Idealpeople Blog: Recruiters Never Respond to Job Applications!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recruiters Never Respond to Job Applications!

Searching the web the other day, we came across the following feedback regarding one particular Recruitment company:

As usual, I had no acknowledgement and no contact. I doubt that the job advertised even exists. Recruitment consultants are pond life and even lower in the food chain than estate agents. It is unprofessional to not even acknowledge applications.

I have heard nothing from them as yet, after 2 weeks. I have left a phone message and still heard nothing. The feedback, so far, is negative purely because they have made no contact to date.

Useless, no contact, no continuity, wouldn't bother with them.

Who are they talking about? Say it quietly, but they're talking about us.

These quotes come from a service offered to candidates who apply for jobs via one of the major job-boards in the UK. It's a chance for them to give their feedback on various aspects of services offered to them by particular agencies.

To be fair to us, most of our feedback is positive, and all of our negative feedback comes from candidates who never had a response from job applications. Generally, it seems, candidates who never receive a response are particularly cutting. Calling us pondlife because no response was received is pretty harsh, as is calling us useless.

So what can we learn from this? Firstly, we can draw the conclusion that not receiving a response to a job application is a serious gripe that most candidates have with recruitment companies.

We take feedback very seriously, and we've thought about our policy towards job applications many, many times. The first thing we have to point out is that, as much as we'd like to, it's impossible to send a personal response to every single applicant we hear from. Our consultants frequently receive in excess of 100 applications per day, many from people whose backgrounds don't match the advert at all. Given that it takes about 15 minutes to assess an application, and write a personal e-mail outlining exactly why the candidate has, on this occassion, been unsuccesful, it would take 1500 minutes - or 25 hours - to respond to them all. Despite the long hours we work, we don't have the ability to change the number of hours in any given day. We have in the past tried to reply to as many as possible. You might notice as well that we're one of the few recruiters out there who encourage phone calls and publish direct lines in our adverts.

Despite this, there are in theory a couple of actions we could take in order to ensure that all applicants receive a response - and therefore eliminate this "no response/no feedback" issue. For instance:

- We could set up an "autoreply": every time an applicant applies for a job they receive a non-personal response saying something along the lines of Dear candidate, thanks for applying, if you haven't heard from us within X number of days then you've been unsucessful.
- We could make it clear in job advertisements that if you hear nothing then you've been unsuccesful.

The reason we've never done this is quite straightforward: what would it achieve?

The really frustrating element of not getting any feedback is the fact that you don't know why your profile wasn't selected. If you receive an automated response, would you feel any happier? Would that give a reason to leave positive feedback? In all likelihood, frustration would stem from the fact that all you got was an automated response rather than anything personal, and you'd still have a negative experience.

Anyway, given that we care about our candidates service an awful lot, we'd like to throw a question out there. What can we do about this? What would candidates and potential candidates like to see us doing?


Jon T. said...

Although it may not have been the most helpful language, I think the original poster has a valid point in that one of the key frustrations in dealing with the recruitment industry is the surprisingly common lack of basic courtesies when handling candidate contacts.

The telling phrase is "I have left a phone message and still heard nothing" - this is not an issue of whether to auto-reply or not (and for the record I'm not a big fan), it's about how you (the industry, not specifically Idealpeople) handle the personal enquiries that candidates make. I don't expect to receive a response for every role that I submit a CV for but I do think it's reasonable to expect someone to return my calls, even if they've already decided that I'm not an appropriate candidate for the position. Sadly it is more common that recruiters fail to return calls regardless of whether they've already made the decision or whether this is the first ever contact to discuss a particular role in more detail.

Perhaps as candidates we fail to fully understand the time pressures that recruiters are under, but being systematically ignored is arguably one of the most frustrating things that can happen to any person.

So to answer your question, don't stress over the "auto-reply or not" issue because frankly if you provide direct contacts and we can't be bothered to call then you probably shouldn't be considering us in the first place. What you can do however is to make sure you treat the handling of candidate calls with the same level of diligence that you would treat new client calls.

Idealpeople said...

Hi Jon T,

Thanks for your comment, the feedback is appreciated. Picking up on a couple of points...

"Perhaps as candidates we fail to fully understand the time pressures that recruiters are under"

We're going to do a seperate blog on this, but in principle we agree. The whole industry owes it to candidates to explain the processes from our side of the "fence", as it may well explain some of the mysterious behaviour of some Consultants. Keep your eyes peeled for that one.

"I don't expect to receive a response for every role that I submit a CV for but I do think it's reasonable to expect someone to return my calls...being systematically ignored is arguably one of the most frustrating things that can happen to any person."

We couldn't agree more. We were very tempted not to post the piece of feedback we received saying that we had ignored someone's call, but felt it wouldn't be fair. In fairness to us, we could find no record of any voicemail being left - although it is possible that we just missed it. Our candidate care policy ( sets an expectation for all of our staff to respond to phone calls within 4 hours. We suspect (hope) that this particular instance was just a one-off - at least from out point-of-view.

We've always encouraged phone calls, and are one of the few consultancies who provide personal contact numbers on all of our ads. This does of course have the knock-on effect of us receiving a high volume of calls - which we handle intelligently and courteously.

On the original issue, we're leaning towards not setting up a generic advert-response autoreply, although any further thoughts are most welcome.