Why Recruiters Don’t Respond


I like to think that recruiters have your best interest at heart but they serve both the candidate and the hiring manager, when those two collide the recruiter supports the hiring manager. Not surprising candidates are continually appalled at the lack of follow-through by Recruiters at every stage of the process. Candidates voice their displeasure at receiving automated “no thank you” notes from employers when their resume fails to meet expectations and their candidacy ends.

Candidate frustration and disdain for recruitment peaks when they go through several rounds of interviews only to receive an eerie silence with no follow-up. It leaves them feeling outraged and frustrated. I can’t say I blame you.

As a corporate recruiter, retained recruiter, and contingent recruiter over the last 20 years I can tell you that it always makes me sad to hear this. I think everyone has experienced it in some fashion but why does it happen?  It’s not you, it’s us, no wait, it might be you.

What is Going on Behind the Scenes?

As a recruiter, let me shed some light on the process behind the curtain. In no way am I letting recruiters off the hook who drop the ball throughout the recruitment and interview process. Let me give you some perspective into what is causing the recruiter’s silence and slow response time, it is not personal but a function of the process.  In most cases, it is just human nature, incompetence, overwhelm, or lack of information that is the cause of the lack of response. Knowing it is not personal can ease the frustration and lower candidate expectations for some perfect closure to their candidacy.

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

Corporate recruiters and search firm recruiters are middle-men/middle-women (I know since I was one of them)

Most recruiters have good intentions and want to move candidates through the process to get the open job off their desks. Recruiters are evaluated on the speed at that they fill positions with the highest quality/best fit for the role.  The problem begins when hiring managers think they know what they want and then start seeing and interviewing candidates only to realize they were wrong.  The recruiter is left to turn off the candidates they just spun up and those conversations can be tough and the recruiters who fear those conversations don’t do it.  At best they send a “we appreciate your interest in the role” email advising a candidate their candidacy is over.

Why do recruiters fear giving candidates feedback? Because it’s dangerous, you can’t tell them the real feedback and if you are generic candidates get just as frustrated as they would if you never followed up.  It’s a lose-lose.

Why can’t they give real feedback? Candidates want to argue about their performance or how they can learn on the job or how they took time off work to interview.  Constructive criticism is never taken constructively and recruiters must choose their words carefully so they don’t say something that could be misunderstood and get them in legal trouble.

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

As with any job, some recruiters can’t manage their time well and fall behind on their communications.  For search firm recruiters it’s also about engaging with the candidates that are the hottest in the process and most likely to get them paid.  It’s a short-term strategy but one that many use.  They love you when they need you.  These recruiters tend to hold all the reigns of communication and set up unrealistic expectations that they will get back to everyone with updates.


The bottom line is most middlemen have little to no control over the process and often make promises they cannot keep. The best way for candidates to avoid this is to discuss their communication expectations on every call with a recruiter. Ask them when you should expect a call, let them know that you will call them if they don’t follow up and then I recommend mentioning your poor experience with a recruiter previously.  Guilt does wonders to get them to stick to the communication plan.  After all that, if they don’t call you back, move on, you shouldn’t put your career in someone’s hands who is so incompetent.

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

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

I have come to learn many recruiters have a hard time:

1. Giving bad news. You are not the candidate we need. Thank you.

2. Saying they were wrong. Thought I would have an answer by now but I don’t have an answer and I am not sure when I will.

3. Saying they have no clue what is going on with the search.  The recruiter thought this was urgent based on the hiring manager’s communication but things have changed and not sure if it’s going to heat up again.

I find many recruiters 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

Control what you can control and move on if necessary.  Execute the aspects of the job that you can control; send emails, do follow-up, go to interviews, apply for the job, network, etc. Don’t tie expectations to each result. When an expectation is tied to a result and that anticipated result is not realized, frustration and anger develop. 

Don’t let an incompetent recruiter ruin your experience with a potential company, own what you can and contact someone else at the company if you need to.  

Lastly, understand that just because you check all the boxes on the job description and feel like a great fit based on your interview experience, companies pivot, roles change, and your view of the situation is like the top of an iceberg above the water line.  There is also more to the situation than you or sometimes the recruiter might know.