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How to Get a Recruiter’s Attention: Part 1

By Steve Hall & Jan Nickerson

We understand it’s no fun looking for a job. We know you make many calls that aren’t returned, and you send many emails, applications and resumes that aren’t acknowledged. We know how lonely a job search can feel, and we understand the anxiety of waiting for the phone to ring or email to ding.

Two frequently asked questions in our industry are: “How often should I expect to hear from the recruiter?” and “How often should I contact a recruiter during the search process?”

Lack of communication between recruiters and job applicants is an age-old issue, and one that we can be better at addressing. We have found that when we take the time to explain how we work, candidates understand the process better and can adjust their expectations and be more assured that a lack of communication is almost always situational or circumstantial, rather than personal to you.

Robust Economy Creates A New Dynamic

The first thing to understand is the economic environment in which we’re operating today. There has been a tremendous increase in the need for talent over the last five years. A robust economy with low unemployment rates and a marketplace with 7.1 million job openings, according to U.S. government estimates, have combined to cause a tremendous talent shortage.

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Had the recession of 2008–2010 not kicked in, many Baby Boomers would have already retired and a labor shortage would have been upon us well before now. Because of the recession, many Boomers delayed retirement, but we’re now seeing the impact of those retirements in full bloom.

Candidates understandably experience frustration during a candidate’s market like this when they receive few or no replies to emails and phone calls, or feedback when they apply online.

Having more than 40 years of combined experience in recruiting and having been through several economic ups and downs, we agree that all emails, calls and applications should always be acknowledged. And we know that not all recruiters share our philosophy. Here are some likely explanations for why you may not be hearing back from recruiters.

Priorities and the Perfect Fit

The search priorities established by a company and the capacity of recruiters are perhaps the top two reasons a candidate doesn’t hear back after applying for a position. They also may not hear back if they aren’t a perfect fit.

In a tight job market, clients don’t allow us the luxury to consider any “possible” or “marginal” candidate. By the time we’re brought in, we’re told precisely what a candidate’s background must look like, and we’re asked not to present those who aren’t an exact or really close match. Most recruiters will advise candidates to review their resumes ahead of time to ensure they are at least an 80% match to the job requirements prior to applying to a position. Generally, recruiters likely won’t reach out to prospective candidates unless they meet at least 80% of the job requirements.

Today’s recruiters also are specialists rather than generalists, so it helps to know the recruiter’s niche. For example, at FGP, we have a recruiter who only places salespeople and only in the power transmission industry. So, you will have a better chance of gaining a recruiter’s attention if your qualifications match up with the recruiter’s niche.  (How to find those recruiters?  Ask your network; notice who is posting jobs like those you are looking for; and search on LinkedIn for search consultants and recruiters in your functional, industry and/or geographic area.)

Another explanation for why a candidate may not be hearing back from a recruiter is that the job applied for isn’t a top priority for the client. A company may be trying to fill another position first or another matter may have come along that is causing a delay.

Be Realistic About Whether You Truly Are A Match

A candidate may see a job title or read a job description and feel that he or she is imminently qualified for the position. But job descriptions often don’t tell the whole story and there are often requirements that aren’t listed.

Here are some tips that might help your search. First, companies usually prioritize candidates that come from their industry or from their geographic area. Companies also tend to prefer individuals who are from a similar-sized company because of a perceived cultural fit. Expertise in specific skills—such as software or manufacturing processes—also is critical, especially in the technology, healthcare and manufacturing sectors.

When we have a conversation with candidates to discuss their motivations for changing jobs and what their roles and responsibilities have been, we may find that they are trying to get back home, or while they worked for a large company, they oversaw just three people and managed a small budget. Be sure to mention connectivity to a targeted geographic area, or a breadth of experience in a cover letter or include them in your resume.

Secondly, we don’t post everything that we work on—especially confidential searches—so it’s conceivable that there are other opportunities for which you’re a match. Once you apply for a position, you are in a database of candidates searchable by keywords. Information on your resume helps us identify you as being a possible match.  So, the third tip is to include in your resume (not your cover letter) all the keywords we may use to filter our database down to the select few that we will call to ascertain if they meet our client’s needs.

Adjust Your Expectations

When you’re a job seeker, you’ve likely come from a position that you knew and performed well. When you sent an email or placed a phone call, you heard back from the recipient. In your new job of “finding a job”, you’re simply not going to get that level of response, especially when you are reaching out to people who do not know you or your reputation.

In the days of direct mail marketing, a four-to-five percent response rate was considered good. Candidates should recalibrate their expectations in today’s robust economy. Although not ideal, it’s best to move forward with not expecting a response from a recruiter. Keep in mind that if you don’t hear from one, it doesn’t mean you aren’t on their radar or in the system. When you do hear from a recruiter, it’s a great sign that you could be a potential candidate.

We promise, the news is not all bad for today’s job seekers. In our next post, we’ll offer some advice that we believe will help you connect with recruiters and increase your odds of a response.


About the Authors

Steve Hall is Vice President of Business Development and Senior Talent Consultant at FGP|Find Great People. Steve is engaged in developing new and existing relationships globally for FGP’s core areas of emphasis: accounting and finance; healthcare; manufacturing and engineering; nonprofit and technology. He is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and a frequent speaker on recruitment and organizational leadership.
Jan Nickerson is Senior Outplacement Consultant at FGP. She is as an advocate for using technology, from training FGP’s new hires in using technology to showing outplacement candidates how to use online resources to connect with former colleagues and prospective hiring managers. Jan is the author of Helping Your Dream Job Find You and has developed several job search practices, including Wow Criteria.

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