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By Russell Adams, AdMore Recruitment– Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development.

Following on from my recent blog on what to expect from your recruitment consultant, I have had a number of people asking for advice about how to gauge whether their consultant really knows what they are talking about. As I have said before, I get very frustrated by the fact that our industry is largely unregulated and that the very poor practice of a minority of consultants damage the image of the industry for all. The questions below will hopefully give you some insight into the competence of the consultant and whether they are someone you should be trusting to handle your career. The first group of questions below are appropriate when you first register with the consultant and the later questions are more suitable when discussing a specific assignment.

  • Who are your major clients and how long have you been recruiting for them?

It is important to understand a consultant’s client base for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will allow you to assess the extent to which they might be successful in placing you and the relevance of their clients to your sector and experience. Secondly, it will give you a real insight in to how strong their network is within your sector. Equally important is getting an understanding of the length of time they have recruited for their clients. Long established and successful client relationships will give you a good indication that they deliver for their clients and are therefore likely to deliver for you.

  • What is your background?

In an ideal world your specialist recruiter will have relevant industry experience. If they have personally worked in the sector and even held similar roles to those they are recruiting, then some would argue this will make them a more effective recruiter as they will be able to empathise with the challenges presented in those positions.  However, it is not essential they have relevant sector experience, there are certainly many great recruiters out there who don’t. What the best recruiters will have however is in-depth knowledge of their sector which they will maintain with constant research. What is most important is how they manage the recruitment process and the value they are able to add to you through their knowledge of the client, the role and the hiring manager, all of which will hopefully give you a competitive edge over your competition.

  • How long have you been in recruitment?

This may not be a question you need to ask but it is certainly information you would be wise to check on LinkedIn. While it is not essential that the consultant has multiple years of experience, you should check their experience in recruitment and the wider industry to understand their true knowledge. Ultimately you are interested in how well networked they are in your “space” as this will be a major factor in their ability to place you in a position.

  • What can I expect from you?

Recruitment consultants get a lot of bad press and more often than not deservedly so. Many of the complaints concern levels of communication and mis-management of expectations. Often what is lacking is some honesty and transparency. This is a great question to ask your consultant and should not only give you an understanding of what to expect but also an insight into the honesty of the individual and how they conduct themselves. Be wary of consultants that promise the world – it’s a tough market out there!

  • How many recruitment companies have you worked for?

This may be quite a challenging or controversial question and is one probably best answered using the power of LinkedIn. In the workplace today people often move on more frequently than in the past as they look to progress their careers and develop. However, recruitment is a very results driven industry and one where failure to deliver will often result in the consultant moving on. The track record of your consultant again will give you an insight into how they perform and what they are likely to deliver for you.

  • Have you got any feedback on my CV?

The consultant should be adding value to you in a number of different areas. This should include areas like your CV, interview technique, industry knowledge etc. A great consultant will have a long term view and will understand that time spent improving your CV and interviewing technique will not only increase their chances of placing you but will also help develop a long term relationship.

  • Have you placed with the business previously?

This is a great question to ask a consultant when they are briefing you on a particular assignment. A great consultant should be able to add significant value to the recruitment process and utilise their knowledge of the business to assist you through each stage. There is a first time for everything but a consultant with experience and knowledge of client will be able to assist you to a much greater extent during the recruitment process. They will also have knowledge of the company culture and be able to advise what the company is really like to work for. Also, experience of having successful placed people will have built their understanding of exactly what the client is looking for and so they are less likely to be wasting your time with inappropriate assignments.

  • Have you met the Line Manager?

This is a great question to ask a consultant as again this indicates the depth of the consultant’s relationship with the client. For the reasons discussed above, as a candidate you should benefit considerably from the knowledge and experience the consultant has of their client.

  • What is the recruitment process

Your consultant should be able to advise you in advance of the recruitment process, the stages you will need to go through and what preparation should be done. The market is fiercely competitive and better preparation and knowledge can help you differentiate yourself against other candidates. While not every process is pre-planned, most of the big corporates use a specific template. Your consultant should be able to provide you with a job description, information on the competencies being assessed and potential ‘quirks’ within the process.

  • What should I do to develop my career in XXXX?

A good consultant should be able and happy to provide you with strong career advice. Consultants are experts in their field and are likely to have some sound advice and suggestions about your career plan and how you can maximise your potential. There is nothing wrong in asking their advice and their response will give you a good insight into their knowledge and experience.

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