I have been looking for new career opportunity. Sometimes a recruiter calls me while I am in the office, during work hours.

I am having difficulty in dealing with recruiters. They ask me to describe my current job responsibilities, but I find it really odd to talking in the office. I will ask them to phone me some other time such as during my lunch break or after work, but they refuse to do it because it is not in their work hours.

If I want to leave the office I must go though the lobby. I can't just sneak out of the office whenever a recruiter calls.

What is the protocol here?

  • 10
    I hope you are not getting that attitude with every recruiter that contacts you! Personally, I have had ease with setting up a date and time to have a phone conversation through emailing back and forth. By setting up the phone call ahead of time, I am able to escape from my desk and have the conversation in privacy. As the other answers suggest; if they are not willing to work with you to establish a good time, chances are they probably aren't worth the trouble.
    – Garry
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 17:28
  • 21
    A recruiter who punches a time clock? They're wasting your time.
    – user8365
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 14:51
  • 2
    Can you not find an empty meeting room to take the call?
    – Pepone
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 13:58
  • 4
    You can always hit the really pesky ones with "If you placed me with a client, would you appreciate it if I did not give that client my full and complete attention when I was on the work site? Well, then...don't call me during work hours. Email me, please, and I'll respond this evening."
    – user22432
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 15:31

14 Answers 14


Do not talk to them during your working hours. Tell them you prefer to communicate via email. If you think they have something to offer, then you can arrange time off from work, and talk to them.

If the recruiter really thinks you are a likely candidate he will work with you. If they aren't willing to adjust to you, they're just covering the bases in case they get lucky.

  • 5
    I wouldn't be so orthodox. Do not talk with them unless you feel comfortable to have the talk (whenever it happens). Same with email -- it isn't always the best means of communication. +1 for the final advice -- it's their job, so they should run the extra mile to make yourself comfortable to talk. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 7:26

Any recruiter who won't talk to you on your time will also try to bully you on your pay rate, the date that you'll start and every other issue. Unless you're desperate, talk to them on you own time and on your own terms. Since you currently have a job, you're probably not desperate, so don't cave in to bullying.


It is not just recruiters who will be calling you. When you start to apply to positions you will have to be able talk to potential employers. They will need to contact you for phone screens, to clarify information on your application or resume, and to schedule face-to-face interviews. Yes some of this communication can and will be done via email, but you need to over come your fear of others finding out.

  • When you post your resume on sites like Monster the only contact you should give is a non-company email, that you can see while you are at work.
  • When you must give a phone number it should be a cell number. Start taking some non-recuiter phone calls via your cell, and yes exit the open office space. Go into another office, or exit the lobby. I have worked at offices where that is the norm. Any phone call that you didn't want others to overhear was handled this way.
  • Don't be afraid to let some of the cell calls go to voice mail if you are busy. Most recruiters or hiring managers will contact you in multiple ways. It is not unusual to see an email right after a voice mail. But do respond quickly when that happens.

Some people use unsolicited contact by recruiters as training for getting through the hiring process. For you the training seems to be related on how to maintain contact with potential employers, without letting everybody in the office know.

  • 4
    As noted, some regular personal calls are ones you don't want your co-workers to overhear (and they may not want to listen to either!) so walking out to handle a call shouldn't raise a lot of eyebrows. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 14:52

YMMV, but I always let unknown numbers leave a message on my cellphone so that I can review and follow-up if it is relevant.

However, it is not uncommon for recruiters to make contact by going through the phone tree at your employer. This is an aggressive tactic. They know many people are very selective about answering their cell phones and that people answer their work phones because it is their job.

If they can't take "email me and I will get back to you if I'm interested" working with someone like that is a bad idea for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it encourages more "boiler-room" tactics to be used on others in the future.


On the recruiter's side, courteous protocol, especially when contacting someone at his workplace during working hours, would include starting the conversation with you by asking if this is a good time for you to talk. If they do so, then the obvious solution is to answer honestly, and arrange a different time to talk.

That you are asking this question suggests that these recruiters are not following this protocol. I would consider this in the "red flag" but not "dealbreaker" in terms of their respect for you. It could simply be ignorance or forgetfulness. In this case, you can speak up and say when it is not a good time to talk.

Your relationship with the recruiter, like all relationships, will involve some give and take on both sides. It's not reasonable for the recruiter to expect you to be available to take calls whenever he place them. On the other side, I don't think it's reasonable to expect the recruiter to extend his workday to fit your schedule.

For communications that do not require synchronous feedback, e-mail is a good solution. Absent that, you can look for a 15 minute chunk of time (perhaps toward the beginning or end of the day or around lunch hour) when you can grab an empty conference room and return some phone calls. Most workdays have times that are less intense than others.


Presumably they are calling you on a cell phone. Just don't take those calls. They will E-mail or leave a message.

  • 1
    Don't forget that the internal person who does hiring is also... a recruiter. So, even when you're dealing directly with the employer, the person who screens your call and resume is a recruiter. Hiring managers usually don't do the first screening of candidates in any business. Firms that don't have their own recruiters hire recruiting firms and that's not necessarily a sign of desperation on their part. If I had an 8-person software development company and needed a ninth person, it might make more sense to hire a professional to gather and sort resumes rather have my developers do it. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 14:57
  • I understand your concerns but I would say that I have had quite a bit of success dealing with recruiters. Yes I get the bum offers but I simply let them know not to contact me with anything less than X Dollars per year/hour. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 18:51

I disagree with one or two of the comments about not wishing to come across as rude. I say be as robust as is necessary, especially when it's your and your company's time and resources they are wasting.

If you have not disclosed your work contact number and/or email to anybody then these people have no right to go through your company switchboard, touting for business.

