When A Recruiter Calls (Part 1) …And You’re Interested!

Talent has become the world’s most sought-after resource.  As the economy changes and grows, organizations will continue to seek out the “brainpower” and top human talent to drive their organizations to excellence.

A poll conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, a provider of business research and executive education, discovered that 75% of senior human resource managers said that “attracting and retaining” talent was their number one priority.

McKinsey, a management consultancy, came to a similar conclusion in a fascinatingly different way.  The consultancy divided American jobs into three categories: “transformational” (taking raw materials and converting them into a finished product), “transactional” (interactions that can easily be scripted or automated) and “tacit” (complex interactions requiring a high level of judgment).  The consultancy concludes that over the past several years the number of American jobs that emphasize “tacit interactions” has grown at a three-time faster pace than employment in general.  And, “tacit” jobs account for 70% of the jobs created.

What does all this mean to you?  PLENTY!  Virtually all positions requiring the services of a recruiter are “tacit” positions requiring the use of judgment.  And, companies are very aware of the shortage of talent.  Bottom line: your skills and experience are in demand.  Expect and be prepared to be contacted by a recruiter.

Being in demand does not necessarily put you in the driver’s seat when dealing with a recruiter.  Recruiters are hired to locate several qualified candidates for any particular position.  Handling yourself incorrectly when a recruiter calls can cut you off from current or future career opportunities. Alternatively, handling yourself correctly and with professionalism will put you in a position for current and future opportunities with this recruiter.  

In part one of this two-part series, we will discuss how to respond to a recruiter’s communication when you are interested and qualified in the position.  Then, in part two, how to respond when you are not interested or not qualified. 

More than likely, your first contact by a recruiter will either be a message through LinkedIn, email, or voicemail. Always respond promptly.  The evaluation process has already begun.  Are you the caliber of professional who is responsive and can successfully juggle multiple tasks in a reasonable time frame?  Your response time is important and will be noted by the recruiter.

When you speak with the recruiter, listen to what the recruiter has to say.  The recruiter may ask a few qualifying questions to determine your suitability for the position.  Be honest in who you are, what you do, and what you have achieved.  Do not exaggerate or embellish. You are positioning yourself for both the presented opportunity and ones for the future. Recruiters and hiring executives have a knack at getting to the truth.  If your exaggeration is discovered, the recruiter will not work with you on any other current or future opportunities.  And, there is nothing preventing the hiring executive from telling other of your embellishment.  Something you do not want.

Be articulate and positive.  The fact that you have been contacted means that you might have the right qualifications for the position.  How you communicate and your demeanor is being evaluated.  All organizations seek a candidate who can communicate concepts clearly and have positive, can-do attitude.

After you have answered the recruiter’s questions and s/he has informed you about the opportunity, ask reasonable questions about the opportunity.  These questions should be directed towards determining whether you are interested in the position.  Avoid asking too detailed of questions…ones that are better asked to the hiring executive during an interview. 

Be decisive.  If the opportunity appeals to you, say so.  It’s okay to ask for a short period of time to evaluate the company should the recruiter disclose the company name. Part of the recruiter’s evaluation process is to locate candidates who know what they want and can make informed decisions.  But, be prompt and always call the recruiter back with your decision.

Ask questions about the recruiter.  Find out who you are dealing with.  Questions about the recruiter’s tenure in the business, positions s/he specializes, segmentations (kinds of organizations s/he works with), and geographical reach are all fair game.  Gain a comfort level.  You may be working with this recruiter for the next couple of months or have communications over the rest of your career.

Depending upon how you feel about the recruiter and his/her level of expertise, ask for a candid opinion from the recruiter regarding the positives and negatives of pursuing the described position.  This opinion should be given in light of your current situation.  Is the recruiter selling you on the position or consulting with you toward the right decision – a good match?  Keep that conclusion in mind should you proceed forward in the process. 

Recruiters have differing philosophies about discussing compensation on the first call.  However, it is permissible to ask.  If your current compensation is $200,000 more than what the position can offer, there may be no reason to continue.  The recruiter will likely ask for your compensation (be honest) and respond as to whether you are in the hiring range.

Never manipulate a recruiter’s call into a solicitation for a raise or counter-offer from your current employer.  If you do, you will cut yourself off from future opportunities from this recruiter.  Word about that kind of behavior tends gets around. 

Should you pursue the opportunity, update and provide a resume as soon as reasonably possible.  When recruiters present candidates, they usually provide the hiring executive with a summary of your qualifications and a resume.  Not providing a resume can put you at a competitive disadvantage when the hiring executive decides who to interview. A reasonably complete LinkedIn profile can suffice in the short term, but an up-to-date resume should be provided.

If you follow these guidelines, you will have handled yourself professionally with the recruiter.  Depending upon your qualifications and those of other candidates, your credentials and background may be presented to the company.

Brian Howard, J.D. is a Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC), a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS), a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), and an actively practicing executive recruiter. He is the author of the Motivated Series of job search books which include The Motivated Job Search (2nd Ed.), Over 50 and Motivated, The Motivated Networker, Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles, and The Motivated College Graduate.