A friend of mine recently asked me if he should return every call that came in from a recruiter. I know I am biased, but of course my answer was yes! Yes, you should at least thank and acknowledge the outreach – either with a quick email or return phone call. Sure, the job they pitched may not have been remotely interesting but, hey, the next job they have may well be. Or maybe with a few more minutes of hearing about the role, something sounds like a great match and you decide to jump in.
If you are in a high profile role or at a high flying company, chances are you are getting more calls than you know what to do with. In that case, you will likely need to weed through some of the noise but do take some time to listen to opportunities when you have the time.
On the flip side, if you are not in that visible position or you are not well known (either for reasons you control – like you haven’t put any energy into your online presence – or don’t) you really need to cultivate relationships with recruiters. It shouldn’t be a surprise that we keep track of what people are interested in, what might motivate them to change jobs.
And finally, keep your own database of recruiters—you never know when you’ll be reorg’d under a boss you despise, or find yourself in need of a job. You can also be valuable to your friends who are looking and turn them on to various connections you’ve made in the industry.