Monday, November 9, 2009

Do Recruiters Really Care?

I often talk to jobseekers -- friends, family members, folks I meet in the airport -- and they almost always have the same complaint. Recruiters don't call back.

It's true. When I worked for big corporate recruiting departments, there were many meetings and offsites where we talked about the problem. Solutions were hard to come by. Most recruiters really do care. But we're trained to spend time on the activities that yield results. In an environment where there are waaaay more candidates than jobs, the common courtesy of returning a call falls low on the priority list. I drew up this fictional chart to illustrate how a recruiter might spend a 40-hour work week. Often, recruiters are responsible for filling 20, 30 or more positions at once.

It's a big problem. Employers who don't return phone calls know they are damaging their reputation candidate by candidate. Yet, companies can't afford to employ resources to call every candidate. What can you, the jobseeker, do?
  1. Don't take it personally. It is a universal problem. If a recruiter fails to return your call, don't read too much into it.
  2. Whenever possible, secure a promise from the hiring manager that he/she will call you with the decision. Hiring managers have far fewer candidates to worry about, so they are more likely to make the call.
  3. Nobody likes to deliver bad news. If a recruiter or manager is procrastinating, it might be because they fear delivering bad news. Let them know that you look forward to a follow up call -- good news or bad news.
  4. Don't burn a bridge. Build a relationship. If you don't hear back, send a polite email expressing your disappointment that there wasn't a fit this time. Let them know how impressed you are with the organization, and how thrilled you would be to hear about future opportunities (even though this may not be exactly the case).

Don't get me wrong -- I don't think recruiters should get a blanket pardon. Recruiting organizations fall far short of their responsibility to provide a great candidate experience. I'm just saying give a recruiter a break. They're under a lot of pressure to fill jobs quickly and often are doing their very best.


Steve Kramer said...

You haven't addressed what I consider a greater problem: recruiters who don't call back after conducting some form of interview.

As an active job-seeker, I understand that not every applicant can be contacted. HOWEVER, when you speak to someone -- whether that's the "initial phone screen", a more extensive telephone interview, had them fill out a questionnaire, or flown them to your headquarters -- you establish a relationship that carries responsibilities with it. One of those responsibilities (and not just "common courtesy") is to let the person know when you've decided they're not a fit.

In August, I was contacted by a recruiter for a company in my previous industry who found my resume on Monster (it DOES happen!). We had a 45-minute phone call that ended with her asking what the following week looked like for me because "I'd like to get you up to headquarters to speak with the hiring manager."

The next week came and went, as did the succeeding two weeks. After three weeks, I called her and was told, "We're just in the beginning stages of the search," which was quite a different message than "What are you doing next week?" Nonetheless, things change.

After another month (we're up to October now), I called her again. This time, I was told she would "try to nudge" the hiring manager into movement.

Three more weeks went by and I called again. This time, I was told "We're in the final stages with the candidate we've identified."

In addition to the mixed messages (first, we're excited and ready to move forward; then, things aren't moving; finally, we've chosen someone else), the bottom line was that (except for the initial contact), I HAD TO CALL THEM.

Bluntly, I don't care how busy you are; if you speak with someone (whom I presume is at least moderately qualified or you wouldn't bother), you have an obligation to close the loop. Period. It's part of the job. And remember, your company's reputation WILL be affected one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

I think that this is a very important topic of discussion. As Mr. Kramer has indicated, there is a difference between getting back to everyone who has applied to an opportunity and someone you have brought in for a face to face interview. It only seems natural that the follow up should be relative to the level of engagement a company has had with a potential candidate.

Because our company is a third party, there are times when we are not able to get back to everyone that we've had contact with. However, we do have a process in place that is designed to reach back in a way that is relative to our interaction. If an applicant has had direct contact with our client, we call them and send an email to let them know their status. If they were screened by us, but not moved forward we email them.

And to compensate for those who, unfortunately, slip through the cracks, we maintain a candidate blog at and offer free webinars once a quarter on topics that we hope will empower job seekers.

We are not always perfect in our executions, but we put forth the effort and suggest it to others as well. Besides being good for brand building, the fact is the whole country is suffering from a lack of confidence. That's what the market reflects. So on an imperceptible level, reducing one individuals confidence is actually effecting the market. Do that to enough people and...

If social media is teaching us anything, it's that we are all connected in some way. When more businesses begin thinking in terms of value instead of cost they'll realize that the "Golden Rule" was so named for more than one reason. In this more transparent world inconvenience is not going to be a good enough excuse for customers and candidates.

All that being said, the shifts will take time. Patience is oil for the gears of progress.