One of the priorities during a meeting with a consultant from a recruitment agency is gaining as much information about the potential employer and the position itself as possible. Many candidates are defensive about the process and limit themselves only to answering the questions, whereas adopting a different style may let us gain more information, and present us as active and outgoing. We tend to restrain from asking questions so as not to appear demanding. In fact, it is the other way round – by bringing up the topics that are of importance to us, we prove the awareness of our needs and goals. It is also necessary to bear in mind that the talk with a consultant is not the final interview with an employer – which makes it the best moment to bring up any possible doubts.
A recruiter represents both parts of the process and their aim is to take care of both the organisation and the candidate. This is why they should be treated as a partner, not an enemy, and why they need to know about boundary conditions.
Comprehensive and precise information about our abilities and limitations increases the possibility of getting a satisfactory offer, explains Łukasz Radzikowski, Associate Manager at Goldman Recruitment, a recruitment agency.
It is also a time-saving approach – we avoid the situation in which a candidate resigns a week before contract signing due to an unarticulated understatement. What should we ask about in order to get the full picture then?
It is one of the key aspects of a new job, which tends to be ignored. If the office is at the other end of the city, it will involve a few hours of traffic jams every week. This radically decreases employee satisfaction, especially if it may collide with your other duties (e.g. dropping kids off to and picking them up from school). Supposing there is a similar job offer on the market and, what is more, it is closer to the neighbourhood you live in – it is necessary to talk about that and look for an alternative solution. Employers are more and more aware of the fact that their employees’ comfort is not only restricted to their workplace anymore. They are increasingly more likely to accept the fact that some may need to leave earlier in order to pick up their children from nursery or occasionally want to work remotely. Nevertheless, it is crucial to discuss such solutions beforehand.
Delegations and business trips abroad may constitute a problem, too, especially for those who have children. If you are after a stationary job, be open about it. The same goes for relocation to a smaller town. Even if an offer is attractive, moving out of a big city can be a huge problem for a person used to urban surroundings.
The most intimidating aspect of the interview is at the same time the most important one – after all money is one of the basic reasons for pursuing a career. Expectations should be articulated clearly, there is no need to wait for the other party to voice their offer. Candidates do not ask consultants how they perceive their financial expectations – have they asked for too much or not enough? During such meetings it is essential to remember that a consultant’s job is not to find the cheapest employee – it is to find the best employee, only then will the client be satisfied. It may happen that the final offer exceeds candidate expectations. This is why it is necessary to ask for recruiter’s advice, as their expertise may be helpful in assessing the knowledge and skills of the candidate, especially in comparison with a particular offer, but also against the market background.
In some businesses, salaries consist of fixed pay and variable pay. It is a natural solution for such fields where employee performance is measurable, such as sales. What is important in such businesses is the ratio of these components. Employers tend to prefer the fixed pay to be as low as possible, whereas the variable pay to be more prominent, so that in case of poor performance, the fixed pay does not burden the company’s budget too much. It might seem that active employees, who believe in their potential will not see this sort of cooperation problematic; however, the fixed pay may be perceived simply as a token of financial stability. Individuals who have some permanent financial commitments heavily rely on the warrant that they will be able to pay their bills on time.
Tell consultants what is most important to you. Family medical package or a parking spot? – all of this needs to be expressed directly. There is no set standard – every company has a different policy to meet those needs. Setting it straight away will help you avoid further disappointments.
During the interview, the recruiter will provide more details about the job you are trying to get. When to ask to clear any doubts if not then? Sometimes positions with similar or identical names have completely different job briefs. In other cases, recruiters may not be able to address all your questions. It is not the case of lack of trust or hidden agenda. Instead of that, it may be caused by the fact that some information cannot be disclosed: the employer wants to lay off an employee or your new position is related to a new product, which is going to be confidential for a while. In such cases you need to ask when the information is going to be disclosed to you.
Offer’s weak points
This is what candidates hardly ask about – but they should! Perfect offers do not exist. The majority of them has some weak points that need to be considered before making the final decision. Asking about them sends a strong signal that you expect absolute honesty on both sides – a benefit to everyone taking part in the recruitment process.
