Two things have happened in the past couple of weeks that has made me realise why recruiters generally have a poor reputation amongst both clients and job seekers. This poor reputation is not confined to external recruiters but also internal recruiters or Talent Acquisition people. 

Before I talk about the instances let me say from the outset that I am neither perfect or do I believe that every recruiter performs their job without care. What did happen has made me think fundamentally about the role of a recruiter, his/her relationship with those that interact with them and how the business is perceived by its users.

I am currently helping my 20 year old son secure his first job. He has prepared a well written CV, and is applying for entry level roles involving IT and computers in the London area. These roles are advertised either by recruitment agencies or by companies employing internal talent acquisition staff. His applications have been either through job boards (Monster, TotalJobs, Reed etc.) or direct to the company or agency. All in all he has now made 10 applications in the past 2 weeks. He has not had one single response from any of these applications – positive or negative, be it a standard letter. Nothing.

Last week I advertised a New Business Director role on two major marketing focussed job boards. Our policy towards ‘no’ letters has been to forward those candidates details who we feel are not appropriate to our part time administrative assistant to process and ‘reject’. As I knew he was away and unlikely to act on the responses for the New Business role for at least 2 weeks I decided to do them myself. Nearly every person I wrote to then wrote back thanking me for the ‘reject’ letter and promising to register for our email alerts. One email in particular stuck out where the individual said he will gladly register with us as we were ‘head and shoulders’ above our competitors and indeed everybody else in the recruitment industry by replying!


So – the question is why? Why don’t recruiters respond to applications? My 20 year old son looking for his first data-entry job may one day become an MD of a company. He is certainly a very gifted individual (if I am allowed to say so myself!). He may join a business competitor to one of the companies that he has recently applied to directly and rise through the ranks and then become of interest by the ‘silent’ business. Indeed one of his friends now or in the future may ask him what he thinks of that said company – his response will be – they ignored me when I was seeking my first job.

Talent Acquisition? – pah! From his experience and from others I’ve heard about this function will do for recruitment what offshore call centres has done for customer service. Recruiters? Their reputation is somewhere on a par with undesired door to door salesman and ‘chuggers’.     


I see organisations such as REC and IOR talk about raising standards and ‘ethical’ behaviour, charging a fee to join their organisations but the most basic, fundamental thing, the number one complaint from people about recruiters – replying to candidates - they have nothing to say about in their articles of association so consequently have little or no value to their industry or the people they are supposed to help and utilise their members' services


So, what does this mean for Premier Consultants? Well for one thing we have now made it our policy to respond to every single response- personally. We will give feedback on why people have not been progressed if requested. We may fail but we will try and email everyone.


Finally if you don’t believe it makes a difference read this email sent in response to a reject letter below: -


Dear Russell


First and foremost I wish to thank you for your email, so few companies one applies to have the simple decency to reply and I can honestly say (for what is no doubt the silent and slighted majority) it really does make a large and very personal difference.


At the very least I will continue to view Premier Consultants as a company with the interests of all  its customers in mind (on both sides of the net!)


With very many thanks and kind regards    


Thank you for reading. RW 14-09-2012

Views: 3830

Comment by Theresa Hunter on September 19, 2012 at 10:57am

Hi Russell,

I loved all the comments on here.  I am a sole legal recruiter and I do my very best to respond or call every person who either emails me, calls me or is referred to me.  I am watching my girlfriend as she applies to job postings and I can feel her frustration from here.  I live in Texas and she in Indiana.  As she goes about her search she has joined some networking groups who have given her different pieces of advice and one of those was to go to some companies in Indy and directly apply.  I told her the story of how one of our project coordinators got her job with our office by walking in and introducing herself.  She put on her happy face and did just that...was told you have to apply on line.  It takes just a moment to say thank you but no thank you in a nice way of course.  I have come across people who are now in the power role of hiring people and I am glad I took the moment to be nice.  : )

Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on September 19, 2012 at 11:03am

Great post! I do think about how my responses or the lack of them could impact how candidates view my usefulness or professionalism or even 'decency' as a recruiter. My opinion about one point in this post is slightly different from Russell's...we are hired to recruit (source, screen and place) and not to meet a standard of decency which stems from our ability to reply to every applicant, regardless of our intentions. 

For smaller staffing firms the 'processing and rejecting' step may not be practical. If one has to choose between addressing the needs of candidate's one is actively working to  place (from the first call through placement and post placement follow up, based on how each company likes to manage those important interactions), and responding to every applicant, regardless of their suitability for the job they applied to, I would always pick the first. Auto-responses have been used for a long time, and they could do the job equally well, but a personal response isn't warranted in each and every case.

