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The 411 on Building Relationships with Recruiters

Q. I’m currently working. I’ve been approached by a recruiter for a new job. I wasn’t looking and I’m not sure I’m interested enough to follow up. How do I play this?

A. Most people are excited to be contacted by recruiters with opportunities to share; you can better you chances of being contacted again by taking several steps to make sure you are presenting yourself in the most professional light.

Return the recruiter's call to get more information and thank them for finding you. You may ask how they identified your skills, was it LinkedIn? A referral from a colleague? The more information you gather, the better you will understand where and how you can be found. By returning the recruiter's call, you will have the opportunity to meet the recruiter, learn more about the his or her areas of expertise and the types of jobs she or he often have as well as the details about this specific opportunity.

If you have absolutely no interest in the role, express that to the recruiter by saying, “This role is not for me. I’m more interested in…” Outline your ideal opportunity – the skills needed, examples of companies, types of challenges, the location and a broad compensation range. At this point, offer to refer others who might be interested and you believe are qualified for the role.

These two actions position you for a continued relationship with a recruiter who may have an opportunity you do want in the future and who is knowledgeable about opportunities in your market space.

If you are interested in exploring the opportunity, capture as much information as possible from the recruiter. Ask for the job description, information on the company, why the company is adding a role and as much about the culture as the recruiter knows. Get details about the role and the hiring process.

If you want to continue to explore, conduct research online about the employer and the people you will meet during your interview process. You will need to adjust from information gathering mode to sales mode at this point. Many people assume they can continue to explore with the hiring team, but this approach can leave the organization’s representatives less than impressed. Though you may still be unsure of your level of interest in the opportunity, you need to show the hiring team that you are interested. Demonstrate that you’ve researched the company, its competitors and its business if it differs from yours. Do not go into the interview without doing your homework. You will not represent yourself well and if you do find you are interested in the job, the organization may no longer be interested in you.

You should prepare questions which demonstrate your research and how your expertise fits well in the role. In addition, develop questions with answers that will help you determine your own level of interest. These questions need to be sophisticated enough so that your expertise will not be questioned.

At any point in the process if you choose not to go forward, explain why to the recruiter and make an offer to act as a source to refer other potential candidates. Express your appreciation to the people you have met in the process, and assure them of your high level of regard for the company. Let them know of your willingness to introduce others to the opportunity and the recruiter. This company may have opportunities you want in the future.

If you choose to move ahead, remember the recruiter works for the company and needs to be sold on the strength of your candidacy just as much as the hiring team.

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