The excitement of opening an email from a recruiter to see if you’d be interested in talking is undeniable. Who doesn’t like being pursued, right? And when there’s potentially a dream job on the table, it makes sense that you’d jump to a few conclusions after hearing from a previously unknown employer.

The problem is that many people make some bad assumptions whenever a recruiter is the one who makes the first contact. While it’s a good thing to have employers chasing after you, here are a few things you shouldn’t get your hopes up about just because someone emailed you to discuss a position.


1. “I’m the Only Person This Company’s Considering for the Job”

When I was a recruiter, I made sure not to send anyone an email or reach out on LinkedIn unless I thought that person would potentially be a good fit for the role I had in mind—with added emphasis on the word potentially.

Receiving a message from a recruiter is a good sign that you’re on the short list. After all, a Glassdoor survey covered in Inc. says that the average corporate job receives 250 resumes, with only four to six of those people getting called in for an interview.

So, there are two things you should remember whenever an employer emails you about a job. First, you are (probably) on the shortlist. But, you don’t have it in the bag yet—and even more importantly, you will still be put through the rest of the company’s standard interview process before the team makes a decision.


2. “I Don’t Have to Worry About Customizing My Materials”

It would be easy to assume that because the recruiter was the person who started the conversation that you can also skip a lot of the standard steps. Tailored resume? Customized cover letter? If you’re like many people I’ve spoken to in the past, you might think that these are both a waste of your time. After all, you’re the one who the company is selling the role. Why should you have to do extra work, right?

However, here’s one thing that’ll probably never change: The recruiter who’s pursuing you isn’t the only person who will read your cover letter. And while the individual who’s recruiting you might be game to promote you to everyone else you’ll interview with, your materials are still the first impression you’ll make on each person you meet with during the process.


3. “It Would Be Dumb for Me Not to Pursue This Job”

Many recruiters I’ve met won’t reach out to someone unless they’re excited about the potential fit for one of their open gigs. That doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short and say to yourself, “Boy, if I don’t throw my hat in the ring, nobody will ever reach out to me again.”

The things you’d consider about any job before applying still ring true here. Take the time to evaluate the description and see if it sounds interesting to you. And if the recruiter’s first email doesn’t include one, don’t be afraid to ask for one.

If you signed a tricky non-compete agreement with your current employer, make sure you understand the implications of receiving an offer from a competitor. And the most important part of this is simple: If you don’t think the gig would be worth learning more about, don’t be afraid to tell the recruiter that you’d like to pass.

An easy way to do that while still making it clear you’d be open for future positions? Try this:

Dear Name,

Thanks so much for reaching out about this opportunity. While it sounds interesting, I don’t think this is the right position for me. However, I might know a few people who would be open to discussing the role and would be happy to forward this to them.

Best,
Your Name



Hearing from an interested employer without having to do any work is always exciting. And it’s totally worth taking a minute to evaluate whether or not you should reach out for more information. But there are a lot of things that you simply can’t assume because the recruiter was the one who initiated contact.

Sure, you have a leg up on the competition, but that doesn’t exclude you from having to put yourself in the best position to get the job—if you decide it’s something you’re interested in. And if you’d rather not throw your hat in the ring, that’s perfectly fine, too.

Photo of person on phone courtesy of PeopleImages/Getty Images.