Confessions of a Former Recruiter: Head-Hunter Won’t Call

Confessions of a Former Recruiter: Head-Hunter Won’t Call

Recruiters can be like cads: They lead you on, pretend to be interested, and then never call you back. Lots of people have horror stories about recruiters who reach out for their resumes, interview them in-office and then never speak to them again.

There's a reason. And, it's not pure malice. Generally. But I might need you to thicken your skin for a moment.

They Don’t Have Anything for You Right Now

The simplest answer is often the truth. Why, you ask, would they waste everyone’s time if they don’t have any positions for you? It’s in their interest to find out what you’re all about so that you’re good to go when a position does arise for your background. Above and beyond actual placements, candidates are valuable because they keep recruiters abreast of what’s happening at individual companies, and recruiters are valuable because they keep candidates abreast of the market in general. Even if this particular recruiter isn’t the one who places you, my money says that she’s a good contact to have.

Your Resume Isn’t Cookie-Cutter Enough

Recruiters make their money from clients, not from candidates. Companies pay often hefty fees in order to find their ideal candidate, whether or not someone from a more nontraditional background could do the job. Lots of candidates say, “I know that I don’t have the experience they’re looking for, but I have the skill sets! Make them give me a try!” That’s lovely. Really. But no one pays a recruiter to be convinced that someone they don’t want is really who they do want.

The sad but brutal truth is that companies expect recruiters to provide them with cookie-cutter resumes. If a client is specifically looking for an equity researcher who covers beverages within the consumer sector, a candidate who used to do corporate development and now specializes in the tech sector could get the job—but probably not through a recruiter. Candidates like that generally get in because they know people.

The majority of the jobs in this country are not filled by head hunters. If you this bullet describes your problem, then buck up, go to some networking events, and find your way in on your own.

You Didn’t Interview Well

Sorry, but it’s true. The whole point of an internal interview is for recruiters to screen candidates before they get to the clients. Unkempt, poorly-spoken candidates reflect badly on recruiters, so it’s in their interest to filter. Once, we scheduled a client interview for a candidate we’d never met. He came in to meet with us shortly before his interview—he didn’t know anything about the client, couldn’t coherently walk us through his background, and couldn’t elucidate why he was interested in this job or even the industry in general. We canceled his interview because he would have embarrassed us.

While recruiters sometimes seem like guidance counselors, they have their own bottom lines and are personally responsible for the relationship with the client. Some candidates take recruiter interviews very lightly because they assume that they’re only fluffy formalities. Sometimes that’s true. But don’t forget to make nice to the gatekeepers.

Important: It’s good to follow up with recruiters because they’re busy people. But harassing them will only make them think you’re crazy. They will wonder, “Will she harass my client this way, too?”

Once, I sent an email to a candidate. He replied, but I was away from my desk and didn’t look at the email for an hour or two. He waited only 20 minutes before sending me an incredibly acerbic email about how recruiters pretend to help him find a job but waste his time with pointless emails and never actually get back to him. His email was genuinely mean! He wasn’t blacklisted before, but you can bet that I made a note in his record. Other candidates have been known to call eight times in a day in order to find out their progress in a job search. Neither of those approaches is smart.

If your phone call or email hasn’t been returned in a few days, it’s okay to follow up. If you have a real relationship with the recruiter, then it’s probably safe to say that you’re not being shunned. However, if you keep spamming your resume to the same recruiters and beg to understand why they haven’t sent you to their clients, there’s probably a reason. They might simply be too busy or too polite to tell it to you.


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