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Why the Recruiter Didn’t Call You Back

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Why the Recruiter Didn’t Call You Back

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Technology pros often express their venom for both the overly-aggressive spamming recruiter and the recruiter that doesn’t call back.  However, the group getting inundated with inquiries and the group not getting a response are probably mutually exclusive.  Recruiters provide both groups with a reason to hate the industry!

Whether it is a lack of response to an application to a job posting or the absence of feedback after an interview, job seekers regularly, publicly, and often rightfully voice their displeasure about being left in the dark.  It seems like a fairly minor expectation to assume that a recruiter will have both the decency and the 30 seconds required to at least send a quick email to let an applicant know that the resume doesn’t show the desired skills, or to inform an interviewee that he/she was not selected for hire.  Candidates who take the time to interview have a right to know if they were not chosen, and hopefully will be given at least some explanation.  Yet, based on the volume of complaints, it seems few recruiters extend this minimal courtesy.

After 15 years in the business, I have come to learn that most candidates are grateful to get some feedback on their approach, résumé content/format, or post-interview performance tips.  Delivering the bad news about a potentially life-changing job offer is not an enviable task, and I can understand why junior level recruiters might be less comfortable in those calls.  Once a recruiter makes several notifications, he/she should hopefully learn that it is best to try and extract at least one lesson for the candidate to take away for next time.  Being a recruiter can require equal parts salesman, psychologist, and career coach on any given day.

Keep in mind that the only true benefit a recruiter receives by making these notifications isgoodwill and reputation points with candidates, and there is a slight ‘cost’ with taking the time to make notifications (the opportunity cost of the time spent on a notification vs calling the next potential candidate).  I have found that the goodwill earned is well worth the small time investment, and providing honest feedback will differentiate how candidates will rate their recruiter experience.

So why are recruiters not responding to your applications or resume, and why do they not provide feedback after interviews?

No response for an application or resume submission

Your approach made you seem like an arrogant jerk - Most applicants are professional and mention their qualifications or skills with some level of humility and maturity.  Confidence is a rare asset in the software business, but recruiters are much less apt to respond to egomaniacs and candidates who are disrespectful.  There will be other candidates that are easier to work with, so recruiters won’t waste too much time with candidates that seem immature.

You were grossly unqualified - Sadly, a down overall economy produces an extraordinarily high number of applicants that do not even remotely resemble the required or desired qualifications.  Yes, recruiters get pummeled with unwanted email sometimes too.  I doubt that a significant percentage of the recruiting industry’s harshest critics fall into this unqualified category, but there must be a few.  Although I always try to contact all partially qualified applicants, anyone with no relevant professional or academic background will not get a reply.

You appeared qualified, but some detail makes your hire unlikely - Agency recruiting, and particularly contingency recruiting, is all about playing the odds.  If there are a number of candidates for a position, some will stand out as the most likely to be hired while other applications may contain strong indicators of a much lower hiring possibility.  Any perceived obstacles to hire or details that would make a hire less likely, such as unreasonable salary expectations, unclear work authorization or employment history, or a candidate’s mention of multiple current job offers could prevent a recruiter from responding.  Unfortunately, the most qualified candidate can also be the least likely hire based on these external forces.  I suspect many of those that criticize recruiters fall into this category, where the candidate can cite impressive credentials for the position but has some Achilles Heel in their candidacy that they do not see as an issue.

Location –   If the recruiter’s client is in the middle of nowhere and an applicant claims to be open to opportunities worldwide, the odds are not very good that he/she will choose middle of nowhere over somewhere a bit more interesting.  The recruiter is not only competing with many companies, but many more attractive locations.  A candidate’s professed willingness to move does not change this view, as the likelihood of a candidate’s move is typically low if any local employment options are available.  Likewise, if the candidate’s address indicates a long commute, recruiters may be less apt to respond.  Candidates are usually very willing to relocate for very unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but most jobs don’t fall into that category.

The volume of applicants made notification impossible –  Internal corporate recruiters are probably more likely to get an overwhelming response than their agency counterparts, but a large applicant pool may result in some submissions not even being reviewed.  If no human even sees the application, it is unlikely you will get a personal response.

Your application contained a sloppy introduction or résumé - When an applicant cuts and pastes their introduction (today’s cover letter) and neglects to include the proper company name, it lets the recruiter know that this candidate is probably very active and at least slightly careless.  Multiple spelling and grammatical errors will make recruiters question why they should invest time with a candidate who invested so little time and effort in their application.

The job has been filled – One would hope a recruiter could quickly inform a job seeker that a position is no longer available, but if there are many applicants the process could become time consuming.

No response after an interview

The recruiter has no news to give you – Just as recruiters may feel they have little to gain by further contact with rejected candidates, hiring managers may decide their time is better spent on tasks other than explaining to recruiters why a candidate was not chosen.  It is also not uncommon for recruiters to get radio silence from the companies they represent in specific situations.  Managers and execs may be stumped on how (or if) to inform a recruiter about a potential hiring freeze, a funding issue, or management shakeups that could negatively impact their ability to get new hires on board.  If the post-interview decision is a definite ‘no’, recruiters should find out quickly and be willing to share that news with candidates, but based on anecdotes it seems many recruiters completely ignore requests for feedback from rejected candidates.

The recruiter is waiting for the right moment (that may never come) - If an agency recruiter has multiple candidates interviewing for one position, it is in the recruiter’s best interest to keep the client’s top choices ‘warm’ for as long as possible, or at least until an offer is accepted.  A recruiter will not want to tell you “Hey, you are actually my client’s third choice for the role, but our first choice is dragging her feet on accepting the offer, so just hang tight.”  Hopefully your recruiter will provide at least some degree of transparency and insight, but don’t expect that from most.

Your poor interview performance damaged the recruiter’s relationship with the client company - This is thankfully quite rare, but unprofessional behavior in an interview will hurt the recruiter’s reputation and make a call from the recruiter unlikely (and probably unnecessary).

You didn’t follow-up or ask for feedback – Do not expect that a recruiter will contact you independently and unsolicited with interview feedback.  Recruiters with a booming business may be relying on either your request for feedback or the incoming call/email from the client as a  workflow prompt to notify you (I rely on this prompt often), so be sure to contact the recruiter after the interview to assess how you did and to express interest in learning results.  It looks professional and shows both initiative and interest when candidates contact recruiters after an interview to debrief, so make that a habit anyway.

If you are not hearing back from recruiters, take a look at your submissions to see if you may fall into one or more of these categories.  Continue to ask for feedback after interviews, as you are entitled to a timely answer.


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