About a year and a half ago I was waist deep in a job search. Having found a new job, I've since attempted to remove my resume from the internet. However, this hasn't stopped recruiters from finding my cell phone number.

This has become an increasing issue while I'm at work, because my patience quickly dwindles. Recruiters will call, I will answer, and I am then trapped into a long intro about:

  • Who they are
  • Who they work for
  • Where they found my info
  • An expose about the job they think would be a perfect fit for me
  • Sometimes, without pause, they even begin speaking about "If you don't want it, we offer referral incentives if you have a friend who can fit the role..."

I'd like to not be rude, since any of these people could help place me into a new role in the future and I don't want to burn bridges. However I do not want to waste time listening to them because I have nothing to offer them at this time.

That being said, when is the best time to interrupt and dismiss myself from a call like this, and how can I do so in the most polite/professional manner?

Note: Answering my phone at work is permitted for my job, but I only do so in case of family emergency or in anticipation of hearing from a friend who's currently at a recovery facility over 14 hours away from me. These are both very rare but very important calls to me, and not answering my phone is not the answer I am looking for. My mom often calls from an 'unknown' number (it's just how her work dials out and can't be helped) and I cannot call my friend back. Please do not recommend any additional voicemail solutions. While they have their use, they are not helpful for my current scenario.

Additionally, I've made an effort to save the contact information after a recruiter calls so that I know not to answer in the future, but more often than not it's a new recruiter calling from a new number, so this hasn't solved much.

  • 25
    @AnneDaunted Yes, and usually this also starts the spiel of "This is Jane Doe calling from Generic Bob Technologies and I'm calling because..."
    – Jess K.
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 15:57
  • 5
    @AnneDaunted In my experience, that's the same thing as confirming that they're speaking to you, and they just go into their spiel regardless.
    – Mage Xy
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 15:58
  • 4
    Will you always recognize the numbers from all of your family and your recovering friend?
    – BlackThorn
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 16:36
  • 8
    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes.
    – Mithical
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 9:28
  • 6
    Why is it important to be polite? I don't work in a sector with recruiters. Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 0:12

10 Answers 10


Keep this in mind: recruiters are salespeople. They get paid when positions get filled. They want to pursue potential opportunities and not go after something that won't work.

That said, showing that they're wasting their time on you is not rude. It saves them time and enables them to pursue a potential sale and not pursue someone who is not interested.

When a recruiter introduces themself, it's usually in the format of "Hello [x], this is John Doe from RecruitingCorp. I've got a position that you would be a good fit for..." That's the time to break in.

John, I'd like to save you some time here. Thanks for the call and I really appreciate your contacting me. At this point I'm not in the market and I don't know of anyone looking, either. Good luck with your search!

Be polite, appreciative, and professional. And if they get insistent, just say,

I'm sorry, I need to get back to work. Have a great day!

And hang up. They're used to being told "not interested" and unless you're a jerk about it, they'll pick the phone back up and try the next potential contact. If you're pleasant, they'll forget about within half an hour and keep moving on.

  • 25
    Good answer! I have a friend who is telesales manager. He told me what they are looking for is a clear Yes or No and not a long discussion. They prefer a clear No instead of lots of talking which wastes everybody's time only to get a soft No after possibly several phone calls.
    – user8838
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 3:24
  • 1
    "If you're pleasant, they'll forget about within half an hour and keep moving on." I think half an hour is a long time for a salesperson to make the next call. They'll be out of their recruiter job quickly.
    – CodeMonkey
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 16:11
  • 1
    @CodeMonkey Yeah, I could have worded that better. I meant that within half an hour they'll have forgotten that particular person on the other end. You're right; the recruiter would normally just dial the next number and not wait for their memory of a professional encounter to fade. Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 16:16
  • 4
    Reverse the two then? "If you're pleasant, they'll just move on to other calls and will have forgotten about you within half an hour"
    – Doktor J
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 17:44
  • Yes, you can be rude/ curt with sales people. Just as you can cut-off taxi drivers.
    – RIanGillis
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 19:23

The best, and most respectful way is to interrupt them by saying

Excuse me, I don't want to waste your time. I am no longer looking. Thank you.

Even though this may seem a little rude, it is the best approach as it allows them to proceed to their next prospect more quickly, and saves their voice. recruiters are on the phone all day and will actually appreciate a quick "No, thank you" at the beginning of their pitch.

  • 14
    The "excuse me" should be as persistent and unyielding as called for. Say it as many times as you need to, to get the recruiter to shut up and give you a slice of breath to say "not interested, goodbye" in. And the main point to remember is: "Excuse me" IS AN INTERRUPTION. You can't get what you're after (their ear, for five seconds) without having the brass to interrupt. And keep interrupting, until they have the decency to respect your request that they excuse you for doing so.
    – Beanluc
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 23:49
  • 13
    And if they don't pause to let you get your "not interested" in, then they're being overly rude, at which point you simply hang-up.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:13

An alternative solution that may work for you depending on your phone philosophies is don't answer the phone for unrecognized numbers. Set your answering machine to say something like,

You have reached Jess K. For personal related calls please leave a message. If you are calling for recruitment, I have already concluded my job search but thank you anyway for your consideration.

