How to Interact with a Recruiter

October 20, 2016

Scene: Recruiter calls you at 2:36pm on a Tuesday afternoon, you are feeling that Italian sub kick in with all its might and you decide to pick up the phone to waste time.

“Hello, this is Stephanie.”

Stephanie, This is Greg from Foster McKay, how you doing today? 

“Fine, what’s up.”

“Was connecting to talk about an engagement we were asked to work on with a Fortune One hund…”

“I’m not interested, thank you.”

“That’s good! It means you are doing well at your job, you’re the exact candidate I want to…”

“I told you I wasn’t interested.” 


I run into 30-40 of these a month and it surprises me every time. I obviously have grown a thick skin otherwise I would have left this business a long time ago but why does it happen like this? I am not a telemarketer, there is nothing you are buying from me. Hello, this is opportunity, I am knocking! 

Not everyone is in the job market; in fact most people are not. Great recruiters have a gauge on the market and can bring valuable insight. Notice I used the adjective “Great,” meaning that with 9000 agencies and thousands of corporate recruiters, you are called by a ton of average and terrible recruiters. You can decipher the best recruiters from the pack in the first minute. We understand that your time is valuable and we probably caught you at work or at a bad time. 

When a recruiter calls, we are excited that we found a qualified candidate that matches our job and this person could be our next hire! Our first impression to you is everything, why wouldn’t you think the same? You just hung up on me, another human, without having any idea what I was talking about.  I was not rude to you, I was not pressuring you nor did I force you to speak with me, I simply was connecting. Recruiters are here to help. Help our clients, help our candidates, help the market to progress. We could be that channel to your dream job 3, 6, 12 months, 5 years down the road! Wouldn’t you want to make a good first impression? 

Our first impression to you is everything, why wouldn’t you think the same?  

Sure, most of us don’t hold grudges from a 20 second phone call for 5 years; we will move on, shrug it off, smile and call our next prospect. What I suggest is to make that recruiter an asset. Here is some advice. 

Have them call back. Let them know this is not a good time and a rough time that you may be available. It could be next week, in a few months or later that day. The idea is that you have that recruiter’s number and now you decide when you want to pick up next.   

Set expectations. Whenever you do get on the phone, let them know why you are not looking. Whether you just started a role, ready for a promotion or love your current job, let the recruiter know! I always present the opportunity and if it’s not the appropriate fit, I ask what can I present that would make sense for their career progression.  This helps refine my search and only present opportunities that you deem appropriate.  Also, let the recruiter know how best to contact you going forward.

Give referrals. Great recruiters connect the dots and we know that great people know other great people. If you refer someone that you know is an A+ candidate, you can bet your ass that recruiter is indebted to you and will make it a priority whenever you are ready to make a move.  

It’s that simple. 20-30 minutes of your time could land you that dream job down the road, won’t burn bridges and now you just added a valuable resource to your network. 

Disclaimer. I feel I am going to catch a lot of grief from people getting recruited over and over again by the same people or for the same job. That probably means that you are a great fit for the role, take it as a compliment!  


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