Contrary to its title, taking a job brief should be anything BUT brief. To stand out as an agency recruiter who really takes their job and their client’s needs seriously, it’s important to drill down for as much information as possible. Knowledge is power, and job brief basics simply aren’t enough to set you up for success. Of course you need to know the obvious stuff: the role, title, level, salary and location. However there is so much more you should find out, to make your life easier in the long run.

As soon as you’ve got the job spec and these key pieces of information, it’s hard not to want to tap out, pick up the phone and start getting in touch with all your star candidates on the hotlist, who you just know will be up for it! This urge is especially hard to fight when you are up against other consultants who might just steal your favourite candidates from under you, by sending it to them and gaining representation rights first. Whether you’re part of a conference, or just having a one-to-one, the more questions you get answers to, the better placed you’ll be to give your client a bespoke, outstanding service.

Bring the role to life

Job descriptions are great documents for summarising the main points of the job brief, and who it is the business is looking for. However in a lot of cases, they are also very generic documents full of buzzwords and idealistic attributes. As one of the earliest sales tools used in trying to recruit a star employee, it’s amazing how little selling actually goes on within them! By really dissecting a role, you will have much more information to use when approaching suitable candidates. When great candidates seem initially disinterested, having a holistic understanding of the opportunity will help you win them over.

1. Why has this role come about?

2. How big is the team they will slot into?

3. What will be this person’s main deliverables?

4. What are the growth prospects, development opportunities and optional career paths for this person?

5. How do you describe the culture of the team & organisation?

6. Who will they actually report to?

Understand the status

By the time the role lands in your trusty, more-than-capable hands, there’s no doubt it’s been through a fair bit. Hiring managers would have had their own crack at talent-spotting or it would have been advertised internally; either way there’s had to have been some unsuccessful attempts occur, using agencies is an expensive solution after all. Of course you wish they’d just given the job straight to you; you are the expert and you could have filled it for them months ago, saving them a few grey hairs in the meantime.

1. What have you done so far, both internally and externally?

2. What challenges have you come up against so far?

Hone in on the person

People buy people. At the end of the day, if someone ticks all the technical boxes but is an absolutely arrogant know-it-all, hiring managers will quickly push them aside. It’s really important to understand what sort of person they want to hire, and where there preferences lie.  Job descriptions often paint a perfect profile that doesn’t really reflect a a realistic talent pool. The more opinions you can get on this, the easier it will be for you to know the ‘right fits’ when you see them, as well as the absolute no-nos.

1. What skills & experience is must have versus nice to have?

2. What sort of people succeed in the company?

3. What companies would you like them to come from?

4. Is there anything you definitely do not want to see on a CV?

5. What would constitute the wow-factor?

Probe into the process

A successful career in agency recruitment is underpinned by a consultant being able to manage a healthy pipeline of roles, and managing time and effort input effectively so as to maximise the chance at closing as many deals as possible. Asking about the process will help you gauge how quickly to work, how much time to spend on it and your likelihood of filling the position. This information will help you prioritise the search against all of your other deliverables. The information you gain by asking process-related questions will also help you judge how serious and committed the business is to making this hire.

1. How many CVs would you like in the shortlist?

2. When do you want this person to start?

3. What is the interview process?

4. When would you like the shortlist?

5. Feedback turnaround time?

6. How many other agencies are working on this brief?

The more information you get, the easier it will be to spot a match when you see one! Can you think of any other great questions to ask? Let us know in the comments below.

Image: Shutterstock

About Phoebe Spinks

Phoebe is the editor of Undercover Recruiter & Senior Account Executive at Link Humans.

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