  • 4
    I did this--took about 3 months or so, but it drastically reduced the number of recruiter calls I got.
    – Marisa
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 17:18
  • 1
    I think this is a great approach for the general public. My scenario is a bit limiting (my friend who calls cannot be called back and the number isn't screenable), but I think this is an answer that anyone else with less limitations should pursue.
    – Jess K.
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 19:57
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    This approach is not reasonable for parents - the possibilities for the sources of emergency calls are simply endless.
    – user7468
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 8:38
  • 1
    People calling because of emergency might have a good reason for calling and not leaving a message. An actual (medical) emergency during daytime can be just as urgent as your child standing somewhere crying in the middle of the night with no means to get back home. And people calling for medical emergencies sometimes even legally cannot leave a message (because someone with no legal base to know the patient's medical record could listen to that, they have to at least try and make sure you are the person they need to talk to).
    – skymningen
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 8:43
  • 3
    The rule of thumb I always use when worrying about an emergency is, if it's a legitimate emergency, they'll call again. Anyone who gives up after one no-answer is obviously not that worried about getting your attention.
    – thanby
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 13:58

They are salespeople, and the very nature of sales is to "press to the yes". Master salespeople get who you are: they grok. Lesser salespeople imagine you as the perfect client and stream information at you, thinking if you haven't bought, they haven't told you enough positives yet. They misinterpret your silence as continued interest.

This conflicts with your trained courtesy to not interrupt and wait your turn to speak.

You must suppress that courtesy and bust into the conversation with what they need to know. That personality would prefer you be very direct. Not mean, just direct. Get to the point fast, they will thank you.

IPX-wise, it's a matter of changing how you interact to be effective with the type of person you are interacting with right now. You still deal with others in your normal way (or in another way that is effective on them). This is one way master salespeople are so good.

Again the mid-level salespeople will hear anything you say as an "objection" and will reflexively spew more words, on the belief that words will "overcome the objection" I believe is what sales training calls it. Great salespeople will grok. Sadly, you kinda have to help the salespeople who are not great.

Here's a recruiter conversation.

"It's in Region X."

"As my resume says, I am moving in 30 days after which Region X is infeasible for me. Thanks for cal--

"It's a 4-week gig."

"I'm sorry for being crusty! You have my undivided attention."

This was the work of a master. Also, best job I ever had, and kept for 10 years, damn the commute.

Anyway, you should interrupt like that.

  • 1
    Maybe it's just personal difference, but your conversation strikes me as being anything but masterful. I feel like there's some critical context missing, because the interruption during the second line would have caused me to just hang up. If they can't let me finish a sentence, I absolutely don't want to do business with them.
    – thanby
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 14:04
  • 1
    @thanby and me too normally, but I'm flexible if what they interrupt me with is really good. Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 19:25
  • @thanby The recruiter is just the messenger and you can ignore him in future but the job might have a great boss.
    – KalleMP
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:53
  • I can however say from experience that signing up with a bad recruiter can make your life miserable if you're on contract, or cause a botched offer which results in you losing the opportunity permanently
    – thanby
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 13:11

There is nothing wrong with just hanging up in this situation. Yes, it is better to interrupt them and say 'Sorry, not looking, bye', but view it this way: the faster you terminate the call, the faster they can move on to someone more valuable to them 'right now'. If they launch right into a sales pitch, that is their problem, not yours.

I don't expect many recruiters will keep track of 'rude' vs 'not looking' assuming they have a list. This behaviour just doesn't really add value for them - by the time you're looking again, they won't care about the response they got in the past - just if they can place you this time round.

You might want to worry about burning bridges with potential employers, but recruiters don't own bridges, they're trying to sell you someone else's bridge.


Salespeople -- especially those making cold calls -- have been trained to take advantage of the politeness of their targets. Do not allow them to take advantage of you; and do not be afraid to interrupt them when they try.

I simply say "Thanks, but I'm not interested". I'll give them a chance to say goodbye; but if they persist in their shpiel I just hang up.

Actually, more to the point, make sure to say "Take me off your call list." They're legally obligated to do so if you ask. (Whether they actually do or not is another issue of course....)


I actually had this problem a bunch after getting hired for my current job. I fretted about just hanging up on them because not only was it rude but they would leave messages on my voicemail and I felt even more obliged to chase them up and politely decline their offer.

My solution was to change my voicemail to sound something like this:

Hello, this is [my name]. I am sorry I couldn't take your call right now. If you're a recruiter or similar then I am sorry to inform you that I am happily hired and not interested in a new role. If you are family or friends then please text me and do not leave a voicemail. For all other enquiries please leave a message.

