Dear Recruiter, Where Did You Go?

Written by David Marwick for KempMillJobAssist on . Posted in Advice Columns

Consider this common scenario: A recruiter reaches out to you about a great job. You agree you are well qualified, and you like the location, salary, and company. You submit your resume, but then hear nothing. Or you get the interview, but then hear nothing. Or you are a semifinalist, but then hear nothing.

Now you’re baffled and frustrated — not only did you not get the interview or job, but you don’t know why. You contact the recruiter but get no reply. You wonder why the recruiter is so rude. All you want is a few minutes of her time to help you understand why you didn’t get further in the process and how you can be more competitive next time.

Lack of feedback throughout the hiring process — the “ghosting” of the job-hunt world — has long frustrated job seekers and, recently, recruiters. (It is an issue for human resources specialists and hiring managers as well.) Remember that a recruiter normally works for the prospective employer, not for you, and usually has little or no incentive to provide feedback, much less candid feedback.

Here are three possible explanations why you didn’t hear from the recruiter:

No time: If you applied for a job, others did, too — perhaps another 20, 200, or even more. For a few, their resume was good enough to earn them an interview; for a very few, their interview was good enough to land them on the final list; but only one of them was offered the job.

Why would a recruiter want to spend even a few minutes explaining to each of 20, 200, or more unsuccessful applicants why they didn’t get an interview, a spot on the final list, or the job?

A recruiter is typically paid to whittle down a large pile of applications to a manageable number for the hiring unit to interview and make a final selection. Once she completes her work on one opening, her priority is the next opening. She is not paid to speak with unsuccessful applicants, and every minute spent with them is a minute not spent on the next opening.

Lack of information: Perhaps the recruiter did not make the final decision and, therefore, cannot discuss it in-depth. Moreover, recruiting professionals caution against taking at face value any explanation offered by a recruiter; it may not be the whole truth.

The risk of being sued: You didn’t get to the next step in the process because you were not as appealing as another candidate. Perhaps the other person went to a better school; had better grades, more relevant experience, or stronger references; or seemed to be a better “fit” with the company’s culture. Many things that a recruiter might tell you about why you didn’t get the job might appear to you to be based on
age discrimination or some other prohibited practice, and therefore may seem potentially actionable. Why would a recruiter want to expose herself to that risk?

On the other hand, there is one reason to provide feedback. If you are an excellent candidate, but not the best candidate for this job, the recruiter may want to stay in your good graces and may therefore be willing to provide feedback.

Ironically, in the current hot labor market, the shoe is increasingly on the other foot, as recruiters have trouble connecting with job seekers. There are stories of excellent candidates who “ghosted” recruiters by not answering phone calls, texts, and emails. Presumably, they “disappeared” because they found an even better job or were otherwise no longer interested.

By David Marwick for KempMillJobAssist 


David Marwick is KempMillJobAssist’s workshop coordinator. He studied economics at George Washington University and worked as an economist for George Washington University and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.