They're Just Not That Into You: 8 Signs A Candidate Isn't Interested

In less than one year, I cancelled my LinkedIn premium account.  It wasn't because of the cost; two of my placements were the direct result of using their In-mail feature.  So why did I forfeit over 75 unused In-mail credits?  Let’s just say that I was spending way too much time on the site.  Looking at profiles all day long took the excitement out of work; it made recruiting feel like a very boring job. 

Here are a few things I learned from that experience which may help you to recruit better.

These are the eight things that passive job applicants will not do or say when you are trying to recruit them.  Listed below are the eight signs followed by what they really mean.

1.       They do not respond to your email

  • I don’t want to disappoint you because the only reason you are reaching out to me is because you read my LinkedIn profile.  What I didn't tell you were that I am 10 years older, 20 lbs heavier, worked for four additional employers and I no longer look anything like the picture in my profile.  So whatever you’re selling does not have application to the real me.
  • There are not enough hours in one day to read hundreds of emails.  In my world, there are only two types of emails-essential and non-essential. I only have time to respond to the essential emails because they directly impact to my job.
  • I don’t want you to think that by sending me the same email you sent to everyone else would get me excited and inspire me to pick up the phone and call you to enthusiastically sell myself like I was actually unemployed and desperate to find a job.

 2.       They do not return your phone calls

  • I really don’t know who you are and why you are calling me, especially at my job to talk about another job. That would be very disrespectful for me to have that type of conversation at my place of employment. 
  • If I ever needed to look for a job, I would simply reach out to the people that I know.  I don’t want some stranger or word to get out that I am unhappy with my job and is actively looking for another one.
  • I have job alerts and relationships with few of the people in my network.  They know my situation and the type of opportunities I would be interested in.  I don’t have the time it takes to get to know someone new.  Especially when recruiters are only interested in my skills to make money for themselves.

 3.       They tell you that they are very happy

  • Even though I should keep my eyes and ears open to new opportunities, I really lack the desire to go through the mental thought process of competing in a job interview circus. 
  • I’m not sure I want to change my family routine; just to do the same job someplace else.
  • I am too busy doing the job I was hired to do; I cannot afford to waste valuable time on what could end up being a wild-goose-chase.

  4.       They tell you that they are not looking for anything right now 

  • My salary is at or above the market.  I like the people I work with.  My boss gives me a lot of autonomy.  I have a pretty decent commute and they are doing a good job of taking care of me. 
  • I’m not sure if I want to risk something secure for what might be a-bag-of-goods.
  • I am in a much better place now than where I was with my former employer.  I need to be more patient and appreciate how fortunate I am.

 5.       They tell you that they would have to paid a fortune to get me to leave 

  • I’m in a pretty good spot- I worked very hard to get here; I’m certainly not about to give that up just to earn a few more dollars doing the same job someplace else. 
  • I am not chomping-at-the-bit to leave my present employer, so why don’t you dazzle me with your creativity?
  • It sounds like something that could be of interested to me, but I don’t want you to know that I am interested.

 6.       They tell you that they are too busy to talk right now, and to call them later

  • If you don’t call back, that’s fine-it proves that you were only on a fishing-expedition.  You only want to shop my resume in the market to build your own credibility with other employers.
  • I’m in the middle of putting together a spreadsheet for a finalist presentation, instant messaging with members of my team and trying to put out a few fires before shit-hits-the-fan.   
  • Most likely it will be the same pitch I've heard a million times before about why your job is the best opportunity for my career. 

 7.       They tell you that the job sounds interesting, but they are going to take a pass

  • The company and the title sounds OK, but I am not sure if the role make sense based on what they are willing to pay and what they would expect in return.
  • Sounds like a great opportunity, but I heard that it’s a sweatshop environment.  Why would I take on a bigger role on a sinking-ship?
  • Sounds like a great opportunity, but I don’t consider that organization as one of the major players in this space.  I’m not sure how that particular career move would look on my resume.

 8.       They hang up on you

  • I don’t want to invest any more time talking about this. It sounds like it is the same job I’m doing right now.
  • I’m not sure that you understand the job you are recruiting for or what my skills are. 
  • I interviewed with the same company in the past and they didn't hire me/I wasn't impressed with them or I never heard of them.

Final Thoughts

When you are focused on recruiting the rock stars that are not actively looking for a job, do not expect to hear the words-I am very interested.  What you should expect are those eight signs that they are not interested, because that is where the real recruiting begins. To be successful in recruiting them, you must be able to break through their on-line life to reach them in their real life. So, before you click the send button on your next email or pick up the phone to call that rock star candidate, think about this:  Would you appreciate a strange guy telling you how beautiful you are, and how great your figure looks in that dress?  Or, would you tell a handsome stranger that you heard that he had a-big-fat-wallet?  

But that is the email & voice mail message we are sending to them in their on-line-life.

Views: 1225

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 5, 2014 at 9:50am

Ken, Ken, Ken....

Everything you said here makes a case for why old timers like myself leave the lazy process of email and LI messaging to the newbies.