I have been on the other side of the fence and was forced to think more about this as a candidate or applicant as well. I received a ton of auto responses to applications I sent out and a few companies even sent out rejection letters via email. For the jobs I felt I would stand out among the competition, I was persistent in my follow up. As a recruiter, that is one thing I can say is missing in the overwhelming majority of applications. Zero follow ups. It tells me something about the candidate's level of interest, for better or for worse.

Comment by Feargall kenny on September 19, 2012 at 11:10am

This this has largely to do with the generally poor quality of inbound candidates which itself is highly coupled with the ease of applyling (via indeed or click-to-apply with linkedin) these days. Just because you can apply doesn't mean you should. I personally don't think this is a recruiter issue or at least it doesnt start there. It is caused by the 7 or 8 out of 10 inbound candidates who dilute the inbound pool with totally unqualified applications or who make no effort to bridge their less-than-qualified background to the job at hand. The qualified applications definitely deserve a response but there is only so much time that you can spend paying it forward by providing feedback / guidance to the unqualified ones.

Comment by Theresa Hunter on September 19, 2012 at 11:21am

To Ambrish I do take some offense about the decency remark. We are dealing with people here sometimes a little different but still people. it takes just a moment to say something even if it is no.  I can not tell you how many times I have come across the outstanding candidate of my dreams who basically tells me to shove off because of his/her bad experience with a recruiter with the hey your just a candidate or my next paycheck attitude.  I worked for a very large recruiting firm and my time was limited and did I get frustrated with people responding to my job posts who were clearly not qualified you bet I did and I would hit the delete button on their resume until my boss told me that even though the candidate was not qualified they were still deserving of some kind of answer. It maybe a short answer but I do answer.  On the persistent part if I have a candidate who continues to email/call me after I have nicely let him know he was not selected by my client that is when I stop being nice.

Comment by Russell White on September 19, 2012 at 11:23am

@Ambrish - very good points you make indeed which tie in nicely with @Feargall's points. I agree that people who are totally unsuitable apply for roles. The thing is Feargall is that they think they are suitable! We have the benefit of knowing our client and hopefully what the job entails. They see an advert and apply. By ignoring those people i.e. not even sending an auto-responder I believe that we are showing a lack of respect to that indvidual & I also think it's bad manners.

The point I made is that today's reject could be tomorrow's Managing Director and ignoring them could result in a lost revenue opportunity in the future. I think that recruitment is not thinking enough about the longer term when it comes to candidates and is focussing on the wrong issues!

Comment by Terra on September 19, 2012 at 11:29am

How hard is it is to send off a quick response, small or large (we are small by the way).  Below is what I write to candidates, it simple, does not make promises and I have received excellent feedback from candidates.  I do tweak it for those who are not applicable for anything we ever will have.  But mostly I just simply send this one.

 "We have received your resume. We will be reviewing all resumes and contact those candidates that our clients are interested in seeing. We understand how difficult it is to not receive a verbal response to your resume and we apologize for this, but we are asking that you equally understand that we cannot call everyone individually. If you are not selected at this time, please know that resumes are held in our database for future positions.

 This at least lets the candidate know I have received the resume.  At times they will email me back as to why they were not selected and I am always happy to respond.

In terms of Decency, I will always hold myself to a higher standard "treat those as you would like to be treated, not as they treat you"

Comment by Theresa Hunter on September 19, 2012 at 11:35am your response letter!!  It lets people know their resume has been received by a human and not down some dark hole never to be heard from again.

Comment by Feargall kenny on September 19, 2012 at 12:14pm

at a more fundamental level I just firmly believe that post-job-and-get-responses as a model is broken because of what I mentioned. The solution to this problem for candidates is to find a better way to be found by recruiters proactively looking for their type of backgrounds.  I built  the platform on top of linkedin to partially solve this problem. It wont help Russel's son that much unfortunately as, being entry level, there is less work history to find him on but it does go part of the way there.

btw @terra I also love your response letter!

Comment by Theresa Hunter on September 19, 2012 at 12:20pm

@feargall kenny  I would be interested in your website but don't have a corporate email address.  I am a solo legal would that work for me or would it.?  Do you know if you have any Attorneys who visit your site?


Comment by Feargall kenny on September 19, 2012 at 1:33pm

@russell the other part of the solution I think is candidates leveraging linkedin to proactively look for jobs in the companies that they want to work at - look at the bottom half of this blog post : - basically get your son to articulate what he is interested in, setup a linkedin account, connect to you and all your buddies (who are likely going to be way more connected than him at entry level) and start identifying connections to those companies then asking for intros to the subset of those companies that are looking for his level via recruiters or buddies that are connected to them...

I know that looks like a ramble but is highly coupled with your post. Recruiters get a bad rap because of post and receive but the solution isnt nice replies (although that will help in the meantime) - the solution is for candidates to set themselves up to be found and get proactive in pursuing what they want rather than reactively applying to stuff!


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