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: 1210

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 6, 2014 at 4:46pm



Dodging recessions has mostly been a matter of switching industries until the smoke clears. When in the eighties we got hit, many of the old timers did not re-invent themselves and we lost half or more of the agency/search firms in Los Angeles...bad times.

Ken, I'm going to dodge your question since I am a niche recruiter using techniques dating back to the invention of the wheel and fire....

I recruit the old-fashioned way-

I do confirm what my recruiting brings forth using LI [why not, its there, use it]....I also use LI to check backgrounds of people I detect so I can confirm data about someone I targeted and want to call to be sure that person I have in my sights has the 'right' background.

[Oh, and before I forget, I forgot to mention yesterday that I must be recruiting X's, Y's and Millenials since my Allied Health people are about that age.....but I don't get much 'tude from them and calling them at work has not been any more of a problem than it has ever been. So maybe I'm lucky in that regard.]

I don't hang banners, I don't advertise except for Retained Searches and I don't do much scraping at Indeed.

So it could be said I am not 'qualified' to comment on the current tools and technologies since, simply, I don't much use them.

Since what I do works for me- so called 'direct recruiting' is what it seems to be called nowadays....along the lines of what Maureen does...then I have not needed to make any procedural changes. I take advantage of what LI/ZI has to offer but I don't live by it.

What LI and ZI provides is not -as much as it might surprise one to hear this- all-inclusive.

What I do can be done from a corner telephone booth, using pen, paper and a roll of dimes. And I get everyone possible doing this while there are 'holes' in what LI/ZI offer.

Now, to answer your question:

Were I training newbies and/or starting a new search firm, I would insist that everyone on staff learn all the tricks of the trade of employing Social Media websites, Boolean Strings, use everything LI, AIRS, ZI has to offer, etc., etc.

In other words, I would insist everyone on staff learn to use the tools you guys use. You can't have too many bullets on your belt. Watching out for myself I can do as I have been doing....almost deliberately insulating myself from certain tools you guys use since, simply said, I can. But were I starting a new firm with staff, well, that's different. Try telling X's, Y's and Millenials they can't use Social Media and I'd be swinging from a rope.

I would, of course, insist also that everyone on staff learn direct recruiting so they are never 'stuck' if their computers decide to run away and join the circus. In other words, they all need to learn how to recruit using only the telephone. You have to learn to walk before you learn to run. Besides, as I said above, using Social Media, etc. does not guarantee a 100% catch every time you drop your net.

I've seen Retained search firms using Social Media and mass communications that never bothered to call local and see what might be right under their noses. And each month goes by while they collect their retainer while not referring candidates simply because no one [qualified] had responded to their 'tools and techniques'. That is not 'recruiting'.

As for markets, that is a tough one to identify; especially since markets are constantly changing. What is hot today is not necessarily hot tomorrow.

Nursing and Physician recruitment still works and will continue to do so for a while; IT, in all its different manifestations continues to work, also. Especially as how that pertains to Start-Ups.

BioPharm/BioMed will always require engineers and appropriately talented executives. This will not change for a long while.

I would also suggest specializing in Executive recruitment since that puts one in the eye of the storm. A recruiter who knows the politics, workings and drama of executive changes is in an advantageous [business] position... In other words, I'd suggest the same markets K/F, Heidrick & Struggles, Spencer Stuart, et al work.

With this in mind, I would also recommend someone on staff align themselves with VC's so they can be strategic partners and know when and what kind of 'specialists' will be needed for Start-Ups and can provide them as necessary.

I would also recommend someone work Financial markets. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to suggest this.

In a recruitment firm, you want some plodders working the middle markets and you also want stars working the high-profile high-value Executive and Technical markets.

Again, none of this takes a rocket scientist to calculate where the money is.

Where do I put less emphasis? Marketing and Sales executives. Anyone on staff who seems to have a proclivity for this arena would be encouraged but for me it is not a favorite area.

