Interview Prep Deep Dive - Recruiter Call
This week, I'm starting a new series "Interview Prep Deep Dive", intended to write a post dedicated to each interview type described in PM Interview Process and PM Interview Key Components. This week, lets start from the Recruiter Call, and how to best prepare for it!
For the general product manager interview process introduction, feel free to visit/revisit "Land That Dream Product Job" series.
I'll walk you through
What is a Recruiter Call
Why is it Important
What to Expect
How to Best Prepare
What Is a Recruiter Call
Here I meant the first stage of the interview process, where a recruiter gets on a call with you to kick off the conversations about a product role you applied to (or are interested). Obviously if you made all the way through the entire process, you might get on a call with the recruiter a few more times.
A recruiter call is both introductory and screening in nature, where the recruiter wants to get to you, get you to learn more about the role and the company, and gauge at a very high level whether you'd be a fit or even whether she/he believes you have a chance to make through the process.
Why is it Important
First of all, it's the first "gate" you have to get through. If even the recruiter doesn't believe in your candidacy, you would already fail without even talking with a single "interviewer". Secondly, it's your chance to understand better the role, the company, and arguably most importantly, what to expect in the process.
Is it easy to pass? Maybe. At least relatively easier than the rest of the interviews for sure. But I have seen countless candidates stop at this stage. And I'd say 90% of the failure at this stage is sheer lack of preparation, and that you're not bringing your A game. How do I know? I used to be one of them.
It is important because not only does the recruiter screen you, she/he can become your best advocate throughout the rest of the process if you do well.
What to Expect
It's always important to keep the goals in mind going into any conversations. Both yours and recruiter's. Recruiter's main goals are:
To assess your qualification/quality against job requirements
To gauge your actual interest in the role and the company
Your goals should be:
Showcase your qualification and interest
Learn about the role, company, and the process.
Key questions to always be prepared for:
Introduction to yourself (can come in all shape or form - "tell me a little bit about yourself", "tell me 3 things you want me to take away from your resume, "give me a one minute summary of your resume")
Why leaving the current company / why interested in this role and company: this is primarily gauge your interest and your motivation. They want to know if you're genuinely interested in the nature of the job or because of some surface reason, or if there's any negative reasons why you rush to leave your current role (like bad performing, bad mouthing your boss / colleagues).
What are you looking for / what's your goal : in the next role and in the long term. This again is to assess your motivation, and see if they believe this role can match what you're expecting (product nature, growth, culture etc.)
Your relevant experience: do you have specific product experience or skills that overlap with the role you're interviewing for. This is more often in a role specific process (vs general process without a targeted role to begin with).
Optionally, recruiters can actually already dive into some of the product competencies, again in order to weed out unqualified candidates. Non-exhaustive but I've seen most frequent ones:
Tell me about an major product you are working on / have worked on, walk me through the business impact and your end to end product management approach
What are some metrics you're tracking for your products?
What's your approach to prioritize?
Then there is always time for you to ask questions. Either throughout the conversation, or at the end.
Lastly at the end, recruiter will either say they'll take what they learned and run by the hiring team before getting back to you, or if they will already on the spot move you forward and talk to you about the next steps in the process. If you do well, more often than not they'd already tell you about next steps in the call. But it's not 100% always. Sometimes they do have to take it back to review before communicating about next steps.
How to Best Prepare
Study the role and the company: look thoroughly into job description. Look at the company website to understand the products, the business models, the culture at a high level. This will help you self assess your interest and match, anticipate questions, and even prepare good questions.
Prepare answers to basic questions outlined above: As always, prepare answers that are concise, structured, and relevant. Relevant can't be overlooked, it means "don't use a canned response". Fine tune a bit catering for this role. For example, in your self intro, with the same minute length, you want to highlight the experience that's the most relevant to this role. For another example, you might want to match interviewer's intro's tone and pace. (E.g. if the interviewer gets casual to also talk about his hobby, you can consider responding with a bit yours too). Of course this last one has to be made on the fly. You can't prepare ahead.
Anticipate more questions: Always be mentally prepared to be getting more than basic questions. You cannot possibly exhaustively prepare for all permutations. But the more you study about the role/company/etc. and the more you interview, the more you should be able to guess what might come up. E.g. if the company cares too much about candidate's culture fit (as per its career site or job description), expect some behavioral questions to come up. Or say, if your resume has an experience where you only stayed at the job for 6 months. Be prepared to speak to it. Just as examples.
Prepare good questions to ask: I can't stress enough how important this part is to all interviews, not just with recruiters. For recruiters, prepare questions around the role, the team, the hiring manager, the company, the culture, and the process would be good.
Bring your ear and heart to the conversations: This is also a universally important element. Always stepping into the conversation being ready to listen attentively, and respond/ask questions wisely. There's no better way to win recruiter's heart than this. Especially for a PM role :)
Common pitfalls I saw include:
Recruiter call is easy so I don't have to prepare at all: enough said above. Please please do prepare if you want the next steps.
I don't care as much about the role/company details that much until I get an offer, so I really just want to dive right into learning about the interview process with the recruiter: even if it's true especially because the job is too hot and getting through the interview process is the most difficult. Again you have to show enough interest and curiosity. It's a part of the assessment.
Recruiter reached out to me (aka "I did not apply"), so I should be assessing them more than they're assessing me: this can't be more wrong. Recruiters reach out, in addition to believing you "might" be qualified, just because that's how they work. They have to "source" candidates. They need to enlarge the candidate pools so that they can end up making hires. It's a probability game. Even if you're super qualified coming from FAANG or Unicorns, they will still need to assess you at a high level to make sure you're really what they thought you were.
So promise me. If you're really interested in moving forward in the process, don't ever let your guard down. Bring your A game to all recruiter calls. Will you?
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