Today, many recruiters use LinkedIn to reach out to job candidates when trying to fill open positions. This means you better know the right way to respond if you receive such a message. So here are several things to keep in mind when corresponding with recruiters.
1. Always be gracious and never ghost
Even if the position you've been contacted about doesn't interest you, be gracious. Thank the recruiter and be honest. Tell them something like "I don't think it's the right fit for me at this time" (as opposed to: "it doesn't interest me"). But also say that you're open to hearing about other opportunities (if you are). You want to keep the conversation going, not shut it down. You never know, the next time this recruiter reaches out to you could be for a very attractive opportunity. Finally, by all means, never ghost a recruiter. That is, never not reply to a recruiter's message. If you do, you'll likely never hear from this recruiter again, killing your chances at any future opportunities they might have.
2. Be accommodating, but don't risk your current job
When recruiters ask your availability to interview with a company, you definitely want to try to be open and accommodating, showing that you're interested in the job (especially if you are interested in the job). But you don't have to bend over backwards and skip out on your current job. Try to set up the meeting for a lunch break or before work. If that fails, then aim for a less busy day and time to interview, like Friday morning or afternoon. Recruiters understand that you're busy, and they won't hold it against you that you want to continue to do a great job at your current job while you look for another one. In fact, it'll work in your favor, showing that you're a hardworking employee, in all situations.
3. Reply in a timely fashion, but not right away
Nowadays, you probably check your email frequently enough that you'll know if a recruiter contacted you via LinkedIn within an hour of their sending their message, if not sooner. And if you receive such a message about a very attractive opportunity, your instinct might be to respond right away, as soon as you receive the message. This is a mistake. It's a mistake mainly because you want to take the time to craft a thoughtful, gracious, error-free response. Ideally, after receiving a message, you'll want to think about how you'd like to respond, research the company and position you've been contacted about, and only then start to write (and edit) your reply. So, maybe the morning after you receive the message is a good time to reply.
That said, don't wait too long. Definitely try to reply within 24 hours. Waiting too long will risk "sending the message" that you aren't interested in the opportunity. As a final note on this, even if you're not interested in the position, still take your time to write a thoughtful, gracious, error-free response. You never know, as noted above, what the recruiter's next opportunity might be.
4. Ask questions if you have them, but don't overdo it
By all means, ask the recruiter for more information if all is not clear in their original message. Is this opportunity local or do you have to relocate? Is this an entry-level, mid-level, or senior position? Etc. You want to make sure you're not going to waste your time, the recruiter's timer, and the company's time, if the position is way off the mark. That said, if the general information is clear, don't ask questions that can be addressed later: in a subsequent email, in the first interview, or in a phone interview with the recruiter (often, before you interview with the hiring company, the recruiter will speak to you on the phone, prepping you for the interview and getting more information out of you, to see if you're a good fit and are professional). So, use your judgment here. Save things like exact salary and benefits and duties for later. You don't want to kill the conversation about your candidacy before it begins.
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