It happened to me recently when a recruiter deduced where I worked from my LinkedIn profile. It would not take a brilliant mind to figure this information out. I told him to remove me from their database and not contact me again. It got a few laughs from those nearby but I consider this behaviour unprofessional, if not unethical. It can make people look like they are openly seeking work elsewhere when they are not.


It is reasonable to avoid upsetting recruiters - or at least avoid upsetting them too hard - simply because one never knows, one may need their help one day.

Accounting for above, still keep in mind that while you are employed (and especially if you are having a job you like), your position in this negotiation is really strong, much stronger than their.

talk to them on you own time and on your own terms. Since you currently have a job, you're probably not desperate, so don't cave in to bullying.

I may not tell them explicitly what is laid out crystal clear in above answer but this is definitely what I would have in mind when negotiating and in particular, when handling recruiter's calls.

From above, it is pretty simple to derive a "balanced" protocol. Since this is a two-way street (you're interested in new career opportunity after all), make a reasonable effort to accommodate.

It's OK that recruiters try to keep within their work hours. It's not OK if this is done "at your expense". As written above (and is worth repeating): do not forget that you are in stronger position.

  1. When called, first thing ask how much time they expect it to take.
    If they can't tell, politely decline - most likely you're dealing with someone unprofessional. Remain polite since who knows, maybe few years later they will become mature professional and they might land you at the dream job. But now - just politely decline.
  2. If they tell you their expected duration, try to figure a time slot (yes, within your working hours) when it will be convenient to you to be out of office. If you can't figure it immediately, just ask them to call tomorrow to discuss the options.

Well, that's basically it. If they can't talk to you outside of your working hours, try to arrange for a time when it will be convenient for you to be out of office to talk.


In addition to all the great advice you've already gotten, if you do find a recruiter you really "click" with, try to establish a good relationship with him/her. For example, if you aren't a good fit or it's the wrong area of town, but you know someone else who might work, make that connection. I'll actually do this for most recruiters, because it helps my friends/colleagues.

Once you have a good relationship with a recruiter, let him/her know about your ideal job, and then when you get contacted you'll know it's worth dropping everything to talk. It also means that the recruiters who really know you won't be calling you every five minutes for jobs that are not exactly what you want.


I would simply tell them that you're at work and offer some good times for them to call you back. This might mean taking a long or slightly off-schedule lunch break, if that's okay with your current employer.

Even if you can take the call outside the building, it's not generally appropriate to be spending work time on your job search. Instead, I'd leave that for your break.

  • Would the person who downvoted please provide some feedback? Is it disagreement with the answer....feeling it's too short or not specific enough...what? Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 19:23
  • don't worry, they are the ones not taking good inforamtion.... Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 21:59
  • 1
    I think you ought to clarify the second paragraph so that it's clear that one can be looking while you have a job, but not spending time doing it at the same time you're supposedly working. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 16:46
  • Good call...I edited to reflect that a little better. Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 13:08

What is the protocol here?

Just as with any other call, you need to indicate if you cannot talk with the caller during work hours.

Just say "I'm sorry, I can't talk with you during work hours. Can we chat after hours?"

If the answer is "Yes" (as it would be for most good recruiters), then give her/him your home phone number and a good time for a call. Or, get the recruiter's phone number and call at a convenient time.

If the answer is "No", then you can just say "I'm sorry to hear that. I guess we can't do business."

Any decent recruiter will understand and work with you. Personally, I don't bother with recruiters who can't work within my constraints. There are plenty of other recruiters out there who can.


You are important to the recruiter in that he cannot make money without you, but you can change jobs without his help in most cases. So, you have some leverage.

It's most convenient for recruiters to call during working hours. However, if that is not good for you, simply state that. I always tell recruiters:

  1. Not to contact me during specific times (for me its working hours or very early mornings).
  2. Don't call me from a private number - I need to see the caller's ID I recognize.

If they break that once, remind them about your requirements. If it happens again, simply refuse to work with the agent. If they are not listening to such trivial requests, they won't have your best interest when switching jobs.


This happens to me fairly regularly. Unknown numbers always get redirected to voicemail. Known numbers do too, unless it's from someone who may be calling with a truly urgent situation (spouse, parents, kids' school, etc.).

Be direct but polite with recruiters (or anyone else). My office is arranged such that no less than eight people can hear everything that happens at my desk. When (if) I return a call, I tell them this and then reinforce it with "I have no privacy at my desk or anywhere in the office, so I have to leave the building entirely which may take up to five minutes." You'd be surprised how many understand and are sympathetic to your situation.

Do tell them that you're happy to speak with them, but only if they can pre-arrange a time via text or email. They're going to forget, so if it keeps happening, keep reminding them. Of course, if you have to remind the same person too many times, you may want to reconsider continuing to deal with them.


Wow, getting calls from them at work!? I know you weren't asking but that can't look good, right?

What is the protocol here?

Not to give them you work phone number.

Not to pick up the phone unless it is a number you know.

Call them as early as possible from home the next day before you head out to work, might have to go in late.....

  • -1? wow, no wonder the economy is tanking! Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 23:32
  • I didn't down-vote but your answer only works in an imaginary situation, I sure wouldn't want him to be calling me during my breakfast. You are right, however, about avoiding providing work phone number, but it's not a solution to the problem.
    – Jonast92
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 13:31
  • 2
    "Not to give them you work phone number." That's not how it works. They see where you work and then they find the number from your company's website and call it without your permission.
    – endolith
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 23:11
  • 1
    @endolith if that's their tactic, you probably don't want to work with that recruiter in the first place. Making an solicited call to a phone owned (and potentially monitored) by my employer is overly aggressive and IMHO unprofessional; walking down a phone tree or asking a receptionist to forward their call to your desk even more so.
    – alroc
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:38

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