People are generally very happy to work with recruiters during their job search, but less happy to take a recruiter call when they are not looking for a job.
While it can be very annoying and awkward to be solicited at work for another job, many times, this is the only phone number a recruiter has access to unless you list your cell phone number on your LinkedIn account.
There are several different ways to handle those calls, but being rude may well come back to haunt you in the future. Recruiters keep a database of every single person they talk to, and they take notes of every phone call. If you are rude to them today, they WILL remember you in three years when you are trying to find a job, and they will be much less excited about working with you since you will be considered a difficult candidate to work with. So even if your boss is standing over you in your office as you get the recruiter phone call, don’t be rude.
Whether you are interested in a new job or not, it is unlikely you can speak freely at work. However, in either case, you can politely state that you are not interested, but that you would be happy to spread the word and that you have a friend or a former colleague who may be interested. Ask the recruiter to send more information via LinkedIn or your personal email. That way you can reply on your personal time, and if you ARE interested for yourself, you will have established the connection and can reply when you are not at work.
If you recommend a friend, recruiters will remember that as well, and they will be happy to help you out when your time comes. Plus, as an added perk, most recruiting companies have a “finder’s fee”. If the friend you recommend is hired for the job, you may get a bonus.
And remember, very few people are currently in their dream job. If you are, good for you!!! If not, it may be worth your time hearing out a recruiter. Even if you are happy in your current job, a recruiter may just present you with your dream job. If you shut them down before seeing what they have, you may miss out on a great opportunity – either for yourself or for a friend.