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What Really Happens When HR Recruiters Don’t Follow Up With You

This is a guest blog post by Lisa Rangel about when HR recruiters don’t follow up.

HR Recruiter follow-up, recruiter lack of response, interview follow-up, don't hear back from the recruiter

You, as a job seeker, are continually appalled at the lack of follow-through on the part of HR Recruiters throughout your job search after you have interviewed a number of times.

Perhaps you are reasonable in that you do not expect a “no thanks” response when sending a resume through an impersonal job posting. However, many go through several rounds of interviews only to receive an eerie silence with no subsequent follow-up. I imagine it leaves you feeling outraged and frustrated. I can’t say I blame you.

As a former search firm recruiter and I can tell you that it always makes me sad to hear this. As I 3rd party recruiter, I did experience it, also. I would have candidates going through the process and then the corporate recruiter would go silent.

What’s Really Happening Behind The Scenes

As a former recruiter for 13 years, I wanted to shed some light on what really is happening behind the scenes when HR recruiters drop the ball throughout the recruitment and interview process. It’s a daunting task for employers to manage the communication process. And there isn’t an excuse to fail to keep a candidate in progress informed.

None of these explanations are to say this behavior is ok…please know that is not my intent. But if you can have an inkling as to what goes on inside these processes, you can realize it is not personal and recruiters are not being sneaky. In most cases, it is just human nature, incompetence, overwhelm or lack of information that is the cause of the lack of response. I find knowing it is not personal can ease the frustration.

Through my recruiting experience, this is what I came to realize:

Corporate HR recruiters and search firm recruiters are middlemen (I know since I was one of them)

Most are well-intentioned and want to move candidates through the process to get the open job off their desk. To keep the candidate hopeful, the recruiter says things like “I will let you know by Friday”. Or “I am expecting the manager to get back to ASAP” with full intent on making that happen. Then the manager does not get back to the recruiter. This leaves the recruiter in an awkward and frustrated position.

Some HR recruiters (corporate and search firm recruiters) can simply manage the process poorly

They tend to react to what job process is moving forward and forget about the ones that are stagnant. These recruiters tend to hold all the reigns of communication and, as indicated in the earlier point, set up unrealistic expectations that they will get back with everyone with updates. Many recruiters do not have systems to ensure communication is consistent.

The bottom line is most middlemen have little to no control in the process and often make promises they cannot keep. I dealt with this by saying to my candidates when it was applicable, “I hope to hear by Friday, but you have to know I have no control over when they will tell me. If you have not heard from me by Monday or Tuesday the latest, please feel free to check in with me. But know that if I hear anything, I will let you know.” I was honest about what I had control over and did not have control over. Not a perfect solution, I know, but I tried my best. And I hated candidates not knowing what was going on.

Hiring managers (or line managers) that are responsible for pulling the trigger typically have no idea that a communication deadline was made to the candidate by HR recruiters.

There are hiring managers that know this, but just frankly do not care. They often do not get back to the HR recruiters or the third party recruiter that might be in between in a timely fashion.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I have come to learn many people have a hard time:

1. Giving bad news (the manager chose someone else)

2. Saying they were wrong (I am sorry that I said I would have any answer for you by tomorrow and now that tomorrow is here and I do not have an answer)

3. Saying they have no clue what is going on “I must admit the manager said this was a priority, so that is why I communicated urgency to you. I have no idea why they are now not responding on the next step).

As a result, I find, with any of these scenarios, many people choose to just avoid it and never make the phone call or send the email and focus on other priority jobs.

Let Go Of Expectations

I always suggest to my job search clients to not hold on to the results of the actions they take, to the best of their ability. Just take the actions to move forward during this job search transition (send emails, do follow-up, go to interviews, apply for the job, network, etc). Try not to tie expectations to each result. When an expectation is tied to a result and that anticipated result not realized, that is where we get frustrated. I do this in my business and in my personal life as much as I can.

It is not easy and some days I am not very successful at it. But I find that when I can let go of expectations, I am not often disappointed and I am leaving myself open for other wonderful things to come into my life. Even those I did not even imagine could happen.

Written by: Lisa Rangel
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Categories: Job Interview Tips
  • Karen Schaffer

    Thanks for such a good explanation as to what might be going on when people don’t hear back. I certainly think that the emotional factors of embarrassment and fear of conflict play a big role. When I was at a recruiting firm, one of the hardest tonal changes were companies that were go, go, go on hiring as fast as possible and then went silent, changed their minds and didn’t hire at all. It meant that I had been giving candidates the go, go, go impression, only to be as bewildered myself when everything suddenly changed. And then you end up waiting to see what’s happening on your end and you can’t speak to how it’s going with anyone else (nor do you want to discourage or promise anything). So you end up saying nothing until you know. So for all candidates – sometimes they say nothing to you because they don’t know themselves!

  • Thanks Karen for sharing your story. Yes, I agree about stop/go frustration. How do we fix that? 🙂

  • Karen Schaffer

    It’s a time management thing I think – partly to know that it’s still better to stay in communication even if you have nothing to share. What you have to share is “Things are slowing down a little over here, you are still important to us” kind of message. It’s worth doing even if it takes time (and really, it could be an email) because it keeps candidates positive and engaged. So even if it’s a no later, they leave with a positive long term. I don’t think people think about how important *any* communication is, versus having a final answer. Communication means “I respect you”. And I will say – I am still not always great at this. I’ve learned if I’m not communicating, it means I probably haven’t figured out what I need for myself or want to communicate. It’s an indication I need to make space to figure that out.

