Most of the time you’ll get the call at the office. You pick up the phone and an unfamiliar voice greets you and introduces themselves. Your heartbeat quickens and a slight panic runs through you. You look around the office to see if anyone may be eavesdropping. Your voice becomes a little more than a whisper as you respond to the caller.

It’s a recruiter on the other end of the line calling to speak with you about a potential opportunity. Should you hang up? Should you pretend as if it is a wrong number or some salesman and hope that they will call back?

So when you get that call, what should you do?

If it’s a bad time…

It’s understandable that you may not be able to speak, and the recruiter should understand this and ask if it is a good time to listen. Keep in mind that the primary goal of this call is to gauge your interest and to set up a time to speak with you further, not to have you describe your background in detail.

Ask them to call back at a time that works better for you – lunchtime, late afternoon or evening are usually good target times. Providing an alternative phone number will help you talk at ease.


Once you are in a position where you can talk a bit, the most important thing for you to do is to have an open mind and simply listen. Understand that the recruiter may not know a lot about your background – you may have been referred, or they may be working from your title or some old information. Typically the recruiter will describe what their client needs and what they are seeking. You will probably be asked some questions. If you are interested, you’ll be asked for some basics – a resume, current compensation and why you’d be interested.

If you are interested:

Be cooperative – recruiters have a process that they run through and will need to follow. They will share as much information as they are able without compromising their client’s confidentiality. They shouldn’t send your resume anywhere without speaking with you about it.

Don’t ask for a job description or who the client is, because the recruiter is not able to share that information yet. Many clients don’t want it broadcast that they have a need, nor do they want an internal document (like a job description) floating around in cyberspace. Once time has been spent going through your background, more details regarding the client will be provided.

Be honest with the recruiter and with yourself; if the position isn’t for you, let the recruiter know. Tell them what your interests. Recruiters are always seeking great candidates for their clients and you may very well fit an opening with another client. Look at it as a networking opportunity. A recruiter is a great resource that has a constant ear out for their candidates and be a strong advocate.

If the position isn’t right for you, expect to be asked who you know. We have a saying, “good candidates refer good candidates.” Anyone you refer is appreciated. A candidate who is helpful becomes a part of the recruiter’s regular network and is likely to be the first call when new opportunities arise. Confidentiality is important – your name will never be a part of a conversation with anyone you refer.

Follow through
If you ask the recruiter to call you back, take their call. If you tell the recruiter that you will call them with some names, call them back – even if it is to tell them you couldn’t come up with anyone. Keep your word and you will end up having a great ally for the future, with an extra set of eyes for potential opportunities.

The main thing to remember when you get that call is to be open and honest and you will get the same treatment from your recruiter. Who knows, that next phone call you get may be opportunity knocking…