Top 10 Recruitment Consultant Interview Questions

Two hiring managers interviewing a woman in a modern office

Interviewing for a recruitment consultant position is a tricky task, as you’re essentially trying to prove to your interviewer that you’re qualified to sit in their position. Therefore, you’re going to need to show that you’re an expert on the hiring process and that you can identify and demonstrate what makes you the perfect candidate.

To help, we’ve researched and prepared some of the most common questions you’re likely to be asked, as well as how you should answer them. These are the top 10 recruitment consultant interview questions that you need to get to grips with.

1. ‘Why do you want to work in recruitment?’

This is a fairly straightforward question, designed to assess your motivation and suitability for the role. Obviously, this will be different for each candidate, but you should emphasise that you’re driven by a desire to help both jobseekers and employers find their right match.

Talk about what makes you good at it, as well. For example, you could mention that you are a naturally perceptive person and that your talent for identifying people’s strengths and motivations makes you ideally suited to the role.

2. ‘How would you handle a candidate who was clearly unqualified for a particular role?’

One of the trickier aspects of life as a recruitment consultant is that you are the one performing the initial CV sift. Therefore, when a candidate is punching too far above their weight, you have to prioritise the needs and requirements of the employer, while remaining professional with the applicant.

The best way to answer this question is to prove that you can be tactful. Say something like: ‘I know the company quite well, and I just don’t think you’d be a good fit for each other. I’ll look through all our other open positions and see if there’s a better match. In the meantime, you may want to consider taking action X (ie: something that provides either further credentials or additional experience).’

3. ‘How would you handle a candidate that isn’t suitable for any of your clients?’

This is a slightly more complex question than the previous one, but the important thing to remember is that, at the end of the day, the client is the one who foots the bill. As a result, you can’t waste their time by putting forward candidates that you know you wouldn’t hire yourself.

You still need to be professional and diplomatic with the applicant, though. Tell your interviewer that you would say something along the lines of: ‘We don’t have anything that’s a suitable fit right now, but we’ll keep your résumé on file and give you a call as soon as something pops up.’

4. ‘How would you fill a vacancy that nobody wants to apply for?’

Your interviewer wants to know that, when it comes to a particularly unappealing vacancy, you are able to still attract and provide suitable candidates to the employer.

If you haven’t got any previous experience, then you’ll need to talk about how you would approach it, whereas if you are an experienced candidate, then you’ll be expected to give a specific example.

Either way, your answer should cover your ability to ‘sell’ a position to a candidate by focusing on the (truthful!) positives, whatever they may be. You should also discuss that you are proactive and, rather than waiting for people to apply, you would utilise your existing network, as well as other professional tools such as LinkedIn, to go out and approach people directly.

5. ‘How would you handle a difficult client?’

Some applicants can’t accept the fact that they are unsuitable or unqualified (or both) for a job, while, conversely, an employer may chastise your recommendations, even though you’ve put forward some great candidates. Either way, it’s a simple truth that, at some point, your clients will become difficult.

To answer the question well, you need to show that you possess conflict resolution skills, as well as the ability to remain professional even when your professional judgement is being called into question. Say that you’d calmly and politely inform the client why you made the particular call that you did, as well as inform them that you are only committed to matching them with the right person/company.

6. ‘Why did you leave your previous role?’

Regardless of industry or profession, this question is a job interview standard and is usually one of the first things you’ll be asked.

To answer it effectively, though, you need to be careful. Don’t focus on the negative aspects of your previous role but, rather, emphasise the positive opportunities that await you in this one. For instance, you could say something along the lines of: ‘I’m an ambitious person, and my previous role didn’t offer the same opportunities for growth.’

Whatever your answer, ensure that you never bad-mouth your previous company, role or boss. It’s hugely unprofessional, and your interviewer wants to hear about how you align with their company – not what you hated about your old one.

7. ‘What do you think makes a good recruitment consultant?’

On the surface, this question is assessing your knowledge and perception of the role, but it’s not just about listing off various attributes; you also have to show that you possess those attributes, too.

Talk about all the qualities required, such as strong communication, diplomacy, industry knowledge and the ability to network, then emphasise how you are strong in all these areas. This not only demonstrates that you know what it takes to be successful in the job, but that you are the best fit for it, too.

8. ‘How would you apply your experience as a candidate to your potential role as a recruiter?’

As a recruitment consultant, you’ll not only have to understand what to look for when hiring someone; you’ll also have to see things from the candidate’s perspective, too. Being able to apply the things you’ve learned on both sides of the table is key to being a good consultant, after all.

You need to show in your answer that you are capable of seeing the bigger picture and identifying what both parties should be looking for in order to either help companies attract the best candidates or for candidates to say and do the right things on their CVs and in interviews.

9. ‘How would you handle a situation where you disagree with a client on a hiring decision?’

This is an interesting question, as you want to show that you care about your role and are genuinely committed to finding the right candidate for your client, but at the same time, you also have to respect the final decision on who they choose to hire.

Say something like: ‘I would respectfully and politely inform the client that, while candidate X is a great choice, I firmly believe that candidate Y’s experience and existing relationships with certain financial clients would benefit their growth plans in that sector going forward [or whatever the reason is].’

Your interviewer wants to know that you can leverage your expertise to give sound advice, but that, ultimately, if the client believes that they have got the right person for the job, then that is the most important thing.

10. ‘What questions would you ask a prospective candidate?’

Sometimes structured as a roleplay exercise, this question is simply looking for proof that you know what to look for in a candidate before recommending them to a paying client.

You can reel off a few standard questions like ‘What do you think makes you a good fit for this role?’, but ensure that you would prioritise the client’s requirements, too. For example, if they want someone capable of working unsupervised, say that you would ask the candidate what their preferred working style is. It’s important that you convey your understanding of the technical processes involved in finding the right candidate, as well as be able to work within the parameters of your client’s needs.

It’s understandable to feel nervous before any job interview, but even more so as a recruitment consultant, as you know that the person asking the questions knows all the tips and tricks of the process.

But as long as you prepare well, think about your answers and understand the role, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be successful, even if it does feel strange being on the opposite side of the table!

Have you ever been in this position? How did it work out? And what other advice would you give? Let us know in the comments section below.


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 2 February 2017.