Calling a candidate to tell them there is no news IS news to the candidate.

Calling a candidate to tell them there is no news IS news to the candidate.

I placed this status update on LinkedIn the other day.

‘Calling a candidate back to tell them there is no news IS news to the candidate.’

It got 250 ‘Likes’, and dozens of comments, so it touched a nerve for sure. Not that surprising considering well documented candidate dissatisfaction with feedback during the recruitment process. Corporate and Agency recruiters can share the blame.

I also got several follow up emails, all from job seekers with horror stories, including this one from a very senior candidate, now in a great new role. (I have removed the name and company, obviously. I have the candidates permission to publish this.)

If this does not help you understand that poor candidate experience destroys your brand, personal and corporate, then I really don’t know what will.

Dear Greg,

Happy new year.

Thanks for the connection; I’m enjoying your posts too. Particularly about HR/ Recruiters actually being in marketing.

Just recently I went for an interview with one of the larger insurance companies… Interview went extremely well (well I thought)… Long story short they never got back to me or returned any calls/emails..

Poor form. So I cancelled all of my 8 policies I had with them..

Keep up the great work.


(Senior Candidate)

It baffles me. Why would a major corporate, no doubt spending millions on branding and marketing, treat people who want to work for them in this way? It happens a great deal. Corporate HR types need to catch on fast that their job is more marketing than it is anything else.

Surely it’s obvious? Talent is the new currency of wealth creation. It’s what makes companies win or lose. It’s what will make entrepreneurs rich. Or not.

In the emerging world of rampant skills shortages, TALENT becomes the epicenter of competitive advantage.

And we treat people like this? Seriously?

Yet everywhere, I read articles on employer branding and candidate experience. How about we stop talking about it and start practicing it a bit, huh?

This is a critical industry issue. Please have your say in the comments below.


The Savage Truth Speaking Tour continues on and on. Coming up; Australia, NZ, London, Glasgow, Dublin.


About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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26 Responses to Calling a candidate to tell them there is no news IS news to the candidate.

  1. Eric Pierce January 13, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    I have received more comments from candidates that I am “different” from other recruiters because I call them back, even just to tell them that this isn’t the right one for them, or the client is going to take a pass… simply by extending a common courtesy. Does this help my billings? Probably not in the short term, but I have to believe that treating people with respect (just like my folks taught me) is worth a few bucks in the bank of life!

  2. Sarah Moore January 13, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    Hi Greg,
    Great blog! I have been telling anyone who will listen, for years, to treat others how you want to be treated. As senior HR professionals, colleagues and I, are constantly flummoxed at the way in which recruiters treat us – as candidates and, by association, as future clients/business partners. There are a number of recruiters and companies that we would NOT recommend to people – and we get asked for recommendations – weekly, if not daily!
    There is room in the market for more recruiters, like Eric Pierce to treat candidates like humans.
    Keep putting the word out, one day they will listen 😉

  3. Jim January 13, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    Good point, well made!

  4. Adrian January 13, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    Hi Greg,

    Just a random email I received yesterday, attached below – like the many I do get because I do like to get back to people. I suggested that the candidate have a look at their LinkedIn profile as well, as it had not been touched for awhile and did not reflect her current position.

    “Hi Adrian and thank you for getting back to me. You have no idea how many agencies never bother: despite the fact they invite you to submit your CV and promise to make contact :>)

    Yes, I know my LinkedIn profile has to be completed… honestly, I haven’t needed it so didn’t expend the time. But will do so :>) Thank you for the suggestion”.

  5. Paul Fetterplace January 13, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    Hi Greg – good read as usual. A major beef of mine about recruitment advertising is the cop-out line that only successful applicants will be contacted. This reeks of laziness and/or inadequate systems. Any decent ATS makes contacting candidates about there status a very easy process. As a clear point of difference I have taken to finishing all my adds with the promise that I will get back to you. A good discipline for me and a common courtesy for everyone who took the time and made the effort to apply. I agree with Eric – show some respect!

  6. stephen bott January 13, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Thanks Greg. Good point. One that seems logical to most, but unfortunately one that seems to get lost in the drive for placements. Once a candidate becomes out of favour with a position, it seems that some recruiters will simply move to focus more on the high value candidates at that moment in time. Guess what, next week a job will be called in ideal for that candidate that you did not manage correctly.

