To respond or not to respond? Tactics for responding to UX job recruiters

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I’ve seen some recent discussion about whether and how to reply to messages from recruiters, especially if you’re not actively unemployed, not looking, or otherwise not all that interested. 

Me, I respond to almost everyone on LinkedIn who has a profile picture of a human being and sends a reasonably coherent message. I don’t think strangers are owed a reply, but, you know, we’re both on a network about jobs and employment, so I don’t find it rude to hear from them. I’m a bit less generous when responding to unsolicited emails or calls, especially ones using private information from purchased lists. But for messages about jobs on the job platform, I do typically respond. It doesn’t take much of my time, even on busy weeks where I get 2 or 3 messages a day, because I have a strong idea of what I’m open to, and I just tell people exactly that. If they’ve got something truly interesting, hey, we keep talking. If they don’t, hey, they know what I’m looking for!

Here’s an actual message I sent earlier this year:

Hi Zane! Thanks for reaching out. I’m keeping my ear open for director/leadership-level content roles at the moment, for companies with full-time remote as an option. I’m guessing from the job title this isn’t it but happy to hear more if I’m wrong!

Another:

Hi Noga! I don’t do hourly or contract writing work. My focus is more on strategy, practice leadership, and training. For example, running a strategy setting workshop with senior leadership about content, or training up a new team of content designers.

And from a while back, before my most recent in-house role:

Hi Shelby. Thanks for reaching out. Starting a new position on Monday so not looking for a change any time soon. If I’m in the market in the future, it will be for principal-level IC roles focused on content design operations and practice leadership (less so people management). Good luck with your search!

Sometimes these responses lead to a bit more conversation. Mostly I never hear back. But also? I never hear back, in that I don’t get five more messages. So bit of a timesaver there.

To practice this kind of articulation, participants in my accelerator work on “Content Career Statements”, inspired by the Mad Libs style content strategy statements I’m sure many of us are familiar with. Here’s the format:

I want to lead/join/manage/support… [team or discipline]
as a… [role]
at a… [industry/company type]
on a… [employment type] basis.

By way of example, you could have:

I want to join… [a product design team]
as a… [content designer]
at a… [fast-growing tech startup]
on a… [full-time, in-house] basis.

Or…

I want to lead… [the content strategy practice]
as a… [partner]
at a… [design agency]
on a… [full-time, in-house] basis.

This exercise doesn’t get you all the way to the types of replies I shared above, rather, it’s more of a skeleton to get you started. You might find yourself adding more specificity about your timeline, your desired location or remote-work requirements, accommodations, even the kind of company or nature of work (e.g. mission-driven or social good).