Hey stupid! Pick up the phone.

Hey stupid! Pick up the phone.

The battle for quality, unique candidates is starting to resemble a cage fight. 

Why do so many recruiters treat it as though they are in a pillow fight?

I am not easy to shock. Especially when it comes to recruiters and recruitment.

Yet, here is the transcript of a recent conversation between a smart, experienced (3 years) recruiter, and myself,  that left me (almost) speechless.

Smart Recruiter: Greg, I am so frustrated. I found this perfect candidate on LinkedIn and she won’t respond to me.

Greg Savage: What have you done so far to contact her?

SR: I have sent her three Inmails.

GS: And…?

SR: And she won’t reply. Such a bummer. Have to find someone else…

GS: (Exercising massive restraint). Have you tried calling her?

SR: (A little condescendingly) Ah Greg, but don’t you realise, most candidates don’t list their phone number on their LinkedIn profile! (triumphant smile)

GS: (Losing it) Seriously, how hard is it to find someone’s phone number if you know where they work?

SR: (Not missing a beat) Yes, I suppose I could find it. But calling someone at work? That’s rude isn’t it?


Right, and spamming them via LinkedIn is polite huh?

It’s an epidemic of missed opportunity. Some LinkedIn candidates are getting up to 40 emails and Inmails a day! Why do you think LinkedIn is choking your ability to send Inmails? Mostly (not that they admit this) it’s because the user experience is getting fouled by untargetted recruiter and other vendor approaches.

And some of it is the most basic of random crap. I know. I am connected on LinkedIn to 8,000 recruiters. And I live in Sydney, Australia. And it’s pretty clear from a cursory glance at my profile that I am not looking for an Apprentice Chef  job in Wigan, UK, but I get spam Inmails asking me to apply nonetheless.

Is this what it’s come to? Is that as good as we get?

And the facts support my outrage.

How Recruiters contact potential candidates on LinkedIn (via SocialTalent)

How Recruiters contact potential candidates on LinkedIn (via SocialTalent)

Most recruiters simply do not use the phone to contact quality candidates they identify on LinkedIn, or through other sources. Yet, candidate response rates are at least twice as high using the phone compared to other methods. (thanks Social Talent for the research).
Get this.

As a candidate generation strategy, phone sourcing hammers inmail or email.

And yet this is a recruiting skill as old as the profession itself. Maybe that’s why we have deserted it. Because it’s not shiny, and digital, and we can’t hide behind the technology.

  • Candidates online (especially LinkedIn) are weary (and wary!) of ‘mail’.
  • ‘Privacy is the new advantage’. The best candidates are ‘hiding’ online, and certainly won’t respond to ‘recruiter spam’.
  • ‘Easily found’ candidates are often the dregs.
  • Technology identifies. Human beings recruit.
  • Phone sourcing is the weapon of a true ‘Skills Hunter’

So wake up! Getting candidates that others cannot is your competitive advantage.

The phone is right there.

Pick. It. Up.

And if you are not sure what to say once you have, read my upcoming blogs. I will tell you. I am helpful that way.

What do you think? Do you give good phone? Let us have your comments below please.


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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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38 Responses to Hey stupid! Pick up the phone.

  1. Adrian Roberts July 28, 2015 at 8:12 am #


    I couldn’t agree with you more. I often have to remind recruiters about the time before the internet existed in recruitment yet alone LinkedIn and the only way of connecting with people was either in person or on the phone. Have those basic skills gone out of recruitment?

    The old saying people buy people is so true, emails and text messages do not convey who you are as a person and a recruiter and that is especially true for in-mail’s.


    • Lynne July 29, 2015 at 6:27 am #

      Greg-I have to say first that I post my phone # on LI as I am looking for new opportunities – have not been called too much. But I do get solicited for positions that are clearly not a fit – the worst was one for a sales position in which the person or recruiter noted that I would get PAID – all caps – at 15% of the sale….no info on typical sale revenue. Yep, I am just out of college….NOT. The truth is, I can tell as much about a recruiter and maybe more than the recruiter can tell about me if I talk to him/her. There just is no substitute for real human contact-

      • Greg Savage July 29, 2015 at 6:31 am #

        Very interesting perspective..thanks Lynne

  2. Marilyn Jones July 28, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    I also had to a laugh and actually comment on this one. .As someone who also started out in recruitment before emails, had a fax and a phone and phone book , We also had no other choice but to pick up the phone. Its incredibly indicative of not just recruiters but many who just don’t know how to pick up the phone and talk anymore….
    .. I get shock from many candidates now days that I ring them and have actually just 5 mins ago had another that said that they appreciated someone actually called instead of emailing…
    enjoy your blogs Greg and there are not many I read now, as there are getting too many out there spamming me also … Marilyn

  3. Eva July 28, 2015 at 10:44 am #

    Thanks Greg now all ‘recruiters’ will be picking up the phone! That used to be my competitive advantage!!
    Definitely a rarity nowadays.

