Have you ever read the book, 'Pre-Suasion,' by Robert Cialdini? He speaks of the science in persuasion and that there are significant moves to be made before ever asking someone to do something on your behalf. This book has greatly influenced how I use persuasion."
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30 Executive Recruiter Interview Questions
Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.
Interview Questions
  1. What do you believe to be the most significant change in recruitment this year?
  2. When interviewing a candidate, what is the most important question you could ask?
  3. Walk me through your approach when asked to poach a specific executive for your client.
  4. How do you use data and analytics in your recruitment process?
  5. How often do you look for opportunities to approach potential new clients?
  6. What sales methods work best for you when approaching new clients?
  7. Have you ever had a project fall apart, last minute? How did you react, and what steps did you take to recover the deal?
  8. How do you maintain relationships with your clients?
  9. In which industry have you made the most executive placements, this year?
  10. Tell me about your experience making project bids and completing RFPs.
  11. Walk me through the types of placements you have made as an executive recruiter. In which industries are most interested?
  12. Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision without all the information you needed.
  13. Tell me about your experience in pitch preparation and giving presentations to groups of decision makers.
  14. How do you quickly learn industry terminology for roles that are new to you?
  15. Do you consider yourself a persuasive person?
  16. When entering a new job, describe how you build relationships with your researchers, principal, and fellow recruiters.
  17. Executive recruitment requires a lot of high-end selling. Do you have any sales training?
  18. How do you plan to broaden your consulting skills, and your business development skills over the next 12 months?
  19. How do you contribute as a thought leader in the executive recruitment industry?
  20. Do you have experience leading junior associates and researchers? What skills and characteristics make you a strong leader?
  21. You will face very senior professionals in this role. How do you embody poise and professionalism?
  22. What are your salary expectations?
  23. In which ways do you act as a partner and consultant to your esteemed clients?
  24. Do you have experience working with expats?
  25. Have you ever worked on retainer?
  26. How do you react when you and your client disagree on the quality of a candidate?
  27. How do you evaluate the job performance of an executive candidate who is under a non-disclosure agreement?
  28. In your experience, what is the most challenge part of working with executive-level candidates?
  29. In which ways do you lean on your formal education, as an executive recruiter?
  30. Tell me about the most prestigious placement you have made in your executive recruitment career.
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