How To Talk To a Recruiter

If you’ve got a robust profile on LinkedIn or have a job in a hot industry, chances are a recruiter has reached out to you at some point. Some job seekers reach out themselves to recruiters, and others are not seeking work but are passive candidates who are desirable to other companies. Regardless of what category you’re in, knowing how to talk to a recruiter is important.

  1. Have a collaborative mindset. Recruiters are your advocate and your advisor. The process works well when you consider them a partner and engage equally with them rather than just being reactive to opportunities. This means that you are open to a dialogue and giving enough information to the recruiter so that they can best serve you. If you view the recruiter/candidate relationship as merely transactional, you won’t have the best results. If you say, “No, I’m not interested in that opportunity,” follow it up with why. “I just don’t like it,” isn’t a helpful answer for a recruiter.
  2. Know what you want. A recruiter isn’t your life coach. You need to have some clear ideas of what you want – and what you don’t. For example, know if you want to work for a large company or a startup, whether you are open to remote work or if flexible hours are a must-have for you. What is most important: work/life balance, an organization’s culture or even an office location in a specific area? 
  3. Have good questions. Show your interest in specific roles by doing some research beforehand. Ask about day to day responsibilities, the size of the team and whom you’ll be working with, what success in the role looks like, what are the opportunities for professional development. It’s always good to ask the recruiter what hesitancies they have about your fit for a role to see if you can address them as well.
  4. Don’t start off with compensation demands. This is a classic. If your only priority is compensation, it is hard for a recruiter to understand what roles might work. (It’s also just a big turn off and doesn’t show you’re serious about new opportunities – just fishing for a number.) 
  5. Be honest. This advice is evergreen. If you’re not interested in other opportunities, or are already far down the road in a hiring process with someone else, just say so. It’s polite and professional, and the world is small. Every interaction is an opportunity to make a professional impression, for better or for worse. And who knows? You might be more interested down the road, and you don’t want to close any doors.

Tory Schuessler, Director of Recruiting at TalentReach, has a good example of a successful recruiting conversation. “We had an executive search candidate who really knew what he wanted. He had a collaborative mindset, and in one thirty minute conversation, where we discussed four potential opportunities, he was able to say very clearly which he wanted to pursue and why,” says Schuessler. “He put himself directly into the process and was able to seize that opportunity.”

It is most important to remember that working with a recruiter is a huge advantage in a competitive market. The recruiter will have insights and knowledge you do not have, and can act as your sounding board and advisor. With a collaborative mindset and honesty, you can unlock opportunities you were never aware of before.


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