The amount of recruiting calls I got sank dramatically over the next few weeks. When you can essentially automate rejection, the recruiters will take you off their system and you will get the calls less and less.

This way you don't have to answer the phone at all when at work.

  • Good answer, although it seems incongruous to say you're sorry to inform them that you're happy. :)
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 27, 2018 at 2:59

I'm not sure how effective this would be, but I always save my family / friends to contacts so they get a different ringtone. If I get a call from an unknown number, I tend to answer the phone with a different greeting. For example, I may open with

Hi, Company X, John speaking

It usually lets people know before they even open their mouth that I'm already working for Company X. If they continue with their speech about the role and all, politely interrupt and say something along the lines of

I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I'm no longer looking for a new position as I've recently taken on a new role within a different company. But thank you for the call - I appreciate it.

It's worked for me, and keeps me on a good standing if I happen to go back to that recruitment company in a few years. Then I can save the number and the person I spoke to. If they call again I'll know who it is and take the appropriate action for the situation.

First post here, so I hope this helps.

  • 1
    Very good advice as you get your words in before them.
    – KalleMP
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 19:59
  1. You don't need to answer, certainly not during work hours (pay for a caller-ID / area-code service to screen out known recruiters), you don't need to be polite, and you can and should say "Stop calling me and delete my number" and hang up immediately. (And if they call again, don't answer, and email telling them to stop or you'll report them for junk calls).
  2. Change your phone number. This really isn't a question about interpersonal skills, there's no magic skill to undo having given it out blindly, and let it be indexed by Google/Facebook, forever. Once your number is out there in public, you can't prevent hordes of annoying salespeople (that is exactly what they are) cold-calling you without your consent, at any time. Ten years in the future, trust me, the bad recruiters will still be cold-calling you, based on a stale resume; they have nothing to lose. It won't fix itself and it won't get better.
  3. In future only give the new number to trustworthy people. Better still, in future use an app like Sideline to temporarily create a work number. Use that number to filter out the 98% of recruiters you don't want to deal with. Never give your personal cell number to unknown recruiters upfront. Give an email (e.g. on LinkedIn). You could even have three numbers: work-known, work-unknown, and personal. Guard your personal number with your life.
  4. Learn to recognize spammer-type recruiters (they don't care to understand your resume or what you're looking for, they'll try to push any vacancy on any candidate, without regard to whether they're doing the end-client a disservice). Recruiters who cold-call a person without email introduction or asking their prior consent, let alone agreeing a suitable day and time, are typically the bottom-feeders (think about how inefficient and suboptimal that behavior is), and you can safely ignore them all.
  5. Learn how to network towards jobs and referrals, cultivate a network, and avoid needing to use recruiters, at least contingent recruiters.
  6. Record a short voicemail greeting "Please only leave a message if you know me. If you're cold-calling, delete my number and do not call again. Thanks, Jess"
  7. As to the legitimate blocked or unknown calls you receive (which is really the only two remaining reasons you have for answering unknown/blocked calls at work, and as soon as you change your number you will have zero reason to):
  8. Teach your mom how to unblock her number before she calls you. Edit your name in her phonebook to "Jess (dial *82 first)" or whatever. Edit that unblock code into her speed-dial listing for you. Post it on her wall.
  9. Your friend in rehab who calls from random numbers, at least figure out which area codes they do/don't use, and have them figure out which days and times they won't be calling. Then you can safely not pick up and send to voicemail all calls in those hours.
  10. Train people that know you that they'll get a faster response to texts/emails. Deliberately don't respond to voice messages. Email/text them back. Politely hang up on them and insist they email/text/call back at a more convenient time. Stop rewarding bad behavior. That's assertiveness.
  11. If you're in the US or other country with a do-not-call registry, then use it. But it will still be ignored by the spammers, VoIP callers, low-grade agencies calling from other countries, freelancers, stolen resume list users. So legit agencies won't call you, but bad ones still will.

I repeat that there is no magic interpersonal skill (other than being psychic, which doesn't exist) that can fix the damage you caused by having given it out blindly to the general public and internet. So, insisting that this is an interpersonal skill issue will not solve things.


I will mention an option I haven't seen in other answers. Note that I do not think you should do this as it is extremely impolite and passive-aggressive.

If you tried to explain to the recruiter that you are not interested, but you were not successful, simply stay on the line but ignore them. You can decrease the call volume to the minimum and carry on working. Sooner or later, they will realize you are not listening and hang up. This experience is very dissatisfying and I'm quite sure they would never call you again. If they do, you can use this technique after like 5 seconds, once you are sure it is them.

Actually, I consider this a natural "next step" if they are unwilling to understand that they are not welcome. Because that means that they are impolite in the first place.

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