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  • Love that message Karen. Respect is such an important and validating outcome of the communication. That combined with more understanding form candidates on the busy lives led by recruiters (so many masters) and we are on our way to to a better long term relationship!

  • Good insights and questions, Karen and Tim. When I recruited, we called this the ‘rush to wait’ syndrome. Just as you state it, Karen, go-go-go when the hiring companies new job came in and, as recruiters we submitted the best, interested and available candidates that fit the parameters as quickly as we could, only to (sometimes–thankfully not always) hear nothing. It can be hard to manage…but I agree, respectful communication goes a long way. While people want to hear a ‘yes’ they do respect hearing a ‘no’ — but is the ‘maybe’ or, worse, the indefinite waiting that can make a job seeker mad.

  • Yes, the maybe is like torture! Thanks Lisa.

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  • Dana Leavy-Detrick

    Agree with Lisa – they are the middle men, and particularly on the point that sometimes the information that comes down the line from the actual hiring decision maker, is either difficult for the recruiter/HR rep to communicate to the candidate, or there’s little feedback in general. 10 years of recruiting in the creative industry/advertising/marketing, I got a lot of “it’s just not what I’m looking for” when trying to get a Creative Director to explain why they passed on a designer’s portfolio. Sometimes the best a candidate can do is follow up diligently and professionally, re-enforcing your interest in the company and the role, and then move on to hotter prospects.

  • LaLa

    This is happening to me right now! Last Monday, I was contacted by a recruiter through LinkedIn at 9 o’clock at night about an immediate role. I responded straight away to say I was interested. The next morning at 8.30am, she called me to discuss the role and sent me the job description. After reading the job description and doing some research on the company, I called back an hour and a half later to say I was keen. From the tone of the conversation and the fact everything was happening so quickly, it sounded certain that the job would be mine. I just had to send her a paragraph about myself and my suitabilities for the job based on the job description, which I did right away. She said she was just going to check with the manager if it’s ok that I’m on a work visa, and get back to me on it. She really got my hopes up.

    After not hearing anything for two days, I sent a follow up email. No answer. One week later (today), I called her office first thing in the morning. Her receptionist picked up and said she was busy and she would call me back. It’s now the evening and still no phone call. I sent her another email late afternoon and still nothing. It’s really frustrating. I’ve held off on applying elsewhere because I really like the sound of this job and the location. She could at least send me a quick courtesy email saying yes, no, or still in discussion. I feel like I’m starting to sound desperate whenever I try to contact her but get no response, and I definitely don’t want to give that impression.

  • gregormendel

    I’m in the exact same situation right now. Very frustrating. I don’t want to sound desperate but this is getting ridiculous. I almost just want to tell people to do their damn job!

  • Respect

    All I’m seeing here are excuses. In every job I’ve had, it’s been a given that you follow up with your clients even if you don’t have an answer. Otherwise you aren’t doing your job. When these recruiters just simply fail to get back to you, it sends the message that they are terrible at follow-up, and lazy to boot. Why would I trust someone like that to help land me a job?

  • Hey Respect – thanks for your reaction to Lisa’s post. Agree that it can be frustrating working with a recruiter – especially with certain expectations about the relationship. Truth is recruiters have a tough job. Everyone thinks they are qualified which means there are no filters for the number of resumes that get sent in. And few recruiters have the capacity to get back to the volume of emails they get. In the end, it becomes inefficient to prioritize candidate happiness over getting people hired and meeting your company’s (or clients) expectations. I wrote about the “chasm” between recruiters and job seekers back in 2009. In the post I wanted to explain the chasm (you might see this as more excuses) but I also tried to provide some advice on your approach. Sharing in case there are any ideas in here that might help you…


  • You got that right, Respect.
    The majority of it is Excuses to the boot. Lord knows I’ve interviewed with my share of half-mast wannabees (recruiters) or post-college interns needing the experience. Just downright pitiful, the setup The endless complaints from every walk of candidate applicants, done with these shifty clowns….pathetic. Part of the recruiting ‘tough job’ nowadays is that most HR/Staffing companies don’t care about adequately job-shadowing their wannabees and/or Interns. Even better.. open jobs that get shifted around or passed through varied channels, before the candidate attends the interview, only to find out there was a grave miscommunication over the exact position. This recently happened to me, interviewing for what I understood was an admin media support role within marketing division, only to discover that it was a commercial real-estate sales support role. Whoa now… !

    We realize most recruiters are only human like us, but still there is no excuse for sloppy, lazy, unprofessional recruiting behavior.

  • Can’t argue with your experience. It can absolutely be frustrating. The more of us that become aware of the need to “be what we say we are” and “do what we say we’ll do” the better for the future of this complex relationship. Thanks for offering your thoughts here. 🙂

  • Jon

    I went for a job interview with recruitment/firm consultant…..submit all required….cover letter CV(CV has phone contactable referee on it and provided adittional written statement of service/reference) online registration,induction filled out all forms including bank account tax declaration,letter from treating doctor they have even asked for my sizes(workgear fitout) and also mentioned in Job ad it is an immediate start for “right candidate”……I applied for this position and received response almost straight away and I am still at stage of where all I know is……”we are waiting on client to get back to us and give go ahead regarding Job walk around and another interview”.
    A whole week has passed and didn’t even get response when I contacted yesterday so called this morning only to hear same but I felt a bit annoyed when the recruitment manager says to me……”oh so what are you been doing in meantime”!?
    “Looking/applying for other positions”!?

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