What To Do When A Recruiter "Goes Dark" - Part 2

Last week I introduced you to a job seeker asking for advice on how to handle a “missing” recruiter. This candidate (I interviewed him – he’s good) was frustrated after following instructions and getting zip / zero / nada in response. Check out Part 1 here. My advice to our friend? Here’s a portion of the email response I sent –

“Here's what I would do. I would pull up a new Word doc. and I'd let that recruiter have it. I'd write a damn thesis about how screwed up their process is, how they've just lost a great candidate, that I'll be telling all my friends what a royally messed up outfit they are and that she was gonna rue the day she neglected ME! 

Then I would delete it. 

Even though your criticism is justified and would be welcomed by half the community, the other half is going to think you're a complainer. Even if they don't say anything publicly, in their minds they'll be circling the HR wagons and justifying every lack of follow up they've ever committed. It will still be *your* fault. Because see, if you're going to be so *argumentative* during the courting process, how difficult are you going to be if we actually hire you? 

I'm not suggesting you don't address it in some fashion... perhaps the better approach to the LinkedIn group or wherever you were going to issue this challenge is to say "how can I be a better applicant, so that I'll ensure a response?"  Here's the simple truth. You don't care if this particular recruiter responds to everyone. You just want her to respond to you.

Isn’t that at the heart of what’s really wrong with the candidate experience?  We put everyone into this big box; making ourselves all kinds of promises about how we’re going to treat everyone equally, fairly, kindly. It’s just not realistic. Back to our friend – I’m going to make some assumptions here, to try to understand what happened. Let’s assume the recruiter received 100 applications to a position. She asked 20 of them to fill out the questionnaire. 10 did (including our buddy) and she selected the top 5 to respond to. Let’s assume she does this for all 20 reqs she’s responsible for (as if I corporate recruiter would ever have only 20 reqs!). That leaves her with 100 active candidates she’s interviewing, presenting, scheduling with hiring managers… and another 100 that responded to the questionnaire and who are very likely (per our friend’s experience) to be ignored. That’s a constantly fluctuating number depending on several external factors – positions opening and closing, priority of requisitions, the list goes on. Once I painted this kind of picture for the job seeker, he actually felt sort of sorry for the recruiter!

We could Monday morning quarterback this to death. We don’t know the recruiter’s side, if there was any kind of disclaimer (not all respondents will be responded to, or something). She could be guilty of the same bad habit I have – flagging emails that need to be responded to, yet still taking days or even weeks to, well, yeah, actually respond.

In my opinion, no one here is the bad guy. We just need to try to understand each other better. To the job seeker, this process is intensely personal. This is their job, their career, their livelihood. For candidates struggling with long term unemployment, it’s almost impossible to not take any rejection or lack of response personal. To them it’s all personal.

A few weeks after our original email exchange, the job seeker called me to talk about another round of interviews he was doing for a different company. I asked about this situation, and he said he finally heard from the recruiter. Turns out the position was put on hold, but a similar role was going to open up soon and she wanted to know if he was still interested. There was no intentional disregard on her part; it just took a couple of weeks to have a “real” update for him. He was still interested, and last I heard they were keeping in touch periodically as things get sorted out on the employer side. Luckily he had already decided NOT to move forward with his manifesto. He simply needed to vent, and I’m glad he did privately, to me. He likes the recruiter again, and truly, his issue was never with her as a person or even as a professional – he was just feeling the stress of long term unemployment and letting his frustrations get the better of him.

The bigger issue here is the whole “candidate experience” fallacy. I have yet to meet a candidate who is more concerned about how potential employers treat the masses versus how they are treated themselves. You could call 20 candidates bad names, but the one that gets hired is going to love you. I can’t think of a job seeker who, having a personally pleasant experience would turn down a job offer if his competition was treated poorly (by candidate experience advocate standards).

This job seeker needed two things – he needed to vent (which he did quite effectively to me) and he needed me to validate what he already knew. The recruiter was probably just very busy and didn’t have an update yet. It was only a couple of weeks between him sending in his questionnaire and her call, letting him know the role was on hold. Some would say 2-3 weeks is way too long, but would it have made a difference if she had warned him ahead of time it would be a couple of weeks?

Exit question for the community – how do you communicate timelines and set expectations with candidates?

Views: 1500

Comment by Derdiver on February 19, 2013 at 1:39pm

Personally, once I have spoken to the candidate and we have established a mutual understanding that at this point we both feel that they are a fit for the role I am looking to fill I tell them that I am sending them to review by the hiring manager/team.  I always tell them that I do not make the hiring decision.  I think that is imperative for a recruiter to do.  WE do not hire you.  Managers do.  Secondly, unless this a new group to the recruiter or a new manager the recruiter should know as much about the position, group, team, etc. as they can as to make sure the potential employee knows what is going on. 

There is a relationship between the recruiter and manager and it should be a communicative one.   Both parties should be informed of what is happening and if not should be made aware of what is going on. 

I have had zero communication from the CANDIDATE as well as a manager with me so there is always going to be blame from both sides.  This is just a reality of job searching and recruiting. 

Communication is key and setting expectations on both the applicant side and the hiring side are key.  WE need to hold both to what they say they are going to do and follow through. Period.

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on February 19, 2013 at 1:56pm

I'm pretty sure I have had a least a couple of personal experiences similar to what you described. I recall at least twice being emailed by a recruiter asking a series of questions. I took the time to formulate detailed and precise replies and felt that I did so in an articulate and professional manner. Never heard a peep - ever - again! Not cool! 

As far as the dark time between when the recruiter and candidate were last in contact, I think the recruiter should have checked in with a "no news yet" email at least. 

It sounds like the candidate had some sort of expectation of when they would hear "something" back. If so, then the recruiter (if they set that expectation) should have followed up even if there was nothing to report. If the candidate is/was simply unaware that these things almost always take way longer than anticipated and often due to issues beyond our control, then they just need to understand that part and not assume the worst. 

I think your explanation was right on. I always tell people to not take anything personally whether it's not response at all, or bad news or whatever. Just move on. 

Poor communication is just so pervasive in the industry. It sucks and makes everyone look bad, even those that do treat people properly and follow-through on their commitments. 

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 20, 2013 at 8:47am

thanks Derek and Kelly, I agree. Especially like the part about how I don't hire you, the manager does. I can influence to some degree (and with some managers more than others) but the ultimate decision lies with generally a group of HMs with varying degrees of "skin in the game".

How often should the recruiter have checked in? If I remember correctly it was something like 2 wks that had lapsed - so is it weekly? I don't know... every situation is different and I really think it had more to do with him just reaching an emotional breaking point overall and not just this one recruiter.

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on February 20, 2013 at 2:25pm

I think if the recruiter doesn't inform the candidate when they will be back in touch, then it is up to the candidate to ask at the end of the interview. I always tell job seekers once that time comes, give it an extra day or two. And, be patient due to all of the reasons you listed.

I think it's OK for the candidate to check in, but they should not do that more than once, maybe twice, after the original established follow-up time has passed. If they don't hear back, then there's either no news or no interest - hard to tell, but repeated calls/emails doesn't help at that point. 

Comment by Bill Schultz on February 20, 2013 at 2:31pm

Hi Amy- I like when a candidate checks in with me. If a recruiter has asked for follow up, they should follow up in return.  I set expectation by saying.  "If you interview for me, you're going to get feedback.  Whether you like it or not.  It will be meant constructively and I trust you will take it that way."


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