Talking with recruiters for the first time but not actively job-seeking
November 19, 2018 4:38 PM   Subscribe

How do you talk to recruiters when you have a job you like, but want to keep your options open?

Two recruiters have contacted me through LinkedIn in the last week referencing my current rather niche job experience. Now I have a quick (5-10min.) phone call with one tomorrow afternoon. I've never spoken with a recruiter before and frankly am flattered that my experience level is now commanding external interest.

I have a job in which I consult through a third party. I'm working as an in-house contractor right now for a multinational company that would like to hire me and who I would like to work for but they move at a glacial pace and a full-time position could take 6+ months to materialize. Even if my contract ends (and my current boss is already inclined to pull me out sooner as she would like me to be spearheading other projects), I still have a job. The difference is that with my current position in-house I'm working on interesting projects and learning a lot, while the work I've managed for smaller clients doesn't push me as much. The advantage with the smaller clients is that I can work nearly entirely from home, so there are some benefits on that side as well.

So - I'm pretty comfortable, and stable for the first time in... forever. I am definitely open to hearing about new opportunities, but I'm not desperate to move and if nothing comes of it I'm still in a great place. That said, it'd be a waste to not engage in these conversations as they could potentially improve my job-seeking skills in the future, and developing relationships with recruiters can't hurt so I'd like to represent myself well.

It's my understanding that in a screening call they're looking to determine what kind of salary you're seeking as well as assess your interest and availability in the position, among other things. Though I've researched the two recruiters and both of them are legitimate, I do not yet know what the opportunity is with either, so I expect that a lot of the conversation will be listening on my part. If the position doesn't interest me it'll become apparently quickly and I'll politely thank the recruiter and ask them to keep me in mind for other positions. My questions for this situation though:

- What are some good ways to handle the question of "why are you looking to move jobs", if in fact I'm not necessarily? I don't want to seem standoffish or come off as disinterested or overly confident. My actual reasons to make a shift would be to challenge myself, move up in my career, and make more money, if that helps in your answer. I do not want to job-hop so I would be making a lot of effort over any potential interviews to make sure it would be a good fit. I do have the "let recruiters know you're open" setting on in LinkedIn, not sure if that changes how I should respond to this question.
- I make a very good salary that's well above market, but I currently do not get benefits or retirement savings matches. I'm in Canada so I'm mostly covered for healthcare but benefits (dental, vision, savings matching, other perks) would change the total package and adjust my salary accordingly, I'm sure. How do I begin to approach this, even just in my own head?
- Any other advice for talking to a recruiter in this situation? If nothing else I'd like to make a good impression, it's a small industry and as with most people, a good reputation is paramount.

Any insight you can give will be very much appreciated!
posted by mireille to Work & Money (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I do this all the time. I love my job, I’m expecting a fantastic promotion and raise, and I talk to recruiters anyway.

First, your actual reasons (challenge yourself, move up, build your salary) are exactly why people job hunt! You can acknowledge that you’re happy now and not actively seeking other opportunities, but could consider making a move for the right chance to grow in those ways. A line I’ve used is that I prefer to entertain other opportunities while I’m happy, so that I can be confident I’m making the decision from a position of growth and strength (vs eagerness to escape a bad fit).

You’re doing something TOTALLY NORMAL and smart. Enjoy learning what’s out there, take this as an opportunity to learn what the market rate salary is for permanent positions with benefit, and see if anything looks intriguing enough to tempt you to learn more.
posted by amelioration at 5:24 PM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

So - I'm pretty comfortable, and stable for the first time in... forever. I am definitely open to hearing about new opportunities, but I'm not desperate to move and if nothing comes of it I'm still in a great place.

This is exactly what you tell them. I've learned by working with recruiters that they are actually interested in recruiting happy people - not unhappy people who are desperate to get out and will take anything and say anything. Your relative contentment, but willingness to listen for the right thing, is exactly what they're looking for in a candidate pool - not in any way a disqualifier.

Have some idea of what it would take for you to leave - salary level, willingness to relocate, particular hierarchical level or type of work.

Have some idea of what would be a "no," a dealbreaker for you.

If it's not something you're interested in, offer to send them some names of colleagues you think might be interested and who you could vouch for. That positions you really well with the recruiter and in the field, and if a friend gets the job, they will be really grateful you named them. But only refer people you believe in.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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