    I once placed a candidate 4 years after meeting them. 4 years, but i always stayed in touch and always gave feedback, and it paid off eventually. I teach my team that every communication is marketing. every phone call and every missed phone call tells people about who we are. make sure each day is positive and do the right thing. Every one wins…. the candidates get looked after, the personal brand (the consultant) and the company brand will all benefit.

  7. Lorraine January 13, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Greg

    I read this with great interest. I was once on the receiving end of an extremely rude recruiter who wouldn’t return my calls or just give me an update on a role and then on one call just said they were too busy and hung up.

    I have a really strong policy about touching base with candidates – even if I don’t have an update I call or email them to say exactly that. They just want contact – is it that so hard? One day that candidate might be a gold-mine for you. CANDIDATES turn into CLIENTS and they remember the recruiter who got back to them.

    I challenge every recruiter to try it and see what response they get 🙂


  8. Laurie WIlliams January 13, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Greg,

    Happy new year!

    Agree totally with your comments and have been signing this song for so long I’ve all but lost my voice!

    Failing to return calls / give feedback is simply bad manners amplified by arrogance…

    This current practice of ignoring people because the conversation might be a bit awkward is so juvenile that it belongs in primary school.

    In the past 24 years I’ve had to deliver a lot of “bad news” but in almost every instance the recipient of the “no” was grateful just to get an answer and be able to move on.

    Regards, Laurie

  9. Alan Allebone January 13, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    One should always follow up and keep the client and especially the candidate fully up-to-date whatever the feedback! No news or news.,

    They need to know and I feel they have a right to know regardless the outcome and news you have to share with them

    How can you call yourself a recruiter if you do not communicate with your candidates? By phone or face to face rather than email!

    They are our “bread and butter”

    Todays candidate is tomorrow’s client.

  10. Martin Conboy January 13, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    Its alarming watching the way recruiters treat their candidates, they fail to realise that a disaffected candidate now has at their disposal a bullhorn in the form of social media. People blog on their industry and community websites about what they think is poor treatment. And they want everybody else to know. To make the point pick any brand and see if they have a Facebook hate site- it used to be a BBQ conversation now its a global conversation. And ones reputation and brand can be trashed – big time.
    I understand that its expensive to have a resource to tell unsuccessful candidates that they never got to the next step, but in this day and age with having access to inexpensive offshore assistants in the Philippines its a crime to let this opportunity to create good will go to waste.
    Candidates get that its competitive and they may not be the successful applicant, they just want to know their status so that they can move on with other opportunities.
    Its ordinary common decency, considering how much effort people put into their applications, only to receive nothing in return. To put so much into an application and get nothing back feeds into people’s paranoia and really belts their self-esteem. As they say people will not always remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel.
    It’s hard to believe that recruitment is a ‘people business’, however the reality is that candidates get treated as some form of unit of production who can be used and abused to make up numbers.
    As the good book says reap as ye shall sow, and it’s so true in the recruitment industry. These days its hard for agency recruiters to articulate their value proposition and clearly claiming to have access to quality candidates, or having a leading position in a market sector does not ring true and having a poor reputation underscores their inability to promote their services. You think the hiring managers cannot check you out on line? The can and they do!
    With new concepts like recruitment process automation starting to get legs as a form of disruptive innovation we will see the recruiters who have not handled their most important commodity, talent, with respect go the way of the Dodo.

  11. Rowena Arnold January 13, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

    Hi Greg and happy new year to you!

    Thank you for starting the year off with a simple but powerful blog. I actually took this in to my weekly sales meeting this morning to remind the ‘newbies’ of the importance of keeping candidates updated.

    The formula is so simple but for so many recruiters, the message gets lost. Treat others as you want to be treated yourself!

    Regards, Rowena

  12. Paulette Steele January 13, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more with you Greg. In fact, I’ve been talking to a guy in USA who writes article about this same kind of thing.

    We were discussing about how it’s tough to tell a candidate NO they didn’t get the job they wanted. However you toughen up and besides there are diplomatic ways of informing people they were unsuccessful. I’ve become very good at telling people NO over the years. Sometimes they even thank me for letting them know as at least they know and can get on with pursuing other positions.

    I always get back to people, clients and candidates alike, and I believe that’s what sets me apart from some of my so called competition.

