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 Amy Ala Miller on September 19, 2012 at 5:18pm

I get it. No one wants to be left hanging. I didn't when I was looking and my mom, who's STILL unemployed, gets frustrated daily. Are we to believe that ANY response will suffice? Because if we all start sending auto-responses, what's to stop the naysayers from complaining about that? Then we'll ALL start sending personal handwritten notes. More complaints. We'll ALL start calling every single applicant on the phone... when will we be doing "enough" to salvage our poor reputations?


Here's how it goes in my office - and I'm a corporate recruiter. Every applicant gets an auto response thanking them for applying and that if they fit our needs we'll get in touch. Their resume stays in our database, and so on. So we have noted that the application has been received. They may not ever hear from us again. Is that wrong? I average 20-30 reqs at any given time across multiple business groups. It is not unusual for some of my roles to receive over 100 applicants. I'd like to tell you I look at all of them, but here's the reality - if I find 3 or 4 strong contenders and get them interviewing in the first 2 weeks, I may not look at applicants coming in week 3 or later. Would you? Seriously??


At the risk of further damaging my reputation, there's my reality. I wish I could personally contact every candidate - literally hundreds a week. If anyone has any advice on how to be a better responder without working more nights and weekends than I already do, I'm listening.

Comment by Amber on September 19, 2012 at 5:36pm

As a jobseeker, I would have loved to get feedback with some specificity about why they did not see me as a good fit for the position I applied for. But yes, Amy, I was happy to just get an automated reply which at least let me know my application/resume went through.

As a recruiter, I think that an indivual person reply to every single applicant or person that inquires with me, is not realistic or  - dare I say it - necessary. An automated reply letting someone know that we received their information, that we appreciate them sending it, that we will contact them if we a position that is a good fit now or in the future, is enough. If we have further correspondence with or submit someone, I keep in contact until a resolution is met - either not being able to place them in a certain position, etc. and I try to be as honest as possible and share whatever information I can that would benefit them.


Comment by Amy Ala Miller on September 19, 2012 at 6:02pm

thanks Amber :) I also feel that candidates who actually fit the description deserve a response over the "click any apply now" crowd. Not fair perhaps, but that's my personal feelings about it. We still respond to everyone the same regardless...

Comment by Jody Dugan on September 19, 2012 at 6:09pm

I appreciate your honesty, Amy, because that is simply the reality when you are handling a high volume of resumes and applicants.  I feel, in such situations as you discussed, although not ideal, an automated response is sufficient.  It may not carry the personal touch we passionate recruiters desire with everyone who applies to our job postings, but realistically there just isn't enough time in the week. Elaborating on what Amy said, many of us already sacrifice a great deal of personal time reviewing applicants' resumes while trying to keep constant lines of communication open with our active, qualified candidates. I like the motto, “Don't judge anyone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.”


I personally feel that a lot of frustration, time, and energy can be eliminated if recruiters are concise in the qualifications for the job. However, the same rings true for applicants as they should apply only to positions in which they possess the basic requirements.  So, it basically comes down to accountability on all parts.

Comment by Bill Schultz on September 19, 2012 at 7:07pm

I've listened to many people's lament about recruiters.  This one never makes the list.  It's the contact (or lack thereof) after the first where  recruiters earn their "bad rap."


Comment by Amy Ala Miller on September 19, 2012 at 7:34pm

Thanks Jody - my first week on the job I insisted that I was going to do the right thing and answer every single applicant. My boss (bless her heart) didn't laugh at me but did tell me I'd get over it. By the following week - I was over it. It could be a corporate thing (I don't remember getting this many applicants as an agency recruiter) but hundreds a week is not an exaggeration.


Couple that with the fact that a lot of my roles I still have to go source for anyway... I'm juggling extra candidates that aren't even in our ATS. I agree with Bill - I think it's the radio silence once contact has been established that is frustrating.

Comment by Martin O'Shea on September 20, 2012 at 3:59am

Enjoyed the read Jason and to everyone who has contributed. I am working in a recruitment firms which i am apart of a team which focuses on Rec-to-Rec and I can honestly say I speak to a lot of recruiters who tell me they will call me back, and its not like they don't know what I am doing because they do it on a daily basis too, and its not likely I can force a recruiter to move, they understand more than anyone the situation is moving, all I try and do is have a general chat and see what it leads too, if we get on well then I'm sure we will work with each if not right now then in the future. 

Comment by Ellen Small on September 20, 2012 at 11:16am

Wow, this really hits a sore spot with me.  When I was a corporate recruiter, I made sure my applicants all received a note thanking them for their interest and we would keep their resume/application on file for one year.  We used those files continuously and called people in for interview sometimes months after first submission.  After interview, we always wrote to everyone who was not going to be considered and thanked them for their time.  Now that I have my own recruiting business I have learned just how many people send their resumes to the Black Hole called Human Resources and never hear a word back.  It's a terrible practice.  People walk around wondering if their resume was even received and/or read.  HR has worked this way for years, so if we third-party recruiters can do a better job of communicating with our candidates, we will shine and Russell's e-mail thank you note proves it.  Way to go, Russell!

Comment by Ron Jennings on September 21, 2012 at 2:34pm


Although I agree follow up to an applicant is a great practice and I applaud you for your commitment to this practice.

I do hope you are working with your son to understand that a non-reply is not personal. Encouraging him to research the recruiter and/or the employer and to continue to reach out. As an Executive/Life Coach and Recruiter I encourage people to use the 6 degree of separation theory and connect with people within the organization. A non-reply might reflect and individual, company policy, tech snafu and the list goes on. Non-replies are an age old issue with no end in sight. The invitation is to raise above this and take action. In my sales days we had a saying " No, meant ask me again tomorrow." 

Cheers to your son taking the next step in his journey. "Do Great Things"


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