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Why recruiters don’t call you back: apart from the obvious one

Amanda Datchens //  0 Comments

You may think recruiters don’t call you back because they are incompetent and lack professionalism. Sure, could be, but here are 10 things you might be doing wrong yourself.


Recruiters – love them or hate them, but sometimes you need them.

Well, it’s mostly ‘hate them’ judging by all the negative comments on LinkedIn.

As a recruiter I get it, I really do.

For example, I cringe every time I see the words ‘only shortlisted candidates will be notified’ on a job advert.

Or I read comments from people on this blog about being ghosted by a recruiter.

So, I understand that it is easy to just blame a recruiter for being lazy or incompetent if you don’t hear back from them.

However, what if it’s not actually them but you that is causing an issue?

What if I told you there are 10 things that candidates typically do that often result in hearing nothing back?

Let’s dive in.

10 reasons why recruiters don’t call you back – plus the obvious one

Your message was vague

This literally just happened as I am writing this.

I received a voicemail from a candidate who simply said this.

“Hi Amanda. This is Rob. Call me back. Thanks.”

Here’s the problem.

I typically receive 50 to 100 calls each day and I try my best to get back to those who leave messages.

But mixed in with genuine jobseekers are sales calls offering ‘amazing deals’ that I don’t want, dodgy spam calls that try to catch me out, and agency recruiters who pretend they want to apply for a job but actually just want the details so they can forward candidates and grab a commission.

When I am catching up on calls, I am going to respond to those who clearly state who they are and what they want from me and those that don’t, slip down the line and maybe go unanswered because the next day I have even more messages.

So, If you want a recruiter to call you back, help them understand why they should. For example, Rob should have said something like this.

“Hi Amanda. This is Rob (surname). I am interested in your job advert for (specific job title). I am a (job title) with x years’ experience and I would like to ask you a couple of questions about the role.”

But as it stands, I don't know if Rob just wants to sell me something or is even a real person.

While we are on this subject, I would also include vague responses to job posts on LinkedIn.

Specifically, the classic “interested” instead of doing what a recruiter has asked such as sending a DM.

What you are actually saying to a recruiter when you do this is “you do all the work because I can’t be bothered to put any effort in myself.”

2 Their Applicant Tracking System Rejected You

Unless you are sending your application directly to a recruiter’s email, your online applications will be recorded and processed by their ATS or Applicant Tracking System.

We all have and use them because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to cope with the number of applications we receive.

This is why I get annoyed with the phrase ‘only shortlisted applicants will get a response’ because it is so easy to send a quick response to everyone when you have an ATS.

However, whilst ATS are very helpful, they are also very unhelpful too.

For example, if you submit a fancy resume with lots of images, boxes, and graphs, the software may not be able to read it which means that you will either be rejected, or your profile will hold so little information that you are not shortlisted.

This all means that you sometimes a recruiter won’t call you back because they haven’t even seen your details or know you exist.

The solution is to always submit an ATS friendly resume format.

3 You Didn’t Answer Screening Questions.

Talking about ATS, this is important too.

Sometimes a recruiter will set screening questions for their online job applications.

For example, they may ask if you are willing to relocate, have a valid visa, or have knowledge of a specific software or system.

Failure to answer these questions can result in rejection or, at the least, being graded as less suitable compared to other candidates.

So, if you want a recruiter to get back to you, make sure you give full answers to any questions they ask you.

This also includes submitting a cover letter if they ask for one.

Never get round it by simply saying ‘as per my resume’ or just one line basically saying you are interested.

Remember, there is a reason why they are asking for it.

Not adding one shows that you either don’t have attention detail, you have an unwillingness to follow instructions, or you just can’t be bothered.

4 You Sent a Generic Application

Your effort, or lack of, speaks volumes about you when you apply for a job.

For example, LinkedIn Easy Apply may seem like a great idea because you can submit so many applications with just the click of a button.

Using ChatGPT or other AI tools to write your resume and cover letters will also save you so much time.

And, due to this, it’s never been easier to adopt a ‘mud against the wall’ approach to job applications.

However, quality will always trump quantity.

And yes, recruiters can tell when your application is a one size fits all that you have sent to everyone.

For example, your resume may say in its profile that you are passionate about a certain industry when you are actually applying for a job in a totally different one.

Here’s another tell tale sign.

Cover letters where you say you are excited to work for ABC and you are impressed by their achievements - but its a totally different name you are applying to.

Or the worst saying Dear Sharon, for example, when the recruiters name is completely different.