We pick up the phone and call candidates- we immediately engage.

Of course, we also did our research so we know a few things about the person we are about to recruit:

We already know they are well-positioned (this makes them attractive, it is not a barrier to our success); we already know about what their compensation is and we already know how long they've been on the job.

All this is a qualifier, not objections to overcome because....we select who we are calling because they are highly qualified for a client opportunity and we have solid reason to believe our client's opportunity is competitive and worth a look.

Almost everything you talk about above is either a challenge because of the lazy use of email/LI messaging (of course it is perceived as junk mail, what would you expect??) or because the recruiter is calling the wrong person. Just because someone is qualified does not mean they are going to drop what they are doing- the opportunity has to be compelling and the timing has to be right.

"They hang up on you"??? Please, Ken, getting hung up on is as normal as daylight and sunshine. You have enough experience to know getting hung up on means either we did not come off 'right' in our approach, the person was busy and the simplest thing for that person to do was hang up or maybe we just plain picked the wrong person to recruit for a particular opportunity.

How many times have we called that same person back, to have them apologize, explaining they were busy, etc. and hanging up...especially with people around them, was the simplest solution to receiving an unexpected call from a headhunter?

Re #7, all those points can be anticipated by calling the right person about the right job. If a headhunter is not working to anticipate how that opportunity will appear on that person's resume, how it affects professional growth, that the opportunity is with a client who is peer or better compared to that recruit's company, then that headhunter has simply not done their homework prior to making the call.

#4, Ken, they are all 'not looking' what? Since when did a recruit have to be looking for us to present them with something better? There is most always a reluctance to go outside a box of comfort for many whereas on the other hand, there are those who are interested in improving themselves and are more receptive to our calls. Both types are recruitable, depending.

Most of the time I call someone, their immediate response is (after saying, "hold on a minute", while they close their door) is "Whaddaya Got?".

Remember that the sale begins when the customer says 'no thanks'. If we are not ready for that, we are not sales people, we are order takers....looking for looky-loos who make our life easier.

I'm sorry, Ken, but almost everything you said here is nothing more than 'common objections' and/or a headhunter who is not prepared to overcome often-spoken objections. The rest of these points you bring up show up because the wrong person was called about the wrong job.

Comment by Keith Halperin on May 5, 2014 at 12:24pm

Thanks, Ken. If LI required interested job seekers to opt-in every 30 days to indicate interest as opposed to having to opt-out, then we'd have a reasonable shot at going after people who ARE open to something, and not just haven't bothered to say they're not, thus saving recruiters time, effrort, InMail credits.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 5, 2014 at 12:54pm


Whoa! Now you guys want LI to screen potential recruits for you?

It seems to me that by the very nature of our business, everyone is recruitable, depending on the timing and opportunity.

Does that mean you guys would not call on someone who had not opted-in, as you call it?

You seem to be suggesting that recruiters would not call those who had not opted-in....

That would be a mistake.

Plus it sounds as though you are saying you all take 'no' for an answer....another mistake.

"The times they are a-changin'..."


Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 5, 2014 at 12:57pm of those times I did not take 'no' for an being persistent....I filled a retained search.

Approximately a $46K recruitment fee plus expenses.

That person has been on the job/with the same company for nearly fourteen years.

Comment by Ken Forrester on May 5, 2014 at 2:00pm

Hey Paul, a friend of mine was given a $2 million grant to write the next version of an 8th grade math book.  He said that even though the math remains the same, the math books have to change because the kids that are learning the same math have changed.  You have to incorporate new words like Amazon, Netflix and Apple instead of Montgomery Ward’s, Albums, and Cassette tapes to get their attention. 

It is the same situation in recruiting.  My clients are no longer looking for folks that are your age, Keith’s or mine-they all want the younger folks.  Your traditional recruitment tactics alone won’t fly with these Millenials.  They are mobile and multi-takers.   I cannot remember the last time I heard someone said “let me close my door”

When they call back, they are waiting in line at the supermarket or walking to the train station or while that are working out at the gym.

Here is something else that might shock you-their preferred method of communication is email or text. That is why LinkedIn has a chokehold of the recruiting game.  For a price, you can send inmails to 200 million professionals on their network.   That is also the recruiting challenge-too many recruiters are sending the same Inmails to the same people.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 5, 2014 at 4:13pm


Yes, I am aware of your market's preference for email and messaging; I've been told that before. Better you than me, Ken.

I can understand your having to deal with the cards they give you...given that is the market you have chosen for yourself.

My market is different- the Healthcare people I call are the same, more or less, as they've been since I started (when the wheel and fire was invented [1980]) so I have not had to make any adjustments for the 'newer crowd'. They all sound about the same...Allied Health has always been a younger crowd. My advantage is that I worked in Healthcare and speaka' de language/know the culture so I am accepted, generally speaking, when I call.

Yes, occasionally I get some brat who acts like I'm interrupting him/her while they are in the middle of brain surgery but for the most part, they continue to take my calls as I've been doing since I started. Back when the wheel and fire.....

