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AAL Newsletter

What to Do When a Recruiter Calls

by Abigail Jaye, B.A.
Abigail Jaye-web

You’re working in your office, rushing to meet a deadline. And three other projects await your attention.

Then the phone rings, and a friendly voice at the other end introduces herself as a recruiter who would like to discuss an intriguing opportunity with you.

Talking to a “headhunter” might be the last thing you want to do, but, before you blow off the recruiter as an intrusion, a better strategy might be to explain that it is not a convenient time to talk, get a phone number, and call back when you are free.

You might also ask the recruiter if she has any written materials about her client and the opportunity, and then provide a confidential email where she can send it.

Why do this if you’re content in your current position? Because opportunity knocks unexpectedly. So why not keep a potential career-changing opportunity alive by taking the time to read the materials?

Also, do some sleuthing about the recruiter. Put her or her company’s name in a search engine, and see what you find. If the materials she’s sent are too generic (as job descriptions often are), jot down a few specific questions before returning her call.

Your first question might be, is the recruiter with a retained or contingency search firm?

A retained search firm is paid a retainer to do a systematic and thorough search of companies and organizations where an ideal candidate might be currently employed. When the client and the candidate agree on terms, and once the candidate is officially hired, then the retained recruiter is paid a final fee.

On the other hand, a contingency recruiter is paid only after a candidate has been hired. Since they are not paid to search systematically, and clients are not required to pay a retainer, a company will often ask several contingency recruiters to perform the same search concurrently. And because a contingency recruiter’s fee is contingent upon the candidate being hired, the process can be much less detailed, and even a bit slapdash.

Ask the recruiter if she is at liberty to tell you who her client is. And then ask how she found you: Did she or others at her firm do research, or did someone refer you?

Next, probe for detailed information about the job: Why is the position open? Is there an incumbent? Did someone leave, or is it a new job? Who does the position report to, and what staff would you be managing?

Discuss the main challenges of the role, get the recruiter’s take on what is going on within the organization, and how this impacts the department that has this job opening.

Ask how the recruiter would describe the culture of the organization. Get a sense of the opportunities for career advancement.

And finally, inquire about the compensation range and benefits.

Now you will have a clearer picture to compare the opportunity to your current situation.

But why even spend all this time on the phone with a recruiter if you are content in your current job?

Simply put, when you are happily employed, there is no better way for you to objectively evaluate an important employment opportunity, without any outside influences.

Think of it as the ideal time to envision your future.

What would you like to be doing five or ten years from now? What career challenges do you need to keep you growing personally and professionally?

If the recruiter has answered your questions to the best of her ability and gained your trust, consider taking the next step. After all, you can always say “no” and opt out at any step in the process.

No recruiter wants to be misled, but, if after your conversation your interest is genuine, a reputable recruiter will guide you through the remaining steps.

One important consideration: Pursuing candidacy on a search just to leverage a salary increase in your current position is not a good idea. Aside from bad karma and wasting everybody’s time, you will gain a reputation as someone who lacks professionalism. Studies have shown that if your current employer does capitulate to giving you a raise, you now have a target on your back. The chances are good that your boss will, on his or her timetable, replace you with someone regarded as more loyal.

If the recruiter asks for your resume, get her assurance that it will be handled in strict confidence. Reputable recruiters do not “float” resumes on the market in order to gain search assignments (see contingency vs. retained recruiters).

Does your resume need updating? Ask for a few days to spruce it up. Here are a few specifics a recruiter will want to know:

  • Organization names, your title(s) and the dates you held the position(s).
  • A brief institutional description of your department or section including size, revenues, purpose/mission/programs, etc. Please don’t assume that everyone is familiar with your organization.
  • A description of your position duties.
  • Three to four bullet points of your accomplishments in this position.
  • Education with years your degree(s) were conferred.
  • Significant associations/honors, awards/community service etc.

Make sure all dates are reconciled. Be prepared to discuss gaps in the chronology of your work history. Also be prepared to discuss reasons for position transitions (e.g., a promotion, a downsizing, etc.).

If after an exploratory call the position is not a fit, see if you can refer others to the recruiter. This will stand you in good stead, since the recruiter will remember you for your professional behavior, and as someone to contact when other intriguing and life-changing opportunities arise.

Abigail Jaye is the Senior Search Consultant within AAL’s Executive Search Group.

     Is your organization undergoing change that requires new skills and leadership?

     Contact us to learn how the AAL Executive Search Group can help you identify and recruit the most qualified and experienced people in your field.

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Dr. Tandra Atkins

NYU Lutheran Medical Center

"The AAL team has enhanced my knowledge and decision making tools, objective analysis, and creativity in a radically changing health care environment."