The Correct Way to React When a Recruiter Reaches Out to You

Stacy Pursell

The VET Recruiter ®

I reach out to candidates on a daily basis about career opportunities. Sometimes these candidates are active job seekers, and sometimes they’re passive candidates.

If they’re an active job seeker, there’s a good chance that they’ll welcome my call and be prepared to talk. However, if they’re a passive candidate, there’s an equally good chance that they’re not expecting my call. As a result, they are not always prepared to talk, which is certainly okay.

You don’t have to be prepared to talk with a recruiter to actually talk with one.

In this blog post, I’d like to discuss the correct way to react when a recruiter reaches out to you. That’s because there is a right way to do so and a wrong way. Even if you are not interested in considering or pursuing another employment opportunity, it’s recommended that you do it the right way. If you do so in that fashion, then you’ll be able to effectively address the present situation and also position yourself for future career success.

Your friend, the recruiter

This blog post is based, at least in part, on a real-life example. Recently, someone from my office reached out to a potential candidate about a job opportunity. The candidate, in short, was offended by the fact that a recruiter reached out to her.

In fact, the candidate said that she thought it was wrong to call someone at work and try to recruit them.

Let’s start there, shall we? It is, in fact, not wrong for a recruiter to call someone at their place of employment and attempt to recruit them. This has been happening for decades, ever since the recruiting profession was created. To help illustrate this point, I’d like to quote a passage from a book titled The Recruiter is Your Friend: This Ain’t Your Granddaddy’s Job Search by Kristen M. Hallows.

“Unlike a military raid, recruiters don’t take hostages; they simply offer better opportunities for potential candidates to consider. Employees are not owned; they choose what is best for them and their families. If they opt to take advantage of a new opportunity, the shame should not be on the recruiter, but rather on the former employer for taking them for granted and not insuring that the best opportunity was being delivered!”

To paraphrase this passage, nobody steals employees. Nobody walks into an organization, knocks an employee unconscious, stuffs that employee in a large duffel bag, and then drags them across the street to work for another employer. It might sound like I’m being facetious, and I am. However, I’m also being serious. Ultimately, the professional decides whether or not they want to work for another organization. Nobody forces them to do it. They make the decision to do it based upon a number of factors, most of which are specific to their situation.

So, no. Presenting an employment opportunity to a passive candidate for that candidate to consider is not wrong. In fact it is a recruiter’s job to do so. Since that’s out of the way, let’s proceed.

No reason to fear disloyalty

Animal Health recruiters and Veterinary recruiters work for organizations and companies that want them to identify and recruit top candidates in the marketplace for their open positions. As we’ve discussed, the majority of these candidates are passive candidates. That means the recruiters must reach out to them, and not the other way around. The onus is on the recruiters. That’s because the onus is on the employers. After all, passive candidates don’t even know that these employers are trying to hire in the first place.

So you really can’t blame recruiters (or employers, for that matter) for reaching out to passive candidates. With that being said, I understand the trepidations that a candidate could have in such a situation. They might be afraid that their employer will find out that they spoke to a recruiter on the phone. If that happens, then their loyalty may be called into question, even if they have no immediate plans to leave their employer.

I’m going to bold the entire following sentence to underscore its importance:

Just because you speak with a recruiter does NOT mean that you have to consider the employment opportunity they present to you, NOR does it mean that you are a disloyal person.

All it means is that you are open to hearing about another opportunity. That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean you’re disloyal. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you have to pursue the opportunity. All you really have to do is listen.

Sounds simple, right?

A 6-step plan for proper interaction

If a recruiter contacts you about an opportunity, you should be flattered. That’s because it means the recruiter considers you a potential fit for their client’s open position. And since the recruiter contacted you, it means that you’re a passive candidate, quite possibly one of the top candidates in your field within the Animal Health industry or Veterinary profession.

So this is the correct way to react when a recruiter (or somebody from a recruiting office) reaches out to you:

  1. Be respectful. The recruiter knows that confidentiality is important to you. They have experience handling such matters in a confidential manner and it is their job to so. Confidentiality should be the recruiter’s hallmark. In our firm confidentiality is of the upmost importance to all of us. We believe relationships start with trust and we are trusted advisors to protect confidentiality on behalf of our clients and our candidates.
  2. Be willing to listen to what the recruiter has to say. Once again, just because you listen to what the opportunity is, that does not mean you are obligated to do anything. You’re just listening.
  3. Tell the recruiter either yes, you’re interested in exploring the opportunity or no, you’re not interested in exploring the opportunity. However listen to the opportunity first and then decide how to proceed. Don’t say no automatically before hearing what the opportunity is. Our brains have been programmed to say no before saying yes and this is not helpful to navigating your career forward. Some of the most successful people get ahead because a recruiter contacts them with a better opportunity than the one they had.
  4. Answer any follow-up questions that the recruiter might have to the best of your ability.
  5. If you’re not interested in exploring this particular opportunity, communicate to the recruiter the opportunity that you would be interested in exploring. That way, the recruiter can keep their eye out for such an opportunity in the future. Recruiters are in the trenches all day and they talk with employers all day and know where the opportunities are.
  6. If you’re not interested in exploring the opportunity and you know somebody who might be, pass that name along to the recruiter. You never know: you might help somebody else land a new job and build goodwill with the recruiter in the process. The recruiter will remember you in the future.

A recruiter can be of tremendous value to you in the employment marketplace. They have access to opportunities that you don’t know about. They have access to information about employers that you don’t have. They have expertise regarding the hiring process that has taken years to accumulate, and you can put that expertise to use to grow your career.

So the next time a recruiter calls you, don’t be offended. Be flattered. And just listen to what they have to say. After all, what they tell you could change your life for the better. I can say this with confidence because of all the letters and cards I have received over the years from candidates who have thanked me for calling them and changing their life. This is what gets me out of bed every morning. By the way,  I would be more concerned if recruiters weren’t calling me. I’m a recruiter and I get calls from recruiters. Recently a recruiter called me twice at work about a CEO job at another recruiting firm.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of Animal Health and Veterinary organizations. If this is something that you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.

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