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I'm currently happy with my job, but I want to explore other positions because

  • I've been at the same company for 5 years.
  • I want to know how my technical and interviewing skills fare in todays job market.
  • I'm curious what other companies have to offer in terms of compensation and perks.

I don't want to waste the recruiters time, but I worry that if I tell them I'm not actually serious they won't consider me.

What an appropriate way to broach this with a recruiter?

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6 Answers 6

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"I'm comfortable with my job, but I'm exploring my options".

This is all you have to say. You are not the only one. For challenging positions, your recruiter probably has a table of 30-100 leads (candidates), and one of the fields in that table is "Actively looking / considering / not looking". Some break it down further, not most.

When you're marked as "considering", this is what it tells the recruiter:

  • You will not take a bottom-end salary
  • You'll probably want growth of some kind
  • You might still be available even in 100+ days
  • They should always present options B and C alongside you

If you're firm enough to mark yourself as "not looking", which means:

  • Only approach this candidate if they have rare skills, experience with a specific company, etc.
  • Check next year if their status is the same

LinkedIn even has a choice: actively looking / open to opportunities / not looking. This middle option is very common. Most successful pros are happy with their job.

As an alternative approach, if you simply want to know what other companies are offering, but won't take it however good it is (e.g., religions and governments aren't an open market), there's Glassdoor and other sites that deal in just this kind of information without the hassle of interviews.

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  • "For challenging positions, your recruiter probably has a table of 30-100 leads (candidates)" They do? Nowadays it feels that for everyone with OP's profile (5 years experience or more with technical skills), they have multiple positions lined up. Possibly not the best positions, but they are positions that are actively hiring.
    – Mast
    Dec 7, 2023 at 16:41
  • @Mast The conversion rate between "lined up" and "hired" is down from 60% to barely 30% now. The more positions a candidate has lined up, the more candidates a recruiter has to line up, to get both to agree.
    – Therac
    Dec 7, 2023 at 16:59
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Somewhat controversial answer:

What an appropriate way to broach this with a recruiter?

You don't. You go all in and interview like you do really want the job. A few reasons why:

  1. The point of your exercise is to explore opportunities, sharpen you interviewing skills and figure out your market value. Your goal should be to get to the offer stage, otherwise it's not only a waste of the recruiter's time, it's also a waste of yours.
  2. Recruiter and managers are aware that people have different interests levels. Not all offers get accepted: that's just the way it is.
  3. If you get an offer, you are typically on the "in" list for the company even if you do decline. It may pave the way for future opportunities.
  4. While some may consider this "unfair" towards the company, most companies don't play "fair" either. Your compensation is based on what they unilaterally define to be your "market value". Many companies do use clearing houses (like Radford) to get comparative salary data from other employers, which gives them a big information advantage. You can't do that, so the only way to really assess your market value is to get actual offers.
  5. Who knows: maybe this IS a great opportunity and you may change your mind about how serious you are.
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  • 49
    Nothing controversial here, its business
    – solarflare
    Dec 5, 2023 at 4:34
  • "Your compensation is based on what they unilaterally define to be your "market value"." This makes it sound like once a company gets a whiff of you that you have to work for them for whatever RNG comes up with. You can go work for someone else and if they don't get anyone to work for too little then they'll adjust accordingly. Dec 7, 2023 at 5:24
  • I think Point 5 is extremely relevant: There surely are offers you can imagine which you would accept? What if someone offered you twice your current salary, or exceptional opportunities? - And if there is a possibility for you to switch, it's the recruiters job to find this opportunity for you. - You just have high expectations for the new role to be better than your current occupation, and that's fine
    – Falco
    Dec 7, 2023 at 15:07
  • I think this answer goes to "How do I approach the interview?", not "How do I approach the recruiter?" So I gave it a -1. I like Therac's answer much better. Personally, I have told this very thing to recruiters. "I'll maybe might sorta think about it..." is chum in the water for recruiters. They're sharks. They work on commission, and are eager to just get a nibble on the line. They'll be happy to get you in the door, and indecision is no deterrent whatsoever. The important thing is for you is to be firm. Either take an offer, or tell them "no way. Leave me alone." For any reason.
    – Mike S
    Dec 7, 2023 at 16:38
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I don't want to waste the recruiters time, but I worry that if I tell them I'm not actually serious they won't consider me.

If you actually don't want to waste the recruiter's time, be honest and explain that you are not seriously considering another job. Explain that you are happy with your job but are exploring, that you want to see how well you interview, and you are curious about compensation and benefits.

Then leave it up to the recruiter if they want to waste their time or not.

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I'm not sure if you're talking about an internal or external recruiter, but either way I agree 100% with Hilmar.

You are looking for another job, but you need the right offer to come along. Just because there isn't an immediate need, doesn't mean it's not "serious".

The only other thing I would question is if you're talking about using an external recruiter. They can be useful in certain scenarios, but in general I think you can get a better idea of what's out there by looking yourself.

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Consider flipping around your perspective. Instead of "what are my skills worth?" ask "what skills get a reward I want?" (where "reward" may be monetary or not).

If you were to move to another job, what would that other job look like? more salary? more remote? better professional development opportunities? different location? Feel free to reach for really high goals; the market may surprise you!

Once you have your wishlist, you can take it to recruiters and have confidence in declining what they offer with clear reasons (or even accept it if it meets your wishlist). Good recruiters will be able to quickly see if your skills are enough for what you want, and decide for themselves if it's worth their time to invest in getting to know you further.

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Read want ads/listings yourself? Then it's only your own time you're wasting.

Or offer to pay for some amount of time spent helping you evaluate the market. There are firms you can hire to do this sort of thing.

Or tell them flat out that you aren't looking but want to keep an eye on the market, and see if they're willing to gamble that they can find something that will change your mind. Some agents will gladly take your info and send you lots of listings in the hope of eventually getting their finder's fee.

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  • Dunno why this is getting -1. There's nothing wrong with this answer. The third paragraph answers the question directly. The other two are possibilities, although in my experience if you're in Computers at all, you don't need to pay anyone. Recruiters work all day long to make sure they have their fingers on the pulse of the market.
    – Mike S
    Dec 7, 2023 at 16:41

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