    • Greg Savage July 28, 2015 at 10:47 am #

      You are safe Eva.. my experience is that the vast majority of recruiters who read this, will agree… but the vast minority will act on it

      • Eva July 28, 2015 at 10:47 am #


        • MATTHEW July 28, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

          Sorry Eva, but I’m competition (titters)

  4. Rob Ettrick July 28, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    Great article Greg, the phone always has been the most powerful tool of the recruiter, and always will be for me. In an environment where we are always seeking points of difference and strengthening relationships, the over reliance on email is incredible. As we all know, 3 effective candidate/client calls will always beat 50 impersonal emails via linked-in. Or should I say, as we should all know!!

  5. Achyut July 28, 2015 at 11:52 am #


    Just curious. Just because one has access to a telephone number, is it appropriate to barge into the privacy? Isn’t that another spamming exercise?
    Looking forward to your blog post on what to say when one calls!!
    What’s your take..would a text message or WhatsApp be a better mode for ‘ permission’ to call?

    • Greg Savage July 28, 2015 at 11:56 am #

      Good question (your first para). The answer hinges on what you say and how you say it. That will come in a future post, once I get around to it:)
      But no, texting is entirely wrong in most cases. Exactly what I want people to stop doing

      • Anita July 29, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

        I hate rejection…especially, when it is a rude, precious person on the other side. I bite my tongue…because I invaded HIS space after all, by calling on his work number.

        Too many times to mention…..
        so…need to get my big girl panties on and try again. Jeez…I HATE when people make unsolicited calls to me

  6. Sunitha Kodali July 28, 2015 at 11:58 am #

    Thanks Greg. Good Eye opener.

    I will definitely pick up the phone 🙂

  7. Navid July 28, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    As always a good post Greg but the days of linked in glory are long gone whether you inmail or call.

    Currently I have about 30k direct connections on linked in and many millions more on my network and this is what I have found.

    Up until around 2009 / 2010 linked in was great to find candidates because majority of good candidates who kept up with changes in the market registered their profile there and also linked in was not marketed as a recruitment tool so candidates were not bombarded by internal and agency recruiters. But since then it is no better than seek or any other Mac Recruitment online database.There are two good reasons for this.

    Active candidates who are average / below average and just love hopping jobs have spent extra time enhancing their profile so they show up on searches and also their profiles look good in order to get a call from a recruiter to see if there is another position where they can get more money for less work.

    Good candidates have done the reverse of this. They have actually camouflaged themselves and are desensitized to inmails or phone calls because every other internal or agency recruiter has called them with a “great” opportunity all the time. Unless if they know the recruiter well they will respond with “thank you but I am not interested”.

    Might be worthwhile to write something about the current state of linked in recruitment.

  8. Richard July 28, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    Is putting these recruiters to death too extreme? Seems to me we would be doing them, and the world, a favour.

  9. Jeremy July 28, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Love it. I too have worked alongside these recruiters and the ironic thing is watching them message through LinkedIn via their mobile phone.

  10. Jeremy Seeff July 28, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    Smart advice as often people do not read InMail…. BUT, as someone who has received a fair share of recruiter calls at work, you have to be smart about it. People may be caught off guard and may not be at liberty to speak. This is the one time asking CLOSED questions is smarter. Say things like “would it be ok if I sent you an email / inMail”? OR “is this a good time to speak? Perhaps I could call at a more convenient time”? Finally – for GOOD candidates, they probably receive a lot of these calls or emails. Start with a hook like “I know you may receive many calls or emails but I have looked at your profile and think that you are a really good match – i’d love to tell you why so that you can at least consider what I am proposing” – this is much more likely to garner interest than a standard “I have a job that might be good for you”….. #ShouldHaveBeenARecruiter?

    • Greg Savage July 28, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

      Good points