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A recruiter contacted me about a possibility for a job in my field and suggested having a phone call to discuss the details. I said I was willing to have a phone call, and asked if 7pm was too late for him (we are in the same timezone). He replied:

7pm is too late. If you are going to seriously start looking for a new position, you need to be able to take calls in the day. If you cannot, I won't be able to help you.

I found this extremely annoying, but I was wondering if my request was not really out of line, instead. In my opinion, 7pm is not like midnight. A lot of people still work at 7pm.

Was it unreasonable for me to ask for that? Is his response out of line?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Sep 15 '17 at 6:56

12 Answers 12

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Was it unreasonable for me to ask for that?

Not at all. If you can't take phone calls during the day, for whatever reason, so be it.

Is his response out of line?

A little, by insinuating you aren't serious about wanting a new job because of when you can be called. Which is a rather poor argument.

But really, they're just saying they are unable to help you if you can't take calls during the day; that's perfectly fine. Same as above; if they can't take phone calls outside of office hours, so be it.

I would just take it as a "We're not a good match" and thank them for their time, given that your schedules don't seem to work together.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Sep 15 '17 at 6:55
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When I was recruiting, I spoke with candidates when the candidates felt comfortable speaking. The fact that this recruiter, who contacted you about the position, is taking this attitude, is absurd. Is this an internal recruiter? If so, then the message he/she is sending about the company is one of excessive and pedantic control.

If it's an independent recruiter? "You know, you're right. You won't be able to help me. Please don't contact me again."

Now, if the client company and the hiring managers want to do a formal face to face interview... - of course, during work hours. Phone interviews with the company can go either way. I had hiring managers call and talk to candidates even pretty late in the evening, or very early, before work hours. The purpose is to get a desired candidate started in the process. Since companies value, like gold, people who are currently employed, they are often sensitive to not leaving obvious cues with a potential candidate's current employer, because, again, they want to encourage employed candidates to get into their process and consider their position.

There are plenty of other recruiters out there. Better ones (again, if not a company's internal person), if you do want to look around. Some of them might even be working to fill this same position.

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    "Is this an internal recruiter? If so, then the message he/she is sending about the company is one of excessive and pedantic control.". I mean I certainly agree that the tone of the answer is in no way justified, but asking an employee to work at 7 at night - presumably during their time off seems not that usual either and I can understand if someone wouldn't want to do this. If this is an independent recruiter that's obviously different. – Voo Sep 14 '17 at 20:03
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    @Voo - I pointed out in my answer why it is part of the job of any recruiter to be available, at least for initial screens, on the potential candidate's schedule. Those hours are work hours, if you are a recruiter, and there's nothing about a phone conversation that requires you to be in the office. – PoloHoleSet Sep 14 '17 at 21:57
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    @Voo, the recruiter doesn't have to phone him. He could email. It seems that is is the recruiter who insists on phone calls. – John B. Lambe Sep 15 '17 at 22:46
  • @Voo - also, it's not the candidate telling the recruiter when they have to work. It's the candidate telling when they are available. They are currently employed, and work hours they are working for their employer. If a recruiter wants to have a conversation about a different job, and the candidate says "since I'm employed, it's going to have to be not during my work hours," that's simply telling availability. ANY company or independent recruiter that does not want to severely limit their access to talent is going to accommodate availability. – PoloHoleSet Sep 19 '17 at 14:44
  • +1 for "Excessive and pedantic control" - some companies/management styles are of this, and are serious red flags. It is not inappropriate to tell someone that you're not available by phone during work hours. I can see that if they've misunderstood you to mean that you won't be available that might be an issue, but that's not what this sounds like. – Miller86 Oct 4 '17 at 15:08
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Personally, when dealing with recruiters, I take the stance that I am helping them by going for an interview or talking about potential job offers. Why? The recruiter gets a cut from your new employer when you get the job. I think in the UK the rate can be between 10% to 15% of your salary. So if you're on £35,000 per year, you're quite a carrot in that respect!

If it were me dealing with that recruiter, I would remind him that he contacted you first. You haven't sought to get a new position, he's offered you one. He needs to help you to help him, so if 7pm is the only time you can take the call then he needs to understand that and accept it. It's not professional or nice to your current employer to take phone calls during the day over a new position if you actually can't take the call. Would your new employer appreciate it if you did the same in a few years time?