  13. Paige January 13, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    Hi Greg,

    I totally agree with this post! We have a policy here that we always respond to everyone, and it’s common courtesy to keep people updated.
    I have too heard horror stories from a very senior candidate, who coincidentally I placed in a new role in December. She took the time to hand out her CV at an industry event, and we were the only recruiter that got back to her.

    I have been praised on being very approachable and different from other recruiters, but as far as I was aware this is just doing my job properly!

    Thanks for the post!


  14. Judy Hofer January 13, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    Hi Greg,

    I often see comments like “the client pays the bills” so the recruiter need to engage with them and build excellent relationship of trust etc., with the client. I fully agree, however one cannot service a client without having a pool of talented candidates to present.

    Hence, both are equally important in my books. It is a case of what comes first the chicken or the egg? -:)

  15. Carl Lovelock January 14, 2015 at 2:55 am #

    Hi Greg

    Thankfully I’ve reached the point in my recruitment career where I can choose to work with clients who themselves see the importance of prompt and clear communication.

    That simple thing immediately makes it easier to keep candidates well informed too.

    That said, it never ceases to amaze me how often candidates share stories with me about how they’ve suffered appalling treatment at the hands of corporate enterprises, never mind major global recruiters.

    I feel these well resourced businesses have no excuse for treating some of their candidates so poorly. Do they actually care? Sadly, I’m not sure they do…

    Best regards


  16. Denise Matthews January 14, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    I totally agree with Greg’s post and with many of the contributors – sadly the style of only responding to successful applications is rife n the UK – however on the other side of the coin I have a personal gripe that many candidates do not apply ‘responsibly’ and if they had to print out their CV, put a stamp on an envelope, write a good covering letter (like the old days, sigh) and walk to a shiny red post box to submit their application, that at least 60% would not apply to the role – because they would have thought about it carefully and reached the conclusion that its not the role for them, for any number of reasons. However with CVs saved on jobsites, its a quick click and send – I asked someone recently why they applied when they did not meet the careful word-smithed criteria and quote: “cos it can’t hurt and doesn’t cost anything” means we all often get flooded with poor quality applications – which has the knock on effect of less time to practice good behaviours. I aim to always respond to quality applications and explain why they are not being progressed and as a result have some excellent candidates for future roles, but I wish we could educate many more candidates on how to work with us as partners more effectively! Ideas anyone – or perhaps Greg you can blog about it if you agree….as ever a great article and responses, thanks!

  17. Ben Slater January 15, 2015 at 5:11 am #

    Interesting point about the insurance cancellations – companies forget that the principal impression they project of their company is through customer service. This is the prism that companies should think of candidate feedback within, bad treatment can have a major effect on your customer base.

    Vodafone recently suffered a loss of customers after a major recruitment drive. The reason? Poor treatment made applicants change their mind about the Vodafone brand – they didn’t want to be associated with a company that had treated them so badly…

  18. Rob Pait January 15, 2015 at 7:30 am #

    The issue, of course, is the Internet.

    We’re a search firm, so my experience isn’t the same as an internal recruiter. I am guessing the issue may be the same. On the rare occasion we put a listing on the Web, we’re inundated with irrelevant resumes and no explanation as to why they applied. Most of our active candidates simply don’t take the time to read the description and apply to us in a way that would qualify them. It’s the recruiter’s version of Viagra spam. Do I owe this person a response?

    On the other hand, if we’ve actually submitted their resume, we absolutely owe the candidate an update. At that point, they’ve taken the time to speak with us, and we’ve qualified them as a potential fit. It’s common courtesy– and a way of protecting both my brand and my client’s– to bring resolution to the issue.

  19. Jonas M January 16, 2015 at 7:24 pm #


    I read your comments on a regular basis and are astonished that the good thoughts that you put forward seems to reflect so poorly with the reality of the daily business concerning most HR depts. and recruiting companies world wide. It should be common standard, SOP !
    Seen from a Swedish perspective I would point out three major issues that I as first time job seeker (age 52) are reacting upon.

    – Communication !
    Something so many people testifies about, something that are basic routines for other depts. within any company and which you in the sentence above described so well. How can that be so hard to manage for the one department (HR) that only works with people ! This should also be said about the whole recruitment business.

