On the phone with a recruiter? Don't forget to ask these nine important questions.

Ring, ring. Hello — it's a recruiter calling you about the job you applied to weeks ago. Or maybe it's a recruiter who stumbled across your LinkedIn profile. Perhaps it's the recruiter you reached out to a few days ago. Either way, they're ready to talk.

This call — even if it only lasts for 10 minutes — is important, and can be arguably more important than an actual job interview. Why? It's your chance to give a great first impression. It's also your chance to ask any questions you might have about the job, prepare for the interview, and even seek additional opportunities.

Here are nine smart questions to ask a job recruiter.

1. Do you work for the hiring company?

In other words, are you an internal or external recruiter?

There are two types of recruiters out there, and it's important to know the difference. An internal recruiter works exclusively with the company that's hiring, while an external recruiter works as a third-party entity, acting as a go-between for the hiring company and the job candidates.

Knowing the difference will help inform the questions you ask — and will even provide context about the answers you receive. For example, an internal recruiter might have more information about the company's culture, but with an external recruiter, you might end your conversation by asking about any additional job opportunities.

2. Who's the ideal candidate for this role?

Want a leg-up in the interview process? Ask the recruiter to describe the company's ideal candidate. Sure, you could just reference the job posting, but the recruiter will likely have more intel. Jot down plenty of notes and ask follow-up questions. You'll be able to use this information to determine if this role is a good fit for you — and even shape your answers for later interview questions (as long as you're being honest).

3. How quickly are you looking to fill this position?

Sometimes it takes weeks to hear back after an interview. By asking how quickly a company's looking to fill a position, you can better understand the pace at which the process will move.

4. How would you describe the company's culture?

Before going into an interview, you'll want to research a company's culture to see if you'd be a good fit. The best way to do this is to study a company's website and poke around social media, but it can be difficult to pick up the vibe from behind a screen.

So if you've got a recruiter on the phone, why not ask? A recruiter should be able to provide some additional insight and color.

5. What's the starting salary range?

This question is a big no-no when it comes to the job interview, but you might feel more comfortable asking a recruiter. After all, the goal with this initial conversation is to figure out if you might be a good fit for the company and vice versa. There's no need to go through the interview process if the company can't pay you what you need.

Of course, you'll need to use your best judgment in determining if this is appropriate to ask. If you do, you'll want to be delicate with the way you phrase the question. Try something along the lines of: “I want to make sure this opportunity fits my needs. Do you have information on compensation? A starting salary range?”

It's also not uncommon for a recruiter to ask you about your salary expectations, so be prepared to answer that question as well.

6. Who will be interviewing me?

If the recruiter has made it clear you've been invited in for the interview, ask about your interviewers. If you're chatting with an internal recruiter, they should be able to rattle off some names and job titles. With this list of names and/or titles in hand, you can better understand the types of questions you'll be asked.

You can also spend some time on LinkedIn exploring these professionals' backgrounds. It sounds creepy, but this can help quickly establish a more personal connection. For example, knowing ahead of time that someone started their career as a newspaper reporter — just like you! — will get the conversation rolling.

7. What's appropriate interview attire?

There are few things more uncomfortable than walking into a shorts-and-T-shirts kind of office in a three-piece suit. You also don't want to show up in khakis and a polo if the office is more formal. It's perfectly fine to ask a recruiter what they recommend you wear to the interview.

8. What types of interview questions shall I expect?

Some recruiters will offer to set up a mock interview with you so you can feel prepared for the real one. Always accept this offer if you're available. This can help alleviate those day-of nerves.

If this isn't the case, you can always ask if there are certain questions you should prepare for ahead of time. If the answer is no, that's OK — it never hurts to ask.

9. What are the next steps?

Above all, the most important question you need to ask is simply, “What are the next steps?”

Ask about how long the interview process is expected to take, if any travel will be required, and what else they'll need from you. All of this is important in not only determining if the opportunity is right for you but also if it's worth your time to pursue.

Any other questions about the process along the way? The recruiter will likely remain your go-to contact for anything you need.

Got advice from a recruiter, but still feel overwhelmed with the interview process? Our expert TopInterview coaches can guide you through.

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