So to me, that recruiter is trying to pressure you in to going for that job for their benefit, not yours. I would tell him thanks but no thanks. If he asks why, point out the obvious to him.

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7pm is too late. If you are going to seriously start looking for a new position, you need to be able to take calls in the day. If you cannot, I won't be able to help you.

This is COMPLETELY out of the line. If he contacted you first, it's exactly the other way around. If he's serious about poaching you, it's a #1 requirement for him to work around YOUR schedule. What's absolutely outrageous is that he's trying to reverse the situation by stating that he's helping you. If he contacted you, it means that it's him who has clients with positions to fill and it's you who's helping him to get his job done.

The situation would be the other way around if it was you who was actively looking for a job.

Now, I have painted rather extreme image. In reality, two parties working towards a common goal tend to go quite long ways into making each other lives easier. The guy is obviously trying to force you into doing whatever he says, so IMHO it's fair to be as unyielding as he is.

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    This was my take too. This whole conversational gambit seems to be more about establishing a power dynamic between the two of you than about the mechanics of job-seeking. Personally, I wouldn't be comfortable continuing a relationship with a recruiter who wants me in that kind of subservient position. – T.E.D. Sep 14 '17 at 19:45
  • My take too. Any recruiter approaching me with such an attitude would be given short shrift. Recruitment is a big industry, and I am just as important a client as the company. The company may pay you, but I am your product. Treat me as such. – Miller86 Oct 4 '17 at 15:01
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You should just have replied him that you, being a professional, aren't able to pick up phone calls during working hours because it wouldn't be professional in regard of your current employer.

Answering your question, it's perfectly fine to ask a recruiter to call you out of working hours.

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It depends.

If they recruiter is a direct recruiter for the company, then they are likely an regular employee and expect to work regular business hours and not have to give up their personal time to accommodate you. If their work day normally ends at 17:00, you are asking them to extend their day by up to 3 hours to talk to you and make notes after. Not reasonable at all.

If they are an open recruiter, that is an agency that works to place people with multiple organizations, then they are your agent and working on commission. Then, it is their job to place you and they are working for you even though their commission is likely paid by the companies. In this case, the request would be relatively normal and if the recruiter is not willing to work with you on this, then they are not the correct recruiter for you.

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    Why would the recruiter need to "extend their day by up to 3 hours"? They could just call from home. I know that's what our in-house recruiter does all the time. – Erik Sep 13 '17 at 13:32
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    @Erik Most in house recruiters I know would very seldom give up their person/family time to accommodate any except an already known, highly sought candidate. They approach things from the idea that a candidate needs to sell themselves to the company, not that the company needs to bend over for a candidate. – dlb Sep 13 '17 at 14:42
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    @dlb it depends on the company you work for. Companies that struggle to hire talent will bend; companies that are drowning in it won't. Just like employees who can easily get work won't bend and those that have a hard time will. – Erik Sep 13 '17 at 14:44
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    @dlb the recruiter contacted the OP. If anyone contacts me and needs something from me, they better make this work on my terms or just find someone else. I don't think that's unreasonable at all. – Josef Sep 14 '17 at 9:02
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    This is a bit of a misconception. A recruiter is not working for you. They are working for achieving hires. Their salary is effectively measured in hires-per-year. So scouring the market for the best of all possible matches for you isn't their job. They maximize their income by quickly finding a match they can talk both sides into, and then moving on to the next one. – T.E.D. Sep 14 '17 at 19:51
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If you can't make time for a phonecall during the day, when will you go to job interviews? I think that's the point this recruiter was trying to make.

Whether or not the comment was warranted is a different question, and not so easy to answer with just the information you've provided. It's quite possible that you gave the impression of not asking if the conversation could take place at 7pm, but stating that you would only be available at 7pm. As most companies still have business hours somewhere between 9am and 6pm that would make it very difficult for most companies to interact with you. It doesn't matter what you intended to convey here, it matters what the other person understood.

If what you've quoted is the verbatim quote, it doesn't read like it's out of line to me. It reads to me like they are saying "Assuming you're serious about finding a new job, not being available until 7pm will make things very difficult for you. I personally for instance, will not be able to work with you". That doesn't seem out of line to me, just open and honest.

