Recruiters Need to Follow Through

photo: Deputado Bruno Covas

As a recruiter (whether retained, contingent, corporate, executive search, or independent), there is “No Acceptable Excuse” for not following up or following through with a candidate.

By failing to do so, your actions are contributing to the further erosion of the reputation of our profession and are fueling the negative perceptions presently associated with recruiters.

Would you ever not follow up with your client or employer? Hell no! After all, the client is generally the proverbial “pot of gold” derived from a successful placement. Would you not give them a status report? What if the client is the hiring manager/decision-maker who expects you to find the right candidate, and you fail to follow up to inquire about their acceptance of a candidate that you presented? What if the client is actually your employer and your future is contingent upon your performance in your role as a recruiter? If you answered NO to any of these questions, why then would it ever be permissible to not follow up with your candidate?

I’ve read numerous articles about lack of follow up by recruiters and have listened to hours of disgruntled deliberation from job seekers and candidates alike who have encountered the likes of those recruiters who practice this irresponsible behavior. I’ve also responded to numerous communications and correspondence with candidates who are asking me why these behaviors are condoned in the industry.

I therefore ask myself why they can’t have the same expectation of follow up that anyone would require from their doctor. Let’s take a look at this process for a second.

It’s Like Physician Follow Up

Being pre-screened, participating in an initial qualifying interview by a recruiter, and/or waiting to hear if you have been accepted for a position can be equated to going into your doctor for an annual physical or check up. S/he conducts a series of Q&A (fact finding), inquires about your history (experience) and overall health (qualifications), conducts some preliminary tests (personality and skill assessments), diagnoses your symptoms (evaluates), sends off the tests for review and analysis (decision maker review), and schedules a follow up appointment if necessary (second interview).

While you are in the office the doctor indicates that s/he has performed specific tests as s/he believes it will help to further explore/rule out potential concerns (qualifying criteria). Your doctor says that s/he will be back to you in about two days to advise you of the test results (client or decision maker ruling).

You’re nervous — consumed with the desire to know the outcome of the test (first interview). You wait desperately to hear if you will need to come back to the doctor’s office for a follow up visit (second interview)! You’re anxiously awaiting the results as promised from your doctor or his/her office. Days and days go by without any communication so you leave several follow up calls and messages. Yet it appears that your doctor’s priorities are not aligned with your personal need for answers or closure. This is your health (career/ future), after all. Don’t you deserve to know the outcome of your efforts from the professional that you selected to deal with?

I like to call this torture “TLS,” or The Limbo Status. Put yourselves in your candidates’ shoes. How would this make you feel? Probably stressed enough to go see your doctor!

When someone applies for a home loan, a new car, a credit card, or countless other scenarios, these organizations and their representatives are expected to follow up with the applicant to advise them if they were approved or failed to qualify. Why then do some recruiters feel they are absolved from this critical and essential responsibility?

In Their Shoes

Don’t believe for a moment that the candidates are not taking note and know which recruiters fall into this category. They know who you are based on their experience working with you! And trust me: they talk amongst themselves just like recruiters do.

Someone once wrote to me asking if there was such thing as a blacklist for candidates. The case presented was a candidate who failed to accept a position that recruiter “A” represented them on and ended up taking a different opportunity from recruiter “B.” Recruiter “A” threatened the candidate, indicating to the candidate that they were placing them on the blacklist! Threatening that no other recruiter would ever represent them going forward because they were on “The LIST!” You’re kidding me, right? Do some recruiters actually use these tactics on their candidates? Has our profession really fallen to this level?

Here’s the danger: The same could hold true for candidates. They could easily (and some already have!) start a blacklist of recruiters who fail to provide common courtesy in the execution of their profession. How many future referrals would be received, how long would a recruiter stay in their role or be in business without respect from the candidate community?

An industry colleague of mine and renowned author of The Savage Truth, Greg Savage, recently coined the following phrase in an article he wrote: “Recruitment — it’s not speed-dating.

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Greg is correct. Candidates do not want to participate in a quick data mining process or sourcing tactic merely to enable achievement of uploading their information for use at a later time. Candidates want to work with recruiters who:

  • Have the time to establish a long-term relationship,
  • Fully understand their skills,
  • Have actual open reqs that may match their skills set, and
  • Will follow up with them accordingly.

