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Once you've submitted an application, one of the first steps in the interview process is often taking a phone call with a recruiter -- sometimes called a phone screening.

This is time for the recruiter to ask questions about your application materials, probe about your experience, and ask specifics about your qualifications. 

A woman with her hand on her chin looks off to her right, as if in thought.

Image source: Getty Images.

Other times, a recruiter may reach out to you -- often via LinkedIn --  even if you haven't applied for a specific job, to gauge your interest in an open position.

When recruiters come calling, you should be prepared with insightful questions about the company and the position that uncover important information and show your interest in the job.

12 questions to ask recruiters

1. How long have you been working with the company?

It's helpful to understand the relationship the recruiter holds with the company they're working for. The longer the two have been connected, the more likely it is the recruiter will have in-depth information on the management styles within the organization, typical company culture, employee treatment, etc. -- not to mention their opinion may be highly trusted among the company's top decisionmakers. 

2. How did this position become available? 

Did the previous employee quit or receive a promotion? Is this a newly created position as a result of company growth?

The answer to this question could reveal a red flag; perhaps the position sees high turnover, or something positive -- perhaps the company provides growth opportunities.

3. What does the typical interview process look like and what is the time frame?

A recruiter will have the inside scoop on how many rounds of interviews you can expect, the typical length of each, who you'll meet, and the company's hoped-for start date for the new hire.

4. Can you tell me anything about what I might be asked in an interview?

You could even ask the recruiter for some of the questions you'll likely be asked in later stages of the interview process.

They might be able to clue you in on what's most important to the organization and to the hiring manager. 

5. What does the day-to-day routine for this position look like?

According to a Glassdoor survey, 60% of newly hired employees say their position turned out quite differently than they had expected based on initial interviews.

To avoid frustration down the road, ask about what the day-to-day routine of this job would look like and ask about the employer's expectations 30 days, 60 days, and even 90 days into the role to ensure your goals are aligned. Press the recruiter for details, specifics, and examples. You might even ask what percentage of the hire's time may be spent on which tasks. 

6. What are the most important qualifications the hiring manager is looking for?

Sure, these will be listed on the application, but a recruiter can help point to the deal-breakers. 

The answer to this question will help you scope out if you are really a good fit for the open job. Also, these desired qualifications can help you tailor future interview answers to include your personal strengths in these areas.

7. What can you tell me about the hiring manager?

The recruiter can help give you a sense of whether your working style with jive with the hiring manager's. Ask what they like about working with them. Ask the recruiter where they believe there is room for improvement. How experienced are they? What kind of reputation does the hiring manager have in the organization? 

Ask for examples and press for details.

8. What are the company's core values? How do they put these into practice? Which is weakest? The strongest?

If you ask simply, what's the company culture like? the recruiter is going to give you only a positive answer, which might not be the whole answer -- because, of course, their goal is to sell candidates on the role and the company. Instead, ask the question in terms of "how." How does the organization foster what it believes to be important? Where do they need to improve? How do they plan to improve?

9. Do you have any reservations about my qualifications? 

Many candidates wouldn't think to ask such a bold question, but the answer can give you a tremendous advantage before you go into later stages of the interview process -- and make you stand out to the recruiter.

If there's anything the recruiter initially spots that would hold you back from receiving an offer, chances are a hiring manager would have similar thoughts. 

Use your recruiter's advice to correct any potential flags -- or prepare to address them in your interview -- before you reach your first round of interviews with decisionmakers at the company.

10. What's turnover like at the company?

The median tenure for wage and salary workers is just 4.2 years. If employees have a track record for cutting out early, it could be a red flag that culture in the company is not as healthy as it could be. If you feel like turnover is high, press them for their thoughts on why and how the company plans to improve retention.

11. How did you find me? How do you typically find candidates?

If the recruiter reached out to you without your submitting an application first, you should ask them how they found you. 

It helps to know how recruiters wind up with your information on their computer screens, so you can optimize those platforms. 

Eighty-seven percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates, and other social media sites are growing in popularity during job searches as well, so make sure you're always putting your best foot forward.  

12. Are there any changes to my resume or cover letter you would recommend?

You've got a recruiter's attention. You might as well take advantage of all of their knowledge and expertise. 

This is your chance to get an expert opinion on your resume and cover letter, and from an expert who knows the industry and its needs. Their feedback can help you better highlight your most in-demand skills and improve your applications in the future.