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 Are You Facing an Unresponsive Recruiter?

By Joe Stein

A major frustration that I hear from Job Seekers is the lack of follow-up from Recruiters.  Obviously the level of follow-up needed differs per situation, but let’s (for our purpose today) focus on what it means when a resume submission, an e-mail or a voice message from you is not returned. 

A theory from many Job Seekers is the current unemployment/economic situation is resulting in a decreased response from Recruiters.  The perception from some is that the degree of contact from an employer to a Job Seeker has decreased dramatically over the years.  This may be true, along with an overall shifting social culture regarding courtesy, resulting in more messages left unanswered.  You can, however, still influence the situation.

Let’s examine why you may be facing an unresponsive Recruiter:

• It’s Lost – It happens: e-mails get deleted, or placed in the wrong electronic folder.  Paper applications can easily fall into the wrong pile.  Follow-up with the Recruiter and, if you know who it is, the Hiring Manager.  When you do the follow-up, include your Resume again as a reminder of exactly who you are.  Since it is much easier (and quicker) for a Recruiter to respond back by e-mail, be sure to include that address in any message.

• You Missed It – A Recruiter may have left a message with your roommate or family member (you know the ones’ that never get passed along).  Don’t forget to check your spam e-mail filter also, as an automated response can easily get shuffled into that electronic folder.

• An Overwhelmed HR Department - Whenever the economy slows, layoffs occur.  A Human Resources Department is not an exception to this situation.  In fact, due to some company’s antiquated attitude of HR as an expense, it is often the first or hardest hit area.  If there are too few recruiters or other HR Professionals for the quantity of openings or (more likely) candidates, then the personal touches may not occur.  As much as a HR person understands the importance of courtesy and maintaining a good relationship with candidates, they may be in a survival mode back at the office.  This could be because there are so many openings when times are good or so many candidates in poor economic times.  In some situations, your Recruiter lost their position and the opening has been passed along to someone else (sometimes it is someone not overly familiar with recruiting).

• You Have Not Been Persistent - A simple reason you have not received a response might be that you have not done a good job of communicating.  I’m like many HR people who receive double digit e-mail and voice mail every hour (triple-digit everyday).  If you do the math, I could literally spend every day returning nothing but messages and still not keep up.  Throw-in projects, paperwork, and meetings and you can see how some calls may end up unreturned.  So, in a way, the “squeaky wheel” does get the grease.  Many times, a message that is sent in a professional way (a couple of times), will be returned first. Don’t be afraid to express that a return call or e-mail is important to you, by sending a follow-up message.  Do not, however, become an annoyance!  To break up the monotony of sending the same message, try a different medium: leave a phone message. If that proves unsuccessful, follow-up with e-mail and (maybe later) a letter.  Always be professional and never display any frustration over the lack of a recruiter response.

• It is Part of Their Strategy - There are times that you may not be immediately contacted because you are not the top candidate, but an accepted offer has not been finalized.  The silence you may be receiving is because you may be Plan B, and Plan A is in the works.  The Recruiter may turn to you with an offer if their other deal falls through.  It is important to note that the vast majority of Recruiters do not want to lie to you about their intentions. However, for the vast majority of them, silence is a tool to avoid a conversation they are unwilling or unable to have at that particular time. The last thing a company wants to have to do is to tell the Number 2 person that they will be receiving an offer because the top candidate did not work out.  Silence eliminates the need to have to conduct that conversation and can often result in the Number 2 person accepting the offer never knowing that they were not the initial selection.  I can’t count the number of times that I went to my Number 2 candidate and they exceeded my wildest expectations causing me to be thankful that the first offer was declined.

• “It is In the Mail” - The opposite end of that argument is that the Recruiter is avoiding contacting you because a rejection letter may be forthcoming.  Whether it is to avoid contacting a person twice, or that it is easier to do by the anonymous letter method, many times the lack of response is due to the impending arrival of an unfavorable response.

• Saying No is Tough – You may be facing a Recruiter or Hiring Manager who is avoiding a tough message.  It is never fun to inform someone, who really wants a job, that they will not be selected.

• Too Much Contact - You may be at fault because you are contacting the HR person too often.  No HR person wants to receive multiple voice messages, e-mail, or letters in a concentrated period.  I actually had a candidate once leave me 6 messages in one day about his application.  I’m sure this overzealous candidate read somewhere that the quantity of contact indicates your interest level.  Don’t be tagged by the HR Department as a non-contact due to your behavior.  We all know how difficult it is to be in the job market, but your behavior in the process will be an essential piece towards landing a prime position.

If you find you are in a position where you cannot receive a response back from a Recruiter, assume that you will not land this position and move on in your search.  Do not let the rejection (or lack of) effect you in your job search.  I have read some “experts” recommend that you should call out the company (all the way to the company President) for being unresponsive.  That type of advice looks good on paper, but the reality is that Western New York is a tight-knit area where you are most likely better off in the short and long-term taking the high road. Continue to search with a positive attitude and you will be rewarded with the position you hoped for when your search began.