Just Say “Not Right Now”

justsaynoIt’s the New Year and if you are like many successful professionals, expect the headhunter calls to increase in the coming weeks.  Simply put, we in the recruiting business know that this is a good time of year to connect with talent.  Many people take stock in their careers around January 1.But what if you aren’t looking right now.  Should you just say that you are not interested and hang up?

If your skill set is in hot demand, the temptation may be strong to get rid of the recruiter as soon as possible.  It can be very annoying to be interrupted several times a day by someone who is trying to recruit you to a new position, especially if you currently enjoy a high level of professional satisfaction.

But think twice about how you communicate with the person on the other line.   While you may be happy with your job today, things can change.  Your firm may lose partners who you really like working with; or they may hire new partners who you don’t like working with.  Key clients may leave your firm and you may suddenly find yourself with not enough to do (or in a position where you have to focus on less desirable work.)

And even the most successful company can come unexpectedly on hard times (think about the Enron scandal which brought down Arthur Anderson or the financial crisis of 2008 which led to the demise of several prominent financial giants.)

Finally, you never know what might come your way if you open yourself up to opportunities.  I’ve heard many stories of valued professionals who were happy in their roles (and who weren’t looking).  They took the call from the headhunter, went to an interview (just to kick the tires), and ended up even happier!

In my line of work, I do a lot of cold calling and I’m actually impressed that many of the lawyers I call do leave the door open.  In the 20 years since I began in the search business, I’ve noticed that the professionals I cold call are much more likely to thank me for the call and then politely tell me that I should keep them in mind for other opportunities down the road (particularly “in-house” jobs).

So the next time you get the call from the headhunter, say “not at this time” rather than simply saying you are not interested.  In our complex and ever changing economy, no one should expect to stay in the same place for the rest of their career.  Insulate yourself from unexpected changes by signaling to the recruiting industry that you are open to hearing about opportunities in the future (i.e. even if everything is going well right now).

The post script to this discussion is that saying “no” or being rude (which thankfully doesn’t happen to me that often), does discourage the recruiter from calling you again.  After all, we are human like everyone else and we do not like to be rejected.

So that corporate associate who hung up on me mid sentence a month ago will not be hearing from me about the great in-house search I am working on right now.  Frankly, if that is the way he chooses to interact on the phone, then I don’t want to introduce  him to my client.  Maybe I caught him on a bad day (or I was the 5th recruiter to call that afternoon).  But this time, he is the one who will miss out!