Candidates expect honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior from those whom they elect to represent them on their job search. Recruiters should not enter into a relationship with candidates under false pretenses. If you don’t have a legitimate opportunity or the candidates skills are not a match, tell them. At minimum, send an email, pick up the phone, or a toss a carrier pigeon into flight with a post-it note strapped to its leg. Something, anything that even remotely resembles following up!

We’re Not All The Same

Let me be very clear that this is not about all recruiters. It represents a small percentage of shingle-hanging “self-appointed recruiters” who, now that their sign is hung and they’ve secured free business cards (ordered from Vistaprint), proclaim to the world, “Hey look at me. I’m a recruiter.”

In my humble opinion, I find that a healthy percentage of these recruiters fall into a few categories. The first are former recruiters who may have only dabbled in or were new to the industry but were downsized and decided to go into business for themselves. The second set of recruiters, for whom I still hold out a good deal of hope, may simply have never been properly taught, coached, or mentored in the critical skills required to be an effective and professional recruiter. Or perhaps they were trained, but have just failed to continue applying those learned skills in their present capacity as an independent. The final and newest group I’m uncovering are those shingle-hangers who aren’t even from the industry, who may have seen an ad on the Internet or a social networking site suggesting that recruiting was an easy fun and a quick money maker. These are the most damaging of all in this performance-critical industry.

Recruiters I’m referring to need to accept the responsibility and take ownership of their profession and the service offering they provide to the candidate community. If they are not willing to do so, perhaps they should consider finding a new career opportunity — one in which they will not be held accountable, one where they will not have any responsibility to build, foster, or maintain relationships, or be required to have those difficult follow-up discussions with their candidates. A new career where they will no longer serve as a detriment to the profession! Perhaps a submarine screen door manufacturer.

The time for this practice to stop is now, the time to start making a difference is NOW!

There are countless unemployed Americans today who are reliant upon your professional expertise, assistance with, and representation for a limited number of available jobs.

Many of these displaced, downsized Americans have not had to actively pursue a new career for a decade or longer. They are no longer well versed in the technology available, have not architected a technically savvy resume, and do not have a clue on where to start in this highly competitive landscape. Candidates should not have the added burden of enduring the lack of professional courtesy from those who are in the profession of helping others find work. They have enough on their mind with trying to secure gainful employment in their field so that they can keep their home and provide for their families.

Change your behavior, change your attitude, and send a resounding message to the candidate community that you are one of the elite recruiting professionals who have taken ownership and responsibility in your trade. Follow up persistently and consistently, and with the belief that for this single moment, you are equally as important as the family physician. Here’s to your health, and to that of the recruiting industry.

Stephen DuFaux has been in the recruiting industry for eleven years and has served in a variety of capacities covering all aspects of staffing, including recruiting, account management, business development, and multi-branch operational management for national staffing companies. His experience covers a wide range of niches from light industrial, to clerical & admin, to healthcare. Stephen began his career with Tandem Staffing in 2000, and in 2001 he moved over to Medical Staffing Network as a National Director in an operational role over two divisions. He joined Snelling Staffing in 2008 as an RVP/Director. DuFaux has been instrumental in providing direction, coaching, and mentoring to develop highly successful sales and recruitment teams. He is a deeply accomplished and results-driven executive with an exemplary record of success and advancement, driving high value revenue and profit gains, cost savings, and improved organizational sales initiatives. Stephen is a passionate advocate for the staffing and recruiting industry with a consummate desire to make a difference in reversing the negative perception of the industry and the services it provides. This involvement includes orchestrating and developing a highly recognized and respected social networking platform; ?the National Staffing & Recruiting Industry Association" - NSRIA. In addition, in 2010, DuFaux accepted a seat on the Board of Governors for the Recruiters Guild.