And my Industrial Engineers/Industry Executives are still the same as they've been for the last fifteen years. They close their doors and they take my calls. That includes the Actuaries I call on, also. Actually, that includes most everyone I call. Most all of them have offices.

So you can have your X's and Y's and Millenials, Ken. Again, better you than me.

As for me, nothing is broken on my end...LI gives me names and background often enough that it helps but having been trained in recruitment the old fashioned way, I am not entirely dependent on LI to do my work. And in fact, in certain circles, LI doesn't have the names of the people I recruit so like I said, I take what LI gives and don't much sweat the rest. I don't prospect by email/LI messaging and if any of my peers caught me doing so I'd be subject to an ass whipping, most probably.

Keeping in mind what you have said, the only issue I might care to debate (based on what Keith said, above) is this business of worrying about whether someone I call 'wants' to be called or doesn't 'want' to be called.

Where I sit, they can have a Green flag or Red flag up for all to see but I'm damned if I'd ever let that prevent me from calling someone I am targeting.

No one is going to decide for me whether or not I should or should not call on someone I believe could benefit from a client opportunity.

Anyway, Ken, thanks for letting me know you got the young ones.

If I ever need a snot nosed brat to fill a position with a client, I'll call you first.


Take Care and thanks again.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 5, 2014 at 4:28pm

Oops, Ken...

I forgot to say I had forgotten about that preference to receive email/LI messaging when I had questioned this. Had I remembered I'd not have raised my eyebrows today when I read your note about LI hassles with messaging, etc. I'm glad I was not as snarky today as I am usually or I'd apologizing all the way home.

I still think that whole conversation is lame but I've not in fact had to call any X's, Y's or Millenials so I can't rightly say how calling them directly has worked out for me since I'm not in your shoes.

If I am getting anything from this, it is the fact that one of the nicest things about being a search consultant is that I can choose my own markets.

Amongst the ones that still work, anyway.

Thanks again, Ken.

Comment by Keith Halperin on May 6, 2014 at 1:41pm

@ Paul: I don't have time to go after/convert everybody, and if I'm paying to go after people who LI SAYS are open to some possibility, I expect that they're ACTUALLY open to some possibility, and not just haven't opted out of saying they aren't.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 6, 2014 at 2:15pm


I 'hear' you but I still don't understand-

My training was partly based on the concept/premise many people will initially react to my phone calls with a 'no thanks' and they will be hanging up almost as fast as they finish saying that.

That you are able to focus on people who LI says are pre-screened for being receptive is certainly a good thing but if one is recruiting for a position that not just anyone can fill.....then I don't see that it is a given that from the entire set of 'green flag' Profiles one is going to find that suitable candidate all the time. Sooner or later it will be necessary to call 'red flag' Profiles and recruit them.

Resistance is Futile if the opportunity is compelling enough.

Also, for me, your system does not work since I work niches and need to know 'everyone' who is 'qualified' in that niche.

All Allied Health people who work in those specialties in which I recruit.

All Actuaries.

All Six Sigma Master/Black Belts.

They might say they are a 'red flag' person today but maybe not tomorrow and I can't afford to not know who they are just because they are waving red flags.

I have to go by my experience.....most of my recruits are people who were not looking but were open-minded (and, yes, occasionally resistant) or at the least, I was able to 'convert' them from 'go away' to staying on the phone and letting me finish/call back with a description.

I'm not fighting you on this- what works for you is just seems contrary to the nature of Executive Search to ignore those who put out red my training, Keith, they are all waving red flags.

If I think this out....wondering if I would be glad to have 'green flags' to pull from first....I would still want to know who all the red flags are since in the end, I still need to call them, get to know them so they all must go into my DB so I can call them back someday when I have the 'just right' opportunity for them.

If I took this conversation back to my manager and explained this all to him....bringing him forward from the days of inventing the wheel and fire....he'd still say I need to know all of those who are qualified.

It just doesn't work for me to think I could ignore those with red flags- according to traditional executive search philosophy, everyone is recruitable.

If not today then tomorrow.

And, equally important, all this doesn't address talking to those with red flags but might be willing to give me a name of someone for a search I'm working.

Anyway, as I said, I appreciate your explaining....but ignoring or putting off red flag Profiles would get me an a... whipping if my ex boss found out I was only going for green flag Profiles.

It's like the time I spaced out, temporarily put off when I discovered a hospital department had twenty-five people doing what I recruit for instead of the usual three to five on staff.

When I approached an old timer in the company, saying I was stumped, wondering how I could come to know which of those twenty-five I want, he smiled at me and said that of course, " want them all..".

Thank you again.

Comment by Ken Forrester on May 6, 2014 at 2:36pm

Paul, thanks for participating on this blog.  I really appreciate it.  Sounds like you are the type that has been around for quite some time and has survived a few recessions and seen a lot of attempts by technology to disrupt the headhunting profession.  That said, if you were to start a recruiting business today, what would you do differently, if anything and why? 


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