The demand for leadership talent at startup companies remains high despite uncertainty in most industries. As a candidate, partnering with an executive recruiter is a great way to learn about opportunities not readily visible on job posting sites. Selectivity in working with an experienced recruiter and qualifying the opportunities the recruiter presents to you will save you time and potentially, career missteps. To help, we’ve compiled a list of what you should know about the opportunity the recruiter presents to you and questions to ask to ensure the recruiter aligns with your career goals.
1. How long have you been working on this search?
This question helps you determine what stage of the hiring process the company may be in with other candidates and their success to date. If the search has been open for a month or longer and no candidates have been interviewed—or the company has interviewed many candidates without a hire— the probability of you getting hired is lower. When a company interviews many candidates without a hire, it is a sign their team is not aligned on what they are looking for or altogether are not sure what they need. If the search has been long, the recruiter may also be able to tell you what the previous candidates were lacking that was required to successfully land the position.
2. How many other firms are working on the search?
If the recruiter’s search firm has the job exclusively, you have a better chance of your resume being seen by the hiring manager. If there are several search firms with the position—your chances are less—but not impossible. The process will probably go slower because the employer will have more candidates to consider. Be respectful with your recruiter’s time but do follow up for updates to evaluate and determine if the recruiter is doing everything in his/her power to get you noticed. This will help you to prioritize your energies.
3. Have you made placements with the company? If so, what positions?
The purpose of this question is to help you understand the recruiter’s past success and relationship with the client, as well as potential alignment with your objectives. If a recruiter has made multiple placements with the startup organization and has remained with the company, he/she is likely to have a good eye for identifying top candidates—increasing the likelihood that you may be hired. Asking what positions the recruiter sourced, attracted, and placed will again help you determine the likelihood of being hired.
4. How does my background measure up with other candidates you’ve submitted?
This question helps you to understand what aspects of your profile can be utilized as differentiators in the interview process. If the recruiter is prepping you for a client interview—which he/she should be—learn what you should highlight during the interview process. It will also assist you to identify any areas in which you are not as strong as your competitors and may require additional focus.
5. What is the compensation range for the position?
To avoid wasting all parties’ time, ask the recruiter what the salary range for the position is and what is included in the compensation package. Compensation is more than just a salary. Companies differentiate themselves through total rewards and hybrid work arrangements by offering bonuses, flexible work arrangements, stock/equity options, and perks tailored to early employees
6. What is the company’s ownership structure and funding status?
In addition to a quality product and market opportunity, it’s more important than ever to ensure the startup organization has the appropriate runway—the amount of time a company has until it runs out of funding—to survive as a business. If the runway is less than a year, be sure to ask the recruiter about future funding plans. You want to make certain that you are interviewing with a startup that is sustainable and has a strong management team with a well-thought-out business plan.
7. How often do you work on searches that could potentially align with my career goals?
As an experienced professional, you likely have a network that you can leverage to find your next opportunity. By aligning with the right recruiter, you can benefit from his/her relationships with organizations aligned with your interests. It’s important to ask for references and placement success in your industry to ensure the recruiter aligns with your career goals. Convey a consistent picture of who you are, your leadership ability, decision-making style, emotional intelligence, and all the qualities and experiences that make you unique and qualified to work at an early-stage high-growth company.
This blog was written by Viaduct Senior Talent Consultant and Executive Recruiter John Jameson.