Dear recruiters and hiring managers, the truth is better than...nothing

A customer came to me exasperated because he hadn't heard from the recruiter who was trying to place him at company for an engineering position. My customer told me the process had been going really well. He and the company were in the final stages, the hiring manager told him it looked promising, it was just a matter of getting him to meet with the VP of engineering.

My customer waited with anticipation for the call from the hiring manager, but after a week of waiting...nothing.

At first he was reluctant to reach out to the recruiter or call the hiring manager to inquire about the status of his candidacy.  I told him to contact his recruiter, who he described as a positive person that nearly guaranteed him a job, so my customer sent his recruiter an e-mail. Another week went by and...nothing.

At this point I told him it was time to phone the recruiter to ask him if he'd heard from the hiring manager. His recruiter would be able to give him some insight as to how the process was going, and he was the point man--not right to go above his head. My customer left two voice-mails and heard...nothing.

He asked me if it was time to contact the hiring manager, as he wasn't getting any love from his recruiter. I didn't have the heart to tell him it would be a waste of time, but the career counselor in me told him to make the call and, of course, be diplomatic. My customer left a couple of scripted voice-mails with the hiring manager and after another grueling week...nothing.

It was finally time to call it quits. The recruiter had disappeared and apparently went on to other jobseekers, and the hiring manager had given my customer a non-verbal rejection, a practice that has become commonplace. Shortly after this whole affair, my customer told me that it was a hellacious process; nothing that he'd like to go through again. He recovered from the ordeal, though, and was not about to give up on the job search. In the future he wasn't going to waste energy on worrying about the deadening silence he'd experienced, the feeling of desperation and hopelessness.  He only wished the recruiter and hiring manager would have told him the truth because the truth is always better than nothing.

An excellent article that appeared on titled 8 Tips for the New Recruiter touches on the importance of following up. While the author Becky Northrup admits to making this mistake, she advises: "...Make it a point to call the candidate and tell them as soon as you have any updates. Even if you haven’t heard anything and especially if the position was cancelled or they were disqualified. It can just be a call at the end of the week to tell them that you haven’t heard. They will appreciate the follow-up regardless of if it's good, bad or no news..." (Tip #6)

As for the hiring managers out there, keep in mind that your candidates are counting on your decision, yay or nay, so a quick call or e-mail saying you've gone with another candidate or that the position has been put on hold or lost its funding might hurt the expectant candidate's feelings; but the truth is better than...nothing.

Views: 1167

Comment by Jason Webster on September 21, 2012 at 9:32am

Recruiter transparency needs to become common practice! A study from StartWire found only 33% of Fortune 1000 companies provide feedback to job seekers in the application process. Applicants feel like they’re sending their resumes into the “black hole,” never to be heard from again. It makes looking for a job not an encouraging process when employers should be enthusiastic about attracting applicants!

Comment by Bob McIntosh on September 21, 2012 at 12:39pm

I agree. I also admit there are times when I don't return phone calls or e-mails, but when someone is deep in the process, they deserve at least an e-mail saying things have stalled, the company went with another person, or whatever the situation may be. Recruiters play an important role in the hiring process. 

Comment by Bill Schultz on September 21, 2012 at 2:43pm

Agreed, this is the real reason recruiters get a bad rep (or rap).  95% of the time, I give feedback,  Occasionally, one falls through the cracks due to priorities or bad bookkeeping.  And I feel terrible when that happens.

Comment by Bob McIntosh on September 21, 2012 at 8:16pm

You're one of the good ones, Bill. Developing great relationships with your clients and job candidates will pay off in the end. Thanks.

Comment by Martin O'Shea on September 24, 2012 at 12:16am

Completely agree! The way I have been looking at it is; I treat the job candidates as I would a friend so honesty is key, which means that both have to be honest with each other. Which I like to think develops into great professional relationships and in some cases you can make a friend for life, (or if your lucky a future client!).
Thanks for sharing Bob. 

Comment by Greg White on September 24, 2012 at 10:26am

As a recruiter who was recently on the market I can tell you even after direct contact with a company the response rate is horrible from both agency and corporate recruiters. It is really shameful.

Comment by Martin O'Shea on September 24, 2012 at 11:33pm

Did you do anything during the waiting period? contact them to check where you were in the process? 

Comment by Bob McIntosh on September 25, 2012 at 7:49am


That's the dilemma, how long should one wait. We say no longer than 1 week. If you mean did he contact others involved, like HR, he didn't have the courage to do so. 

Comment by Greg White on September 25, 2012 at 10:18am

I always had the policy of contacting them one week after our last chat or +1 day from when I was supposed to hear back from them. It is about finding the balance between being pushy (desperate) and interest in the position.

Comment by Clara Irizarry on September 25, 2012 at 3:57pm

From a physicians recruitment perspective, interviewing these professionals is very involved and can take a great deal of time.  These professionals also feel that feedback is indeed important. Therefore, providing information about the interview process from the onset is important and helpful.


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