23 Comments on “Recruiters Need to Follow Through

  1. Excellent post. I have been in the recruiting industry for over twelve years working on both staffing and corporate sides. I can’t tell you how many candidates complain to me about never hearing from a recruiter again. Some candidates that have not worked with me before have pre-judged me and start following up too early in the process with emails and phone calls. Some of them are doing this so I don’t forget them and others are just built that way. I always follow up with my candidates because they need to know where they stand good or bad. Just because someone wasn’t a good fit for one position within a company doesn’t mean they won’t be a prefect fit for the next position. Sometimes it just comes down to the hiring manager’s personality. Often times I stay in touch with candidates that I was unable to place at that time and find a great fit for them years down the road. Great article.

  2. Great article, and very true. As a recent job seeker, I was appalled at the way I was treated by some hiring managers. After they had come to me to present an opportunity – I didn’t go to them looking, they dropped off the face of the earth. Even after gentle nudging, I was unable to elicit a response. For me, it truly separated the professionals from the rest.

  3. Good post. Running a retained search practice this was one of the bonus criteria/objectives we used with our staff. I think you will find this problem more common in contingency/agency recruitment. As the agency recruiter may not have feed back from the client/hiring manager and has no immediate financial incentive to call unsuccessful candidates with the bad news. The contingency recruiter see time better spent finding a successful candidate than developing a professional relationship with the unsuccessful. In retained search the client, has made a financial commitment to the recruiter. Clients have incentive to be more responsive and provide the information to the recruiter to pass on to the candidate. As well as, the retained recruiter is not in a resume race, thus has the time to develop the professional relationship with all. For both forms of recruitment professional conduct is important.

  4. Stephen,

    Thanks for a great article. I am a recruiter with many years of experience on the corporate side, who has recently been looking for a new position. I have had phone and in person interviews with several Staffing or HR managers who have not gotten back to me with the results of my interviews. Even after several weeks and my leaving an email or a phone message or both, they did not return my calls. As Stephen states, this is unacceptable. All HR professionals need to have the courtesy of following up with candidates in a timely manner. Believe me, I understand that most recruiters don’t have the time to follow up with everyone who send in a resume, but it is incredible to me, that some would not even follow up with candidates who spent their time coming in for inperson interviews or who had multiple phone interviews. I agree that being on the candidate side changes a recruiter’s perception of the importance of timely follow up, but all of us will probably find ourselves in the position of being a job seeker at one time or another. We deserve to give candidates the courtesy of knowing the outcome of the interviews. I believe that some recruiters or staffing managers are uncomfortable telling candidates that they were not selected, so they just avoid getting back to them. Believe me, I know most of us would rather know that we weren’t selected than to be in limbo, wondering if the recruiter/manager has had a personal crisis and is out of the office or if they just don’t want to call you back.

    Also, I do believe in giving candidates some interview feedback, when possible. I know candidates have thanked me for giving them feedback, such as, “The interviewers felt that you had very long answers to some of the questions and felt you were not as direct and succinct as some of the other candidates” or “The interviewers felt that another candidate had a better command of ASP.Net than you did”. This feedback can help the candidate to learn of a perceived weakness and work to correct it before their next interview.

  5. I am an independent recruiting consultant and for the past year have been advising and coaching people on resume development and preparing for interviews. I’ve also been a corporate and indepedent recruiter for 20 years. I hear this complaint about recruiter non-follow up from people all the time. It’s shamful, disrespectful, discourteous, and poor recruiting that recruiters don’t follow-up! Stephen you hit the nail right on the head when you say there is no acceptable excuse for this. I don’t care how busy a recruiter says he/she is, if he/she doesn’t follow up they’re not doing their job. Period.

  6. @Everyone:
    I’ve said this other times for other articles:
    Companies don’t get back because they really don’t care.
    If they are an employer of choice, they don’t have to treat anybody nicely (profesionally, pleasantly). If a company cared, it could hire virtual assistants for $2.78/hr to make sure each and every candidate were treated well…If a candidate isn’t the A-player that we’re always drooling about here or who isn’t connected/influential, they should consider themselves lucky to hear anything at all. It’s not as if they COUNT, or could do anything….

    Do I think think this is right? No. Do I like it when it happens to me? No. Do I think it will change any time soon?
    Also, no.


  7. Spot on, Keith. Almost all organisations don’t care enough to go to the extra effort required to provide, at best, a satisfactory experience for all candidates applying for roles.

    I bet if every ‘not responded to’ candidate bagged out each offending organisation for their ‘non response’ on that organisation’s Facebook page there would be a shift in practises quick start.

