How to Handle a Call from a Restaurant Recruiter

You’re happy in your current restaurant and aren’t thinking about leaving. So what should you do when a restaurant executive recruiter calls you?

You never know when a management recruiter might present a better opportunity. You’d be wise to learn what jobs are available. As a restaurant manager, you should already know the value of networking with other industry insiders. As most jobs a recruiter searches to fill aren’t advertised, working with a restaurant recruiter gives you an avenue of broader exposure to potentially better positions than you can get on your own. It could result in the discovery of a better opportunity for yourself.

If you are exceptional at your position, expect to be contacted. As new restaurant openings increase, experienced managers who excel in their positions can expect to be contacted. If you never get a call from a recruiter, you might not be “recruitable“ management material. Employers traditionally prefer to raid the ranks of the employed, especially those working for competitors. They will use recruiters to do so.

Here’s how to handle calls so you remain in a recruiter’s good graces without jeopardizing your current position.

Always take the call:

If you don’t cooperate, chances are you won’t be contacted by the firm again. One manager rudely refused to speak to a recruiter I work with when he called about an opening for a general manager of a high-volume concept paying $60k base, about $12k more than the manager was currently making. Less than a month later, the same manager’s resume arrived at the search firm. He’d been downsized out of his job. Guess where his resume went? Not wanting to talk to a recruiter shows that you do not understand the value of networking — a definite blow to your future career prospects.

Find out more about the firm:

If you aren’t familiar with the recruiter or the firm, ask for credentials. Get a phone number so you can call back to confirm that the company — and recruiter — actually exist. This can assure you the call is not coming from someone within your company trying to find out if you’re looking at other job opportunities. Also, no one should ask you for money. If a recruiter ever asks you for payment, that’s when you hang up because that’s not recruiting. Never pay for a job.

Read between the lines:

During your first conversation, you may not be given the name of the hiring company, just a brief description of the opening and its requirements. The recruiter may then ask if you know anyone suitable for the job. Be equally discreet in return. If you’re interested, don’t fire off your resume. Instead, ask for more information so you can evaluate the opportunity. Your next conversation should probably occur outside your restaurant.

If you aren’t interested, say so, but offer the names of people who might be. You’ll be helping your contacts and the recruiter, which can put you on his or her short list to call next time. The restaurant manager who says, “Would you like suggestions that might lead you to the appropriate people?”, will end up being a friend. Maybe three months down the road, they’ll have an assignment that’s appropriate for you.

Be articulate and positive:

The fact that you’ve been called means you have the right background for an opening. Don’t assume you’re just chatting; the recruiter will be evaluating whether you have the communication skills and other “intangibles” needed for the job. If someone answers my questions with “yeps” and “nos“, I’ll probably keep looking for someone who answers in full sentences. A positive, can-do attitude is essential. If you can say, “We had some real financial problems and have been down in sales the past two years, but I’ve learned so much about how to manage during lean times”, I’m more likely to think well of you than if you run your employer down.

Don’t exaggerate:

When asked about your accomplishments or earnings, don’t embellish. Recruiters check references thoroughly and any lies will disqualify you. If you fudge on your resume, that will give you a black mark not only with the recruiter, but with all their client restaurant concepts as well. Being completely honest means the recruiter is more likely to find the right fit for you. Tell them what you’re looking for and what you want that you don‘t currently have in your current position. Be realistic and honest about what you’re earning and your abilities.

If you survive these tests, the recruiter will most likely reveal the employer’s identity to you. If you’re still interested and continue to impress the search executive, your name will be submitted to the company. If you’re suitable, the next call you receive will be to schedule an interview.