How to Respond When a Recruiter Emails


Picture yourself in this scenario: you get a notification on your phone that you have a new message. You quickly check the notification and find out that you have a LinkedIn message. When you head over to LinkedIn, you realize that you have been contacted by a recruiter who reached out to you about a job opportunity. What happens? Most likely, you are excited that someone would actually reach out directly to you and thinks that you are the perfect fit for a job at their organization, but then your excitement slowly starts to fade: perhaps due to the fact that you already have another job that you love or perhaps because the job being offered does not have terms favorable to you

Due to today’s tight job market, recruiters will reach out to candidates more often than they used to. However, as the person on the receiving end of a recruiter’s message, how you respond is very important.

How to Capitalize on the Opportunity When a Recruiter Reaches Out to You

Here’s how to make the most of the unique opportunity in front of you.

1. Negotiate the offer: Since you are the one being pursued, it will be more easy to determine the terms of your engagement. Just because someone made you an offer does not mean you should accept it as-is. This is the right time to negotiate the offer: you can negotiate any part of the job including your salary, your position, your benefits, as well as work conditions.

2. Use the offer to negotiate better terms at your current job: Even if you’re satisfied with your current job, an offer from a recruiter could be a blessing in disguise. Depending on the terms of the job, particularly if more attractive than that of your current job, you can use it to negotiate better terms with your current employers. If they see that attempts are being made to poach you from them, they are likely to put in more incentives to retain you: this could be used to negotiate a better salary, better work terms, a promotion, or better benefits.

3. Build a relationship: Even if you are not interested in the job offer, be polite in all your interactions and attempt to build a relationship. The recruiter who reached out to you can prove useful in more than the organization the recruiter is reaching out from. By doing everything to ensure there is a relationship (being polite even if you have to reject the offer, referring someone else if you are not available for the offer, and checking in every once in a while), you are positioning yourself for better future career prospects.

Avoid the Following Pitfalls

It’s easy to get overconfident when a recruiter reaches out to you, but it is very important to avoid the following pitfalls:

1. Avoid assuming that being contacted by a recruiter means automatic employment: If you think being contacted by a recruiter means automatic employment, you might want to reassess your opinion. While being contacted by a recruiter gives you an edge, it doesn’t guarantee employment. Instead of resting on your laurels, you should double your efforts and put your best foot forward.

It is important to avoid being casual in your approach and response to the recruiter. Polish your portfolio and job materials, emphasize the unique advantage you will give the organization that wants to employ you, and be professional and polite in your interactions with the recruiter.

2. Avoid assuming that you’re the only person being considered for the job opportunity: One of the worst pitfalls you can fall into when a recruiter reaches out to you is that of assuming that you are the only person the recruiter reached out to — or assuming that you are the only person being considered for the job.

According to Simonetta Lein, CEO of the Simonetta Lein brand, Vice President of The Wishwall Foundation, and one of the top 100 fashion influencers in the world, “One of the biggest mistakes candidates make when recruiters contact them out of the blue is that of assuming that they are the only one being considered for the job.” Due to this wrong assumption, says Lein, “they put in little effort into preparing and positioning themselves for the opportunity and often end up losing it.” She advises reacting to a recruitment offer sent to you as you would do if you had sent a job application — as if you are one of many candidates.

3. Don’t make the mistake of not putting effort into your job materials: You should also avoid the pitfall of not putting enough effort into your job materials. According to Alex Jasin, the founder and CEO of Metapress, “When a recruiter reaches out to you is when you should double up on your effort and polish your job materials.” Jasin says this is important for a few key reasons, “One, it helps the recruiter justify the decision to reach out to you and makes the decision to hire you easier. Two, just because a recruiter reached out to you doesn’t mean the recruiter will be making the hiring decision — the recruiter could be very excited about you, and communicate this excitement to other decision makers, but it’s your materials that will really do the job.”

So what materials do you want to focus on? The usual ones you would be focusing on if you were the one seeking the job:

  • A resume tailored to the organization that reached out to you.
  • Depending on the organization you are applying to, an online portfolio might help.
  • A straight and to-the-point cover letter — you have about 20 seconds to make an impression.
  • Your follow up emails — even though you were reached out to, following up is still very important.

4. Don’t completely ignore the recruiter: While you might be at a job you love, it isn’t necessarily a good idea to completely ignore the recruiter. You might not need the job right now, but the future is largely unpredictable: even if you are at a satisfied job, Ayodeji Onibalusi, CEO of Effective Inbound Marketing, says it won’t be wise to just ignore the recruiter: “Your company could downsize in the near future and you could lose your job, you could get laid off, or you might later decide you need better career prospects.” He further says,”Just because you’re at your dream job does not mean you’re guaranteed to be at that job forever. It is always wise to think with the future in mind.”

So, even if the opportunity isn’t a right fit now, what do you do?

  • Let the recruiter know that you’re currently at your dream job and as a result can’t take advantage of the opportunity now — but that you’ll let them know if this changes. Encourage them to reach out if they have more opportunities.
  • If perhaps you are not satisfied with some of the arrangement of the job offer, try to communicate this to the recruiter and see if something better can be offered.
  • Politely decline the opportunity and offer to refer the recruiter to a candidate that you think will be a good fit.

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