  8. Thank you, Ross. I think that’s a very good suggestion. Another one is(FOR EVERYBODY) to go to and anonymously describe your experience as a candidate (WITH EVERY COMPANY YOU APPLY TO). It is incredibly frustrating for me to see so little attention paid to ordinary candiates’ hiring experiences. As mentioned, for very little money it could be turned from a liability to a strong asset. Imagine if every(sane) candidate hired or (non hired) came out of an interview process singing the companies praises. That happened to me at Microsoft a few years ago- I didn’t get the job (they decided to stay with local WA people) but in the process they made me feel very special and important. They didn’t “wine and dine me” just had everything work out smoothly and checked in with me. Prior to the interview they were the “Evil Empire,” but they were the “Nice Empire” to me. They treated me much better in the hiring process than a certain “employer of choice” where I did get the job.


  9. Stephen – excellent article! Words can’t express the importance of recruiters following up with their candidates! While this is one of my pet peeves, the fact that other recruiters do not follow up – it only benefits my business.

    I started a new office for a nationwide search firm a few years back. I started by interviewing as many people as I could to begin building a network. What I found was that the other agencies in town were crap on their follow ups and I met a LOT of disgruntled candidates. I took care of them all and followed up even though I couldn’t place them all – but my simple gestures of follow up helped to increase my referrals 10 fold.

    I am personally tired of all the excuses people and especially recruiters use to not follow up: too many candidates, too busy, etc. BS, we all have the time and we can get it done.

    Again, great article and great points!

  10. My sincere appreciation to all that have contributed their comments. I am humbled by the accolades and acknowledgment of the articles content. I will make every effort to follow up with each of you directly provided e-mail addresses are available.
    S DuFaux

  11. Morgan,
    I know that we have communicated a few times since this post, but never the less wanted to follow up with you to acknowledge your contribution.

    It is great to know and hear of others in our industry who also values this critical component of our business in such high regard.

    I am proud of you for capitalizing on the opportunity to reverse the experience your competitors provided to their candidates and turn I t into a more favorable encounter.
    I’m confident that it has gone a long way in differentiating you from those who fail to see the importance in following up.

    Glad to have you on the team.

  12. Brenden,
    I appreciate your support! My objective is as you mentioned to call this out and perhaps make a change in the behavioral characteristics of those who fail to see the importance of such a critical skill of our profession. Honored to have you on our bus.

  13. Great article Stephen,
    One problem I have always faced with getting back to candidates is the time delay factor and unfortunately many candidates have unrealistic expectations of the time it takes to manage an assignment from start to finish. Many years ago I adopted a modified version of a letter/e-mail response to candidates suggested by Kevin Wheeler. I have had nothing but great feedback from the letter and receive far less calls asking for status on a candidates application. The “group” of candidates I still struggle to provide timely response to are those on the “maybe” list, as we tend to wait until the position is filled before we notify them they are unsuccessful just in case we need to access them. Any suggestions on dealing with this unfortunate group of job seekers would be welcome.

    Cheers from OZ

  14. Avery,
    It is difficult, with the preconceived perceptions that have been associated with our profession, to enter into a new found relationship with a candidate. It requires dispelling the negative reputation on the front end – just to establish ones self initially and gain some credibility with the candidate.

    You are to be commended for your diligence and forwarding thinking “relationship maintenance” technique. I can’t agree more.. Sometimes it is just not a fit – whether it is as you mentioned the hiring manager personality, or the candidate’s qualifications. That does not mean however that the candidate will not be a fit for something down the road. Thank you for your perseverance in helping to make a difference.

  15. Christian, (the Rask group)
    Thank you for your contribution to, support of, and re-post of my article.

    The road is long and riddled with roadblocks and barriers in attempting to change the negative performance behaviors of those who’re the principle violators in the industry. By bring this situation to light again and having it serve as a constant reminder it may…. Just may… help to make a change!

    Assuming the road is cleared, it will enable those tires, which were once previously just kicked, to gain some traction and mileage in their persistent journey – on their quest to re-gain employment. As for the tire kickers… it will only ad more credibility to their role and the recruiting industry – in that there will be that many less kickers for the candidates to now rely on.

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