If there’s one thing I wish I had known about job searching before doing it—it’s how the recruiting process actually works. Yes, we all know the basics: A recruiter’s job is to find the right person for a specific position. So when one contacts you, he or she thinks you’re the right person. Right?
Yes. But not quite, at least not yet. It’s a little more complicated than that. As a former recruiter, I’ve seen the other side and I know a few things now. For example, that initial call you get—the one that happens even before your actual interview with the hiring manager—is really nothing to freak out about. It’s more or less a formality, a pre-step before the interview process if you will.
So, for you own sake, here are three myths about those initial phone calls that need to be debunked, ASAP. Especially if you’ve recently been contacted by a recruiter and you have no idea what to expect.
Myth #1: You Should Drop Everything for a Recruiter
When you’re in the middle of a job search, any phone call from an unfamiliar number is pretty thrilling. They’re so thrilling, they can often feel like the most important call ever. And because they seem so important, it’s tempting to drop everything you’re doing so you don’t miss them. The only problem? These calls are not interviews. Not even close.
When you get one of these preliminary calls, it means you’re on that recruiter’s shortlist of contenders. Which is really good news. In fact, I used to think it was such good news, I needed to reschedule meetings to answer the phone. Or take longer than usual “lunch breaks.” What I eventually learned after a while was simple—I didn’t need to be nearly this flexible. The recruiter’s only goal on these initial phone calls is to find a time for the two of you to speak more formally. That’s it. So, if you need let one of these go straight to voicemail, there’s no need to stress over it.
Myth #2: You Should Sell Yourself as Hard as Possible
Here’s a mistake I always made as a job seeker. Even when a hiring person made it clear he or she was just reaching out to find some time to talk more formally about a role, I did everything in my power to make it clear I was awesome on that phone call. In hindsight, this was probably the most annoying thing I could’ve done.
When I was interviewing people for a living, I had a game plan for every actual conversation I conducted. This included a script with questions I needed to ask before we could make a hiring decision. If I was just reaching out to someone to chat about the logistics of setting up a formal interview, I had no script. And no real questions to ask. I was literally trying to find out a few more details before connecting you with the hiring manager.
So when someone calls you just to set up an initial meeting, don’t feel the pressure to sell yourself. Save your time and energy for wowing the interviewers when you’re actually being asked questions about why you’re awesome. And if you’re in doubt as to what step of the process this is, let the interviewer lead.
Myth #3: You Should Prepare for a Job Offer
I used to think recruiters had the power to hire the best people as soon as they got them on the phone. “There’s no point of bringing me in for interviews if they think I’m right for the job,” I thought to myself. “I need to really impress this person over the phone so she’ll offer me a million dollars per year to come work for her.” While that all probably makes sense, especially if you know you’d be great at a particular gig, that decision is not going to happen in a first call with a recruiter. Which is actually good news for you.
The truth is that whoever is reaching out to you for the first time doesn’t wield all the power to make a hiring decision right away. He or she’s simply trying to figure out if you’re interested in the job you applied for. Yes, you can still make a great first impression over the phone, but all you’ll leave with is a timeslot on that hiring manager’s calendar. Bummer? Absolutely. But the good news is that if you don’t answer a question the way you would have liked to on the first phone call, it really has no bearing on whether or not you’ll ultimately get the job.
The job search is a really stressful time. There’s nothing groundbreaking about that statement, but when you’re in the middle of one, it’s easy to blow a lot of things out of proportion. Especially when it comes to handling those first phone calls with recruiters—who really are just trying to find an interview time that works for you. So, before you panic about this step of the process, take a deep breath. Your experience and talents will speak far greater volumes than any “mistake” you could make on a first call with a recruiter.