You just received a voicemail from an executive recruiter. He asked you if you would like to be considered for a job.  His client is looking for a Sales Leader to run a growing sales team.  The company is a leader in the market.  They need a dynamic individual with industry experience to lead a new initiative.   “If you know anyone who is interested, please call me back at……”


Sound familiar?  Do you call him back?  What do you say?


Recruiters have changed.  The use of social media has required they do things differently.


  • Decide if it’s worth your time to call the recruiter back
  • Prepare you to ask the most critical questions on that first call
  • Determine if you should pursue the opportunity
  • Gauge your chance of success in the role


There are 5 key questions you need to ask on that initial call.  Questions that establish creditability with the recruiter.  But more importantly they will indicate if this is worth your time.


Top 5 Must Ask Questions:


  1. Why did the last guy leave? – You want to know what happened.  If it was a termination, what was the reason?  Was it voluntary and if so, why? They might not tell you.  But to understand if this is fit, you need to find out.   These answers will indicate the state of the sales organization.  Both are telling signs of a potential unhealthy sales team. This will reveal turnaround situation. Try to understand and gauge how they respond.
  2. Can I talk to the person that was in the job before? – The answer is probably no. But that simple question should lead to others. What was their background?  Was he/she promoted internally? What are they doing now?   These answers will test the recruiter’s knowledge.  If you get a lousy answer, don’t expect much help from this recruiter.  They aren’t very good and are simply filling the top of the candidate funnel.
  3. Who is my potential boss? – Most recruiters won’t give the name to you.  They don’t want you directly connecting with that person.  They fear losing their commissions if you go direct. If you get a no, ask other questions.  How long has he been at the company? What is his background? What is his reputation in the sales team?  These answers give you a quick insight whether this opportunity is good for you. Research the company on Linked In and find out who they might be.  Understanding your potential future boss will be key to your ultimate decision.
  4. How will I be measured for success? – This could be the single most important question asked. The answer will literally tell you if it’s right for you.  Unrealistic expectations of a Sales Leader are the top reason for a quick exit.  You can also learn if the expectations are too soft.  This might indicate a non-performance culture.  This type of culture leads to systemic poor sales results. And tells you there might be complacency in the sales organization. This could also mean the goal might have been unrealistic.  Ask how the performance of the team has been the past 18 months.  You want to be sure you are walking into a situation you can win.
  5. How does the company differentiate itself? – Their value proposition will tell you what type of sales organization you need.  Weak value props indicate more need for process and control.  Think lower cost sales people under strict process. Strong differentiation in the market allows more flexibility throughout the sales organization.  But leads to higher cost sales people.  Understanding this answer will help you gauge whether this gig is right for you.


A good executive recruiter knows the answers to these questions. If they don’t, you are not speaking with the correct person.  They are an entry level ‘get qualified candidates to me’ grunt assistant.  Ask for the job specification up front. And ask to speak directly to the person who interacted with the hiring manager.  Test their knowledge of the open position.  If you don’t get the answers you want, don’t pursue.  Landing a Sales Leader position with the wrong company leads to you leaving soon.  No one wants that.


Do you have other questions that you would ask?  Please post them in the comments section. We all get the phone calls from recruiters.  Let’s learn from one another. We need to put ourselves in position to decide what is best for us.