The grass is always greener on the other side...
May 4, 2015 7:57 PM   Subscribe

A recruiter contacted me on LinkedIn today, and instead of politely responding that I'm not looking to move, this one has me questioning my usual response. I need some help determining if it's worth it to take a peek over the fence or not.

I'm afraid this may turn into a long post, so here the tl;dr: what are the downsides, if any, to having an "exploratory conversation" with a recruiter who contacted me out of the blue, and what would such a conversation usually involve?

Now, for the longer part. I work in an industry that has very specific domain knowledge, so once people enter it, they frequently stay in companies operating in the same industry. My skills, however, are very transferable and currently in high demand in a wide variety of industries. I am well respected in my company and work on very interesting projects with great people, but I fear that long term (think 10+ years), there either won't be anymore room for advancement or I will be doing very industry specific work and my transferable skills will have waned. Generally though, I am quite happy with my job, and there is no immediate reason why I would want to leave it.

So out of the blue today, I get a message from a recruiter who works for a major employer in my city. Unlike previous messages from recruiters, he doesn't just list off current job openings, but states they are looking for talent with my specific skill set and would like to have an "exploratory conversation" with me about opportunities at his company. Given my feelings above, I'm wondering if it might not be a bad idea to chat with him. Whether or not I'd actually want to work for this company, I'm not sure (the primary reason being any position I took would be for a much smaller cog in a much bigger wheel), but I mean, what could it hurt? No, seriously, what are the downsides? If I did have a conversation with him, what should I expect from an "exploratory conversation" (e.g., is he trying to sell me on jobs, am I trying to sell him on me, is it a faux pas to ask/talk about salary requirements or specific job needs up front, etc)? I figure since I'm not actively looking to move and since he approached me, I can be choosy about what conversations I entertain and what incentives I would be looking for to change jobs. Is that right, though?

Is there anything else I should know about being passively recruited, things to look out for? For what it's worth, while everything about this recruiter and his message look completely legit, I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something or, should I go forward with a conversation, that I'm somehow being taken advantage of.
posted by noneuclidean to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
(e.g., is he trying to sell me on jobs, am I trying to sell him on me, is it a faux pas to ask/talk about salary requirements or specific job needs up front, etc)

I used to work in an industry that tries to poach each other's employees all the time and worked closely with a lot of recruiters.

He's trying to sell you on a relationship with him and (if he works for a specific company) with the company. The recruiter likely doesn't have enough specialized knowledge in your field or role to properly evaluate your ability, so if he's talking to you that means you've already met all of his criteria for what he's looking for.

The recruiter's real job is to sell you to a company. That's how recruiters get paid. He doesn't give a crap about you, the individual. It's all about you, the commodity.

So this is your opportunity to ask for the moon. You already have a job, you're not looking to leave it. Tell the recruiter exactly what you want plus a little extra. If the recruiter is able to sell you and your requirements to someone looking for a role you could fill, then you'd move onto the process with people who can actually evaluate your ability to do the job. The recruiter passes your salary/etc. requirements onto the employer for you.

The only real downside is that once you have a relationship with a recruiter they're going to try to be your bff from now until you die.
posted by phunniemee at 8:07 PM on May 4, 2015 [17 favorites]

Talk to many different recruiters. You will learn a lot about the state of your industry in your region, what other candidates are like, what skills are currently most in demand. But you are much more likely to get an actual job by knowing a manager at a company that is hiring. I've gotten many interviews through recruiters... for jobs that turned out to be completely unsuitable.
posted by miyabo at 8:27 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

The only downside to speaking with a recruiter is that you lose confidentiality if you’re not careful. If you give up info about your own job (salary, systems of work, etc.) to the recruiter, you are indirectly helping your firm’s competitor. So, play your cards close to your chest, don't give info about your current salary (or lie a little) and inflate your salary expectations (if you're on $100k and you want to be on $115k, then your salary expectations at your next job are $120-$125k) and remember that whilst the recruiter can help you get a better job, it’s the competitor that is paying your recruiter’s mortgage. So be just a bit wary.

That said, there is lots to be gained from having a chat. My experience in my own industry has been that your firm will only pay you at your replacement value. That is, if you’re currently earning $100k and you put in a fantastic year that would objectively put you on the standing of someone more senior who's earning $125k, but the firm thinks they can hire someone at $110k who’s dumb enough to put in the same effort you do at that lower price point, then your firm won’t pay you more than $110k. However, a rival firm may well pay you $125k or more, particularly if they’re keen on poaching you from your firm.

So, have a chat, keep your salary expectations close to your chest, and find out through the recruitment process what you are truly worth on the open market. Even if you realise you have no intention of changing jobs/working for the recruiter’s client, you still get some valuable trade info. And personally I think it’s good to have intermittent contact with a couple of recruiters so you always have a Plan B.
posted by kid A at 8:44 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't see a real downside. The only one I can think of is your current company gets wind of it, thinks you are looking, happens to be downsizing, and fires you first because they think you are leaving anyway. But it's not likely they will find out, and it may not be likely your current company is downsizing either. It could go the opposite way where they find out, and want to keep you so much they give you better salary/perks.

I assume the exploratory conversation is about what openings he has and the skills they need, whether you can fill that need, and if you'd be willing to leave your current job and for what.

I wouldn't say anything about salary. If he tries to ask what you want, say you haven't thought about it. If he wants to know your current salary, say you're not ready to disclose that. If he asks if you would be interested in a specific number, if you like it, say you'd consider it whilst looking at the total package. If a number is absolutely too low, I don't see the downside in saying that, as long as it's nice a Price Is Right game where he gets you to reject every number until he figures out what your minimum is, haha.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:54 PM on May 4, 2015

//The only real downside is that once you have a relationship with a recruiter they're going to try to be your bff from now until you die.//

This has not been my experience. Once the immediate opportunity to make a commission check off of you is gone, you will never hear from this guy again.
posted by COD at 5:13 AM on May 5, 2015

Best answer: I am a techie so I get calls from recruiters quite often. I agree with a lot of what's been said above but want to add one thing. Recruiters vary in quality quite a bit but some of them are just so damn good at establishing rapport and selling and motivating you that they kind of mess with your decision making ability.

Before you have that conversation, give a good think to what you want from your next job. Make a written list of your must-haves e.g. salary, two days work from home, etc, and your cherry-on-tops e.g. paid tuition, etc. Make sure this list looks quite a bit more attractive than your current job, otherwise it's a lateral move, with added uncertainty.

Now when you have that conversation, you can go down the list of things you know you want, as opposed to have the recruiter sell you a pile of fluff; even more importantly, if you end up interviewing you can confirm with the hiring manager that those things are indeed there and not just so much hype from the recruiter.

Otherwise it's kinda like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach - you end up buying things you didn't mean to buy.
posted by rada at 6:29 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Knowing what you would want out of your next job like rada says is a pretty good idea, but there's a decent chance the recruiter doesn't know much more than salary range. Going on an interview when you're basically satisfied with your job is a great position to be in because they have to convince you to take the job, you aren't in a rush or desperate.
posted by garlic at 9:54 AM on May 5, 2015

This is an in-house recruiter, not an outside recruiter. In my experience (both hiring and being hired) in-house recruiters work closely with the hiring manager/team, to the point where they are a part of the screening/interview process and the post-interview debrief.
posted by rada at 1:03 PM on May 5, 2015

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