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How to react when a recruiter messages you out of the blue on LinkedIn

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You weren’t even actively looking for a job - you thought you were reasonably happy in your current one, but now, almost out of nowhere, you’ve received a message on LinkedIn from a recruiter saying that they want to have a discussion with you about a job opportunity.

This isn’t an uncommon situation to find yourself in. Digital technology has seen the recruitment industry evolve at a rapid rate, with recruiters now using new technology and data science techniques to identify or find the best candidates for any given role.

There are a number of ways recruiters do this, but there are three common reasons that a person’s profile attracts the attention of recruiters. Firstly, you may have your LinkedIn profile set to “open to hearing about opportunities”. Secondly, the skills and experience listed on your profile categorise you as a suitable match to the available vacancy. Thirdly, you have been active online. As David Moore, Global Account Manager at LinkedIn outlines in his blog: “Active members of the LinkedIn community sharing relevant updates and insights are more likely to get noticed by recruiters and other professionals looking to expand their network.”

In the message you received, the recruiter will most likely have asked if you are interested in discussing the opportunity further, either over the phone or in person. They want to provide you with more information about this opportunity while also learning more about you, where you are at in your career, how open you are to new opportunities at this point in time, and whether you would be a good match for the role they have available.

The question is, what do you do now that a recruiter has reached out to you?

Step 1: Responding to the recruiter

The first step is to respond to the recruiter. How you respond will depend on your current circumstances. If you want to know more – and there’s no harm in learning more about this job opportunity – you can have a confidential discussion with the recruiter. Remember, you don’t need to share anything with the recruiter until you are ready. On the other hand, you may be adamant that you are happy in your current role and not interested in hearing about new opportunities. Here’s how to respond in both scenarios:

How to respond if you aren’t interested

Thank the recruiter for getting in contact and suggest when they could check back in to see if your circumstances have changed. If you are open to new opportunities but this role isn’t right for you, let the recruiter know what you are looking for so they can ensure that you are only contacted about relevant roles in the future.

You may also like to send the recruiter your current CV. While you aren’t looking for opportunities now, you may want their help in the future and you don’t want to cut your ties.

If the recruiter sent you an InMail, you’ll be given the option of replying with an automated response, i.e. - “interested”, “maybe later” or “no thanks”. In this case, it is still worth while taking the time to tailor your reply for the sake of building a better rapport with the recruiter – think of your future long-term career advancement.

How to respond if you are interested

If you are interested in the job opportunity, reply to the recruiter’s message as soon as you can. You could either ask the recruiter to email you a copy of the job specification or suggest an initial phone call so that you can have an open and fluid conversation about the role. Remember, this is simply an exploratory conversation. It doesn’t tie you into applying or taking your application forward.

If you decide to speak on the phone, then before the call:

  • Find out about the consultant and the areas they recruit in by reviewing their LinkedIn profile and recommendations. This can give you a better idea of their area of expertise, and which other roles they may be able to place you in;
  • Make sure you find a space where you can talk confidentially and take notes about the opportunity;
  • Have a copy of your CV in front of you, and be ready to talk through it, highlighting your key skills and experience;
  • Prepare some questions about the role and organisation, depending on what your career priorities are. For instance, does the organisation offer training and progression opportunities? How does the organisation describe its culture?


Step 2: Do you want to be put forward?

As the conversation draws to a close, the recruiter will ask if you are interested in being put forward for the job.

If you need more information or time to think

If you need more time to think about the opportunity, say so. If you haven’t already received a job specification, ask that they email this to you. Then draw up a list of pros and cons about the opportunity, factoring in what this role can provide you with versus your current job. Crucially, consider how the role fits with your career ambitions. You could also use this time to research the organisation, such as by looking at their website and employee review sites. Just make sure you don’t take longer than a day to go back to the recruiter with your decision.

If you want to be put forward for the role

If you are interested in the role, then let the recruiter know. From here, they will send you a job specification if they haven’t already. They’ll also ask you to send across your CV. At this point, I advise that you review the job description, highlight the keywords and phrases, and tailor your CV accordingly, so that they can pass this to their client for interview consideration. The recruiter will also suggest meeting up so that they can get to know you and your ambitions more and discuss any other job opportunities.

If this isn’t the right role for you

If you feel that this isn’t the right opportunity for you, inform the recruiter. Thank them for reaching out, and explain why this opportunity isn’t right for you.

Don’t leave things there though. You could connect with them on LinkedIn and send them an up-to-date version of your CV so that they can consider you for further opportunities that do match what you are looking for. After all, you never know what jobs they might be working on next time you are ready to explore your options in the job market.

Having a recruiter reach out to you on LinkedIn is a positive sign. It means you have a strong profile and relevant, employable skills. Regardless of whether you are interested in the opportunity or not, by keeping the lines of communication open you will build your professional network, learn about current opportunities and mark the start of a new promising career partnership.

About the author

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Nick Deligiannis

Managing Director

Nick Deligiannis began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.

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