I'm currently searching for opportunities. One can easily read that out of my XING account.

Today a headhunter found me on XING, looked up my company's phone number, called our reception and asked for me.

I had to exit that call, of course. We've arranged a phone call later that day. At first glance, this behavior looks unprofessional.

Is this a red flag?

Note: His call was initial. I've never heard of him or his company before.

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of What is the proper way to deal with a recruiter who calls during work hours?
    – user8036
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 10:09
  • 3
    @JanDoggen not really the same, here we discuss if it is ethical for a recruiter to call on the company phone, and how Sempie should react. From what I read, the other question is more related to the fact that the recruiter is calling during office hours.
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 10:11
  • 1
    I'm not familiar with Xing, but I assume it provides a way for you to be contacted via the site (and that your work phone number that he called on is not the means of contact you provided for Xing)? Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 10:17
  • 1
    The only problem here is that your company phone is easier to find than your private phone.
    – Agent_L
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 11:01
  • 1
    How did he get your work phone number? Is it listed somewhere or did he call your company looking for you or something? BTW, not sure where you stand on a moral point of view, but if you do business with him, he was right to do that.
    – komodosp
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 11:49

3 Answers 3


In all likelihood although you are looking, it won't be common knowledge at your current work, so calling you there risks exposure and maybe more.

  • Is this unprofessional? Yes
  • Is this common? Unfortunately Yes
  • Is this a red flag? Not necessarily

You'd be surprised how many recruiters do this, even when it means they need to work out/guess your work phone number/email (they sometimes email as well), I'm never sure if they just don't get it, or have such an impatience that they can't wait (or are trying to verify you really do work there), but it happens.

I'd let them know how you feel about it, and proceed with caution with the recruiter, if they pull the stunt again just DK them ("don't know who that is" when the call comes through).

I knew someone in the UK who interviewed at a large (American) bank, the offer fell through, so they took another job. 6 weeks later bank had a change of mind, and recruiter (unsolicited) rang the new company to make the offer. My friend got fired as he "obviously" wanted the other job more (even though he didn't instigate the conversation and ultimately told the recruiter where to go)

  • 1
    I don't know how it works in your country, but in mine, answering a phone call during work isn't unprofessional, work is not 100% of your time, even at work, you can take a (short) pause when you want, if your work is done when it has to be. For a recruiter, which is working the same hours as you, it is not a problem to call you, nor is it unprofessional. But maybe it depends of the country.
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 9:18
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    I think I didn't get something. He called him on his work phone ?
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 9:21
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    Yeah that's the point the recruiter called the poster at their work, not on cell or home phone, people have been fired for being found out looking for another job. Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 9:25
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    That is what I didn't understand at first, I have edited my answer to be more generalist. It is really a unprofessional to answer, except for just saying "call me outside of work hours on my *personal phone". I don't know what to think about the recruiter, but it is clearly not a professional behavior.
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 9:27
  • 3
    @JoeStrazzere what is unprofessional is to call someone on his company phone
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 11:35

If he calls you on your work phone, then yes, it is a unprofessional, except if he has no other infos to reach you (mail, personal phone, etc...).

I would not raise the red flag for that, but the recruiter seems really hungry. Double check any opportunity he might propose you, he may be just a bit inexperienced, or just really interested in your profile.

As keshlam said, the problem might that may only be "cold calls" just trying to get you signed up rather than actually having a position that they are recruiting for.

If you are interested, tell them to call you back on your personal line and on your own time; if you aren't, tell them to go away.

On the contrary, and to be a bit more generalist, if it is your personal phone, people just expect you not to answer the call (and call back later), or give a short response like "I am currently at work, please call me back later".

In that way, I don't think it's unprofessional, especially if it was the initial call.

Sometimes, the recruiter will leave you a message on your phone, that did happen to me several times.

  • 1
    You probably mean "unexperienced".
    – user29390
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 10:33
  • 6
    No. The word is "inexperienced". Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 11:52
  • Arg. That is what I got from trusting english people ! :p
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 12:05
  • I agree with others that this is somewhat unprofessional, but common. It used to be more so when cell phones weren't common. My concern is that someone who teaches you this way may be making "cold calls" just trying to get you signed up rather than actually having a position that they are recruiting for. If you are interested, tell them to call you back on your personal line and on your own time; if you aren't, tell them to go away.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 12:52
  • @keshlam if you don't mind, I will add your reflexion to my answer
    – Gautier C
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 12:53

Really depends how the recruiter from XING approached it.

Prior to switching career paths i worked as a Recruiter for four years where calling potential candidates up at work was a fairly common occurance. To clarify, this isn't a situation where i had a persons resume and was too impatient to wait until they got home to call them this was more in situations where i was hired by a company to help them track down very specific niche candidates. These conversations get initiated in workplaces only because this is often the only way to track down certain candidates - there may only be a few other companies who do the type of thing you need and it's just not practical to hope the resume passively finds its way into your lap. Granted this was a time before LinkedIn so probably easier now.

As for the ethicality of it, the way it's approached makes a big difference on how ethicial it is. When i first started doing it i felt very dirty about it as i didn't really know what i was doing. Putting somebody on the spot and their place of work with the impression of trying to "snatch them" away isn't terrific.

But then i got better at it and learned what is ok is calling a professional person in their professional environment who has uncommon specific industry exposure and has probably crossed paths with specialized individuals within this region and then having a conversation with them to see if they have any thoughts that could help you in finding somebody for this pretty neat position. That approach doesn't put anybody on the spot but allows them to request a deeper conversation later if it peaks their personal interest and if not then can still proceed into a conversation about ideas on how to find somebody or recommend somebody. Almost nobody gets mad at that sort of approach and it's not even that awkard of a conversation to get overheard having it if's just providing input towards a search.

End of the day it's all roses if you end up getting a better position out of the call that you otherwise would never have known about.

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