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How to decline recruiter outreach letters (politely)

Posted by Mitch Corlett on November 20, 2014

When a recruiter reaches out to you, it's in order to determine:

  1. If you're a match for the more nuanced aspects of the position. (Because words on paper are a poor indicator of overall ability.)

  2. If you're at all interested in having that conversation.

No recruiter expects that every person they reach out to will be a great fit.  But something they found -- whether it be your resume, LinkedIn profile, portfolio, website, etc. -- was enough to trigger a conversation.  Outreach is like shooting a shotgun at a target -- some of the buckshot might hit the bulls-eye, but far more of it will be way off the mark. (If you want to be near the bulls-eye and therefore more easily found, fill your resume with meaningful keywords that demonstrate your concrete skills. See our Career Guides for more.)

We get it. If you're in a high-demand position, and receiving a constant barrage of outreach emails from recruiters offering positions only nominally like yours, responding nicely to them as they pop up can be the last thing on your mind. But just like how you shouldn't burn your bridges when quitting your job, so too should you not burn your bridges with a recruiter (when the job they offer finally gets it right, you don't want to start off on the wrong foot, or miss out on the opportunity because of rudeness).

So here are a few ways to effectively decline recruiter outreach that won't ruin your future chances. Clearly, responses do not need to be long, they just need to get to the point (in fact recruiters prefer short and sweet):

Not interested in Travel:

  • Thank you for the email for the [position] at [company]. While the position looks very interesting, and the responsibilities are a good fit with my background, I’m not that interested in the amount of travel required. I do quite a bit of business travel now, however to be honest, I’m not interested in increasing it.
  • Thanks for reaching out about this opportunity. I did read this a few times and looked at the full description on their website. Parts of it are very appealing to me but after some thought I don't think I'm up to as much travel as it looks like this position will need.

Career Path Discrepancies:

  • My forte is in the world of information technology.  It looks like an exciting position, but not in my area of expertise.
  • Thanks for thinking of me, but not a great fit.

Happy Where I Am 

  • I’m flattered, but I am very happy where I am. Thank you!
  • Thank you for reaching out. At this time, I am not interested in the position personally. However, if you would like I can certainly forward the position to any colleagues I think may be interested. At this time, I do not have anyone in mind specifically.
  • Thanks for the info. Not interested in this position but please keep me in mind for others that might come your way.
  • Thank you for reaching out regarding the opportunity at [company]. I am currently happy with my employment at [company], but thank you again for considering me.
  • Thank you for reaching out to me, I appreciate the inquiry. I would normally be very interested in exploring this particular opportunity further. However, I recently accepted a senior leadership role with [company].

Not Interested in Making a Move

  • Thanks for reaching out, but this position is not of interest to me. 
  • Thanks for reaching out to me. I am currently not in the market, but feel free to send me anything you think may be of interest. If I know someone who would be a good fit, I'll happily send them along to you.
  • Thanks for the email. I appreciate the thought. I am very happy where I am, and I’ll see if I know anyone who might be a fit for the role.
  • I am not interested in making a move at this time.
  • Thank you for thinking of me for this interesting position -- I truly appreciate it. However, I am very happy in my current job and do not have any plans to leave or relocate. I will gladly keep eyes and ears open for a candidate that might satisfy the requirements and skill set outlined in the position description.

While you're here, take a look at our current openings. You might find them more appealing:

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And when you are ready to consider new opportunities, you might find this guide helpful.

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Topics: Working with Recruiters as a Candidate