Organisational culture & values
Candidates tend to downplay this aspect because they rely on their adapting skills too heavily. Organisational culture should not be ignored, however, since good working conditions make us feel comfortable, decrease alienation, and direct our energy towards professional challenges. What to ask about then? First of all – the team. Who works there? What is the age structure? What are employee relations like – formal or more friendly? Then – work organisation. Are working hours fixed? Is the schedule more important than performance or the other way round? Does the company have a dress code? Are there casual Fridays or other fashion-related customs? These matters are not so obvious in some businesses.
Current company situation
Learn all about the ongoing situation within the organisation. What is happening inside right now? Is it a calm and stable moment, or are there plans to implement new projects? A company may be going through some reorganisation, which may influence employee comfort. It may be about to change its headquarters, which will cause quite a stir, or it has just been acquired by another entity, which in turn may affect the organisation’s structure. Asking about these matters will enable you to confront your personal image of the company with reality.
Company image controversy
Every company has its history and sometimes one bad decision or unfortunate circumstances may influence its image for years. If this is the case you are faced with, do not hesitate to ask a consultant about the opinions you have heard about the company. Some past events have no influence on the current state of affairs in many organisations, while those companies that have experienced bad luck in the past, tend to take extra care of those aspects that had been mishandled before. It may also be the case that negative information applies only to a specific branch or department. Finally, some rumours can be simply rumours. Public space and media are full of fake news – this is why asking the right questions is so important.
Development opportunities & trainings
How much does development mean to you? Answer this question before the interview. Do you care more about promotions, pay rises, or improving your skills and acquiring expert knowledge? Find out if the company has an outline of employee trainings. Are they closely tied with the business or do they equip you with skills that may be useful in the future? Please bear in mind that not every job allows for self-development on multiple platforms. If you consult your aspirations and career plans with a recruiter beforehand, you will be able to check if the position allows for satisfying those needs.
The Polish legal system offers over twenty different job contracts to choose from – make sure you know which type is offered by the employer you want to work for. See the draft of the contract and verify its contents. Learn about the conditions of the probation period and in what form your employment continues after it ends. What is the employer’s policy towards permanent contracts?
Sometimes employers expect employees to cooperate as B2B, probably due to favourable tax regulations. Others may be liberal about this and leave it up to employers to decide whether they prefer traditional contracts or B2B. There are however some companies that have strict policies in this matter and offer only one type of contract. This all can be checked during your interview with a recruiter.
Signing a contract might entail some commitments. Ask the recruiter if the employer expects you to sign a non-competition clause. If this is the case, prepare yourself in terms of those conditions which you want to accept and those which you wish to discuss further or which seem unacceptable. Any doubts must be cleared on both parts, so as not to let a misunderstanding overturn the agreement between you and your potential boss.
Interview with employer
Ask the recruiter openly about the proper way to prepare yourself for an interview with your potential employer. Recruitment agencies know their clients well and can give valuable tips. A consultant is a counsellor and they care about preparing their candidate for an interview. Their advice may range from telling you how to make a good first impression to informing you about which topics to avoid or which personal traits to express. Even such small things like wearing your employer’s favourite colour may help you dodge some bullets. Recruiters are there for candidates, offering this kind of knowledge.
Before heading to the interview, be aware of the fact that a consultant is not an agent hired by an employer. Recruiters want to satisfy both parties, only then do they feel successful about the process. Every consultant is a partner for the candidate, so it is important to trust them and be honest. If candidates realise that, recruiters are able to find offers that correspond to their abilities and aspirations.
Do not let any of the questions surprise you, define your priorities and boundary conditions straight away. Every candidate should know what they want and why they attend the interview in the first place, says Łukasz Radzikowski, Goldman Recruitment.
Do not treat your meeting with a recruiter as a one-off thing. Establish a relationship that will bring mutual benefits in the future. If during the recruitment process you realise that the offer does not match your expectations, think about someone else to recommend for the position. It is always greatly appreciated by recruiters.