Government recruiting via the BAH's, CSC's, et al would be considered but only if we had someone on staff who had lived that world and had one of those little black books full of strategic contacts. Since government spending is capricious in nature, I would be suspicious of this niche, especially since so much collusion and under-the-table 'wink-wink, nod, nod' deals are an integral part of this kind of market. As much as the money is good, it is a crooked market.

I don't think I've said anything unique here.

The real issue -as a subset to your question, Ken- is to work in a manner/operate a search business that is insulated from systems that disrupt/radically affect how recruitment fees are charged.

Whether this refers to KTR's who cheat the system by offering cheap-sh*t fees so as to overcome 'new to the business' barriers or organizations such as LI, AIRS and ZI that provide easy pickings to the point where clients take it into their heads they can reduce their payouts to headhunters are key issues that need the most consideration.

There will continue to be a concerted effort by the F1000 to configure and equip their recruitment departments so they can operate separately from the TPR.

Controlling the ability to continue to recruit using the traditional [33.3%] formula is one of the most compelling issues related to Executive Search.

There will always be discernible markets to work, entrepreneurs will always find and exploit them.

But the erosion of our ability to charge 'full fee' is an issue that is and well should be haunting all of us TPR's.

Thanks, Ken.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 6, 2014 at 5:01pm


Since there is no 'edit' button here-

A key area that I left out is to have as part of our operating system value-added [to our clients] components such as Interviewing technologies and Strategic Partnerships with the F1000 so we are perceived as partners vs. order takers.

It would also be wise to emulate K/F's model of selling Executive Coaching, Ascension Planning, etc. A 'Three Sixty' relationship serves to keep a search firm on the CEO's/Board's horizon on a regular basis vs. 'PRN'.

Active participation at the executive level at each corporation's departments/divisions/operating company subsidiaries (emphasizing Strategy, Vision, [Radical] Innovation) by 'my' recruiters...emphasis on Retained Search.

Using OutPlacement as a vehicle for being included in the Operations of our F1000 clients...

Linking a client's Branding with our own so we are seen as a 'brother to brother/sister' relationship vs, again, being order takers.

Thanks, Ken.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 6, 2014 at 5:11pm

King Kong Savage Ain't Got Nuthin' On Me...


Comment by Ken Forrester on May 6, 2014 at 6:51pm


Some people like to run their mouths; repeating things that they hear; trying to impress anyone who will listen.  Obviously that is not the case with you-you definitely bring a different perspective, some keen insights into the issues of one of the hardest and most misunderstood profession.  Thanks again for your response; it included a lot of details, so I will have to read it again to get the full understanding. 

One thing you emphasized was “researching the candidate” prior to engaging that candidate.

I think I know what you mean, but I would be remiss if I did not get your perspective.  So, what exactly are you looking for/hoping to find, how do you use that information, what is the psychology from the candidate’s perspective and how do you do this research today?

I will not hold it against you if it is too much trouble on your part as you have contributed significantly to the content of this blog.

Comment by Keith Halperin on May 6, 2014 at 6:57pm

@ Paul: I work a different way than you: I'm a contract recruiter who is a recruiting generalist (or multi-specialist), I'm not a niche player who knows everybody, since I've recruited for over 200 different types of positions over the years.

Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 6, 2014 at 7:09pm


Yep, I was going to say that you and I have different markets....I had read your '...putting butts in seats...' which I took to mean volume recruiting, something I can't do.....

Niche recruiting, yes, that is my lazy approach since I like to control my 'world' and from the start I could see that I would be unable to 'control' much of anything if I had to learn a new gig with each new JO.

Being an expert at a few specialties has proven to work for me and just having executive search experience enables me to zig instead of zag on those occasions when I do a search off the beaten path.

Anyway, as I said to a 'mom [with wild and crazy kids]', recently....'better you than me'.

Thanks, Keith; I always pay attention to your posts since I could see from the start you speak from experience.