When a candidate targets their application to a specific role it tells the recruiter they are serious about their application.

In turn, recruiters respond by being serious about them and calling them back.

If its obvious you are applying in bulk don't expect recruiters to be keen to call you for a chat.

You are not qualified.

Recruiters and employers are realistic and know that they are never going to have a candidate that matches a job advert 100%.

Essentially it is the recruiter’s job to screen applications and put forward the most suitable candidates to hiring managers.

But there is a limit to this flexibility.

Amongst the positions I recruited for last month were an Undergraduate Civil Engineer and a Civil Project Manager.

The first required the candidate to be currently studying at University – but I had applicants who had never set foot in a University or had already graduated many years previously.

The job ad for the second explicitly said that they needed to have 5 years management experience on bridge and road projects – but I had applicants who were from education, hospitality, and call centres.

Sure, they all had Project Manager in their titles but they were totally unsuitable and so they either didn’t read or just ignored the position requirements.

This happens with every job ad.

So, what’s your opinion on this?

Would you expect to get a call?

Most recruiters will not respond, some still will, but it is a major reason why recruiters don’t call people back.

You live in the wrong location

There is no point applying for a position if it states you need to have the right to work in a country if you do not have a valid visa.

There is also no point applying for a position if the job advert states you need to be in a certain radius of a company, unless you are willing to relocate.

Both of these result in no response.

You are under or over their budget

Tricky one here.

With my recruiter hat on, yes I absolutely want to know what your expectations are when you apply.

But, with my career coach hat on, you absolutely should not divulge this until later on in the interview process when you have proven you are a great candidate, and they want you.

Here is a blog that shows you how to avoid this in your applications.

They need more time

Sometimes a recruiter may be interested in you but won’t respond or call you back because they are waiting for something else to happen elsewhere.

It could be that a hiring manager is on leave, there is an internal candidate to process first, or a position is waiting for final approval.

So tread carefully if it’s a position you really want and don’t barge in with an angry call or email complaining that you haven’t had feedback.

Your past behaviour ruled you out

On the theme of treading carefully, take care with all your comms with recruiters and potential employers.

You may want to work with them or for them in the future.

For example, if in the past you let a recruiter down by accepting a role and then deciding to accept a counter offer from your employer, you might not get a call back because they don’t trust you.

Equally, if you didn’t return their calls and ghosted them previously when they reached out to you about a job, don’t expect better behaviour from them than you gave them last time round.

Remember that an ATS also provides us with a notes section where all interaction is recorded.

Respect is a two way street.

10 Your social profiles let you down

Yes, we do check them.

We will look to see if there are any inconsistencies between your resume and your LinkedIn profile.

We will also look to see if there are any red flags in terms of the way you communicate with others.

That is, are you antagonistic and argumentative?

Or supportive and inspirational?

Maybe even a thought leader in your industry?

Also, seeing what you like and share across social media will tell us more about you as a person.

11 And the obvious one – they are incompetent and lazy

Yes, this is entirely possible.

Unfortunately, the industry is largely unregulated which means there are many unsuitable consultants out there who lack real world experience and are simply drawn to the job for the money.

Base salaries are not special, but commissions can be.

Placement fees vary but a typical rate is 15% of a candidate’s starting salary.

This won’t come out of your pay packet but is paid by the employer as a finder’s fee.

This means that a $100k salary would be worth $15k.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Most agencies also add on benefits such as vehicles too to make it the whole package not just the salary component for the finder’s fee.

It has to be said though that unless a recruiter is self-employed, this fee goes to the agency owner, and they get a percentage of that for their commission.

So, the likelihood of them being money rather than people motivated is high, hence the bad rep the industry suffers.

Does this affect their attitude towards getting back to candidates?


How to get recruiters to call you back

The most important thing to remember is that not all recruiters are the same.

Ask around and see who is recommended.

Don’t focus on any particular agency name, concentrate on the individual recruiter.

Whilst there are indeed shocking stories of consultants behaving badly, a professional, honest, and experienced recruiter can transform your career trajectory.

And when you find a good one, help them help you, 

Communicate clearly with details, provide up to date ATS friendly resumes, write real cover letters, and apply to jobs where you definitely meet the essential criteria stated.

BTW – wondering if I ever got back to Rob with the vague message? Yes, I did and guess what?  He was a recruiter wanting to send me resumes when it clearly said on the advert ‘no agencies calls or emails please.’  Don’t you just hate recruiters?! 😊

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About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice

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