    – HR’s roll in the company !.
    In my view we need to redefine the roll of HR and external suppliers concerning recruitment and other related HR matters. They are a service unit for the operational part of the company and should as such not steer the recruitment process but instead act as a adviser. I have during the last six months been in cases where decision has been taken based on HR input and not the acting managers. I have even been at a seminar where HR people were upset because “regular” people (operational managers) did speak about how HR work (incl. recruiting) should be performed from their point of view !

    – Define what you are seeking !
    A number of times during the fall of 2014 I have been called to interviews at different recruitment companies for a particular position (not just a “get to know you interview”) and at the end of these meetings I have got the message from the recruiter “I suspect that you are not interested in this position because the salary/responsibility is not what you are used to” !!!
    If they suspected that could we not have taken that over the phone instead of wasting our common time and getting my hopes up.
    Another thing is the method where you after a long recruitment process find yourself as an external candidate pitched against the internal one, do I have to say who wins that race.
    Here needs to be a more open dialogue between external candidate, seeking company and recruitment firm.

    With these I would conclude that the HR / recruitment business presently has a rather uphill battle on their hands in order to save their reputation, however the things that can turn everything around are in the details and should therefore be easy to fix. If the will is there !

  20. Rich January 17, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    If you are not communicating with your candidates someone else will be. The hard work is in sourcing candidates, screening, interviewing, arranging client interviews etc. A phone call to update them only takes a couple of minutes.

  21. Lynne January 20, 2015 at 3:04 am #

    Recently, a friend of mine interviewed with a major airline which required a series of phone interviews after the initial online application. The final interview was at their headquarters in another state and she was invited to this final interview.She learned that out of 200,000 applicants, 90 were chosen to take time to travel to HQ and interview. 3 people were chosen….all under the age of 25. Coincidence? Hmmmm-also-the job was not an opening here in Chicago where she lives. There was no information on this prior to her spending a lot of time – not to mention getting her hopes up. While this is not a case of not hearing back, it was a different kind of selfishness rather common these days on the part of corporate recruiters. I just think this kind of cattle call-with such low odds is rather common. Another friend of mine has been called to interviews multiple times – even flown out of state to what seemed like a final phase and none of these opportunities materialized…and the recruiters were not in touch. Nor helpful when she called them for status reports on the job. In a few cases, the positions were still open months and months later-seems like the companies had money to spend on anything but getting the job done. Greg-this is not just a flaw in recruiters, as you know. All kinds of sales/marketing people are into what amounts to “speed dating” with prospects…and it leaves a bad impression behind. Recruiters who think they have superior “people skills” are sadly mistaken if they practice selfishness and insensitivity like this.

    • Faith January 26, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

      I’ve had a similar experience, although not quite as extreme, its still a very frustrating thing to find out that the place you applied to will interview every single person who applies, even if they applied to a different job than they were actually looking for. Including a complete educational background check. So I get dressed up, get all of my school documents, pay for parking, and there is a line of ten people also interviewing. Then they tell me they are only hiring for a manager position for 60+ hour workweeks, when I had very specifically applied to a part-time entry-level position. I felt very uncomfortable that I had spent so much time doing research on my part when they hadn’t even glanced once at my application. I honestly felt like I was just there to stroke some creepy businessman’s ego and make him feel like he was better than someone (I was a 19-year-old with no experience at the time)

  22. RM February 3, 2015 at 6:05 pm #

    Yeah, candidate treatment is shocking! I am looking for a new role at the moment. I responded to about 20 adverts by email and told them about my background, and asked them a question about flexible hours… I only had about 5 replies – the ones offering flexible hours and 1 letting me know she can’t offer flexibility… Just poor form. Must say that those businesses just won’t get my approval when chatting to other Recruiters and so they get little reputation dent.
    I also interviewed with a 30 plus years experience veteran of the industry who has made a name for herself and she is not returning my calls…

  23. Yuriy Shevchenko March 27, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

    This is very true, in fact I placed a candidate yesterday who I had been “keeping warm” for a month.

  24. Clare April 27, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Already in a recruitment role working from home I recently applied for a position with another apparently “cutting edge, new breed recruitment start-up offering global search services for creative, retail, consumer and lifestyle Industries”. They talk about the authentic relationships that make their exclusive recruitment service powerful and unique – my first telephone interview went well…and even the second seemed good. I was asked for my references and have heard nothing since (and they didn’t speak to the people I gave them). No feedback, nothing and it has been two weeks…

    I don’t treat my candidates like this so I won’t be working for them or recommending them for that matter….


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