Comment by PAUL FOREL on May 6, 2014 at 7:56pm

Hey, Ken...

I was taught to know as much as [is relevant] possible about someone prior to calling.

Everyone understands that- we should not be asking someone how long they've been on the job/how long they have been at their company when we can get that and similar (e.g. what company did that person work before their current company?) information prior to calling.

The executives respect that and even talk right past the 'how did you know that?' since they seem to expect we know this stuff prior to calling. I've never been asked (by an executive type) how I came to know something about someone I was calling.

And of course, nowadays, they probably automatically [often correctly] assume I got my background information from LI and in fact, I often say something like, "...from your LI Profile I see that...." so there is no question or thought that I am trying to act like a genie or trying unnecessarily to impress that person. I personally tend to believe that saying '...I see from your LI profile...' is appreciated vs. acting like a mysterious guru.

I use the same steps with everyone/all industries although with some specialties I may not show I have this information, choosing instead to ask. I don't want a young female [Gen X/Y/Z {!}] asking me in fright how I came to know she used to work at 'Bishop Medical Center'...

Okay, time to answer your question:

It's simple...once I have a name, I ask "..oh, by the way..." questions until I feel I have gotten as much as I can without the person with whom I'm speaking doing that "...who did you say you are?..." number.

And, simply again, if I don't have enough information from that call I call back later and speak with a peer or another admin support person, going through my "...oh by the way..." questions until I have enough to know I am on the right track in wanting to call on that person.

Asked artfully:

How long have they worked there?

What company did that person come from? How long ago?

Type of personality?

How many subordinates/staff members?

What areas they are in charge of? (if relevant)

....and any other questions that will narrow this person down for me.

I can avoid wasting my time and that of the uncalled candidate this way.

I can avoid asking the 'duh' (obvious, common, every day) questions.

I can be reasonably sure the target is 'qualified' this way.

(Oh, I forget- yes, looking at LI in advance can give me some of my answers...I list them here out of habit.)

So, to bottom line this, Ken, I do what I was taught to do- ask the target's peers and/or support admin my questions so I can know in advance that the target is 'qualified' and likely or not likely to be interested in my call.

Often, my homework goes up in smoke when in the first few minutes that person tells me his wife is graduating from nursing school and to 'call back' in sixty days...but better to know everything possible than to come off like a beginner in my first call.

If anyone is unfamiliar with the process of asking qualifying questions prior to speaking with a target, they ought to consider getting with Maureen Sharib who spends her time sourcing, using mostly the same techniques I do....she has her style and I have mine....and she is definitely an expert in this regard....

To reply to your "candidate's perspective' question...the best way I think I am answering this is to say a version of what I said, above- to appear to be as seamless as possible in my conversation so everything I know about that person is integrated into my recruit call so it does not sound as though I am filling out a form, beginner-style.

(This is why most people who ask for references fail to uncover vital information- because they 'conduct' their reference checking 'survey' style vs. speaking in a conversational tone with the reference. The reference person is 'on guard' the entire length of the reference checking because it is obvious the caller has a pen and check list they are working from; no one wants their comments on paper so naturally they are on guard when they get reference calls.)

Also, please forgive me for inserting this but it is a critical advantage for me so I'm going to mention this-

I have what I call 'off the chart' intuitive skills and on occasion will suggest when talking about this I have a few 'psychic tricks up my sleeve'. I can often tell from a glance at someone more about that person then their own neighbors know about them.

This enable me to 'get' who someone is in seconds flat during a recruit call. I can quickly determine their character type and yes, sorry, Nick (?), their 'core values' as well.

I mention this since as we all know, 'being [technically] qualified' is not the only factor in being able to successfully assess if someone will fit into a client's opportunity/company/company culture.

This was a little wordy, Ken, my apologies....I'm guilty of liking the sound of my own voice, after all.

The simple answer is to artfully ask qualifying questions of those people who work around the target.

Thanks as always,



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