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    This is a little unreasonable. A job interview is scheduled several days in advance. It is a very different concept. If the OP is in a role like a ward nurse in a hospital, they may not even be allowed to have a cell phone with them during their working hours as it may interfere with medical devices. There are dozens of other reasonable explanations why a person cannot take a recruiter call during working hours. There are lots of other communications methods that could work. – Wesley Long Sep 13 '17 at 14:22
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    My company does phone screens first. We do them during the day. If you can't take a call during the day, you likely won't have a chance at one of our jobs. – cdkMoose Sep 13 '17 at 15:52
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    Also keep in mind, it's not like the candidate filled out an application and is begging for a chance to be considered. The recruiter reached out and contacted OP. To do that and then act put out because a candidate wants to handle the initial introductory conversation not on their work hours seems a bit backwards. – PoloHoleSet Sep 13 '17 at 15:56
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    Like I said in my answer, recruiters need to be extremely sensitive to not exposing their candidates as looking around for a job. Further in the process I'd expect a candidate to make accommodations for a job they are interested. Introductory? Whenever it works for the candidate was my working M.O. – PoloHoleSet Sep 13 '17 at 16:05
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    You've never done a job interview past 6PM? I've done so, more than once. I currently work for a company which hires hundreds of people a year in the IT department alone, which means recruiters talk to many thousands of candidates a year. From all over the globe. Which implies making calls very early, or very late our time. – Abigail Sep 13 '17 at 23:08
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Did you explain to him why you can't take calls during the day?

If you currently have a job, you need to continue doing your work during business hours. It's inappropriate of the recruiter to expect you to interrupt your work to take his calls. This should show that you're a good prospect for the new employer, since you don't shirk your responsibilities for personal reasons.

Recruiters must have to deal with people who are still working during business hours all the time, I find it hard to believe that he would consider this to indicate that you're not serious about looking for a new job.

However, if you're not currently working, your request seems unreasonable. What else are you doing during the day that's more important than looking for a job.

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7 pm really is too late. In recruiting firms, some staff have to start the day extra early to cover for applicants in multiple time zones. They want to go home and relax and enjoy a few hours' peace, just like you do.

Aside from that, if you have a strong insistence on only dealing with the phone calls at that time, you're going to make the process painful for everyone else, INCLUDING the employer's staff -- who ALSO want to go home and leave work at work. I can't imagine a recruiter trying to get availability from you for a phone screen or interview, and the recruiter spending two or three days relaying that information between you and the client because you only want to take calls at a certain time. What's even more frustrating to think of is if the recruiter sets things up but has to contact you at the last minute because of scheduling changes with the client (it happens about 15% of the time)... and you're not answering calls.

If you're the least flexible person in the process of moving toward a job, the recruiter and client may find no shortage of other applicants who may be less qualified but a whole lot easier to work with.

  • You have to show availability otherwise why would the recruiter risk putting you in front of their client? +1 – Mister Positive Sep 13 '17 at 17:16
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    @MisterPositive Yes. We should also consider the fact that the clients will frown on recruiters who are sending resumes for 'problematic' applicants, because it wastes time. – Xavier J Sep 13 '17 at 17:18
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    In recruiting firms, some staff have to start the day extra early to cover for applicants in multiple time zones. Why only look at clients East of where you're located? Why not have some staff start the day later, who want to sleep in late, and not be rushed in the morning to get a few hours' peace before work? – krillgar Sep 13 '17 at 18:32
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    This is really a ludicrous argument. As others have pointed out, you as the applicant who was contacted by the recruiter are doing them a favor if you get the position. If the recruiter is the least flexible person in the process of moving toward a job, then why would I want to work with the recruiter? – krillgar Sep 13 '17 at 18:33
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    During any serious job hunt I am pursuing multiple options in parallel. It's a lot easier to justify taking time off work for an in-person interview or tech phone screen than for an initial screening call from a recruiter. – arp Sep 13 '17 at 19:40
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I frequently have dealt with recruiters both in my local time and in another time zones. What it is expected on a recruitment negotiation process is some flexibility on both sides, and both remembering the person on the other side is busy with a job, a family and tasks to honour.

I advise trying to coordinate sensible times with recruiters as they also have a personal life and office hours. Especially in Germany and the UK, if working in an office, people are adamant about their 9 to 5 schedule as a rule.

Here in Lisbon, there are a lot of people that is from other cities, and as such, I avoid asking for Friday afternoon interviews unless the interviewer is fine with it. That said, I have had earlier-later calls from recruiters. Locally here in Portugal there is also a culture of working late, so 6-7PM face-to-face interviews are quite common, as the "official" dinner time is around 8-9PM.

I remember also having face-to-face interviews on a coffee shop, on Saturdays, or even in an hotel cafeteria at lunch time (and getting the job in two of them). Recruiters or upper management can be very flexible when they are really interested on you.

You could take a cigarette/coffee/snack break to talk with them, if it is a short screening call, or use the lunch hour for longish interviews over the phone. Another possibility is leaving earlier in a pre-arranged day when more advanced in the recruitment process, and if unable to reach home in a sensible time frame, making the interview call in a local coffee/Starbucks shop for skype interviews.

As for myself, as I live nearby, I often shorten the day, and/or enter the job early, so I can reach home in a sensible time frame (for me and them).

If the headhunter is willing to go the extra mile, late night or Saturday mornings interviews are not entirely unheard of. However, I would advise to wait for them to offer the possibility.

For confirming and rescheduling booked screening call/interviews, we live in a connected world, and any sensible interviewer will make use of instant messaging/linked.in messages during work hours to relay you scheduling changes ahead of the arranged time. Seasoned professionals, when calling you, often the first think they ask is if it is the right moment to talk.

About the theme of interrupting the work day abruptly, I advise reserving that for the final phase(s) of the recruitment process - there are only a few hours/days in a year we are able to take off. An headhunter saying you will have to have that flexibility from the get go is not a good sign.

However, if an interviewer is not willing to work with you to book a time both of you are comfortable with, maybe you should say you are not comfortable or at ease with the process and move on.

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When dealing with recruiters EVERYTHING, from the moment initial contact is made, is a negotiation. By not taking the call during the day your stating that getting a new job\contract isn't currently your highest priority. If you were desperate you'd take calls 24\7. Likewise if they aren't interested in calling you outside working hours then evidently it's not worth it to them to do so. If they thought you were a strong enough candidate for a high enough paying position they'd call at whatever time you asked because the margins are high enough to make it worth it.

After 25 years of contracting and having dealt with hundreds of recruiters I have found that the ones that come off demanding during the initial contact make for very hard people to deal with throughout the duration of the negotiations and contracts. Keep in mind that Recruiters work for you. If you don't get the job they don't get paid (but then of course neither do you).

  • Recruiters do not work for candidates. They work for the client company that pays their fee. While it is to their advantage to have a positive interaction with a candidate, and a good candidate is a valuable resource to them, the candidate is just that, a resource/commodity they are selling. The client is the customer, and some of the most successful recruiters brag about how quickly they can assess whether they should dump a potential candidate who they will not be able to a quickly convert into a fee. – PoloHoleSet Jan 15 at 16:51
  • @PoloHoleSet Its Entirely point of view. Act like a victim they can manipulate and take advantage of and they will. Its just like any other negotiation. – David Jan 22 at 1:07
  • no, it's not "entirely point of view." In recruiter training, they emphasize "your customer is the company, not the candidate. Do not waste your valuable time trying to please candidates beyond what is needed to cooperate in the process." That was from my recruiter training with the company that was the largest international recruiting firm, at the time (right around 2000). Companies pay the fees. Candidates pay nothing. Candidates are the product, company is the client. – PoloHoleSet Jan 22 at 18:33
  • "recruiter training" is irrelevant. A recruiter is no different then a used car salesman. They take advantage of you or you take advantage of them. You can make them work for you or you can work for them the choice is yours. – David Jan 24 at 10:38
  • I'm not saying you can't have a beneficial relationship with a recruiter, I'm not saying you can't gain a lot from that relationship. I'm telling you there is one customer, and it's the client company. That is who the recruiter works for. Not you, or any other candidate. You can make that relationship work for you, but saying that they work for you, as a candidate, is simply inaccurate. Your analogy is horrible, because with a used car salesman, you're the person paying the salesman and their company. In a recruiter situation, it's the company paying the recruiter. – PoloHoleSet Jan 24 at 15:03
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One thing you said that I'd correct is recruiters work for the client company, not for the candidate. Recruiters provide a free service to the candidate so I think the best mindset to have is to be forthcoming and well prepared. That goes for what you're looking for, about the job you're interviewing for, about what you bring to the table and so on. Otherwise, difficult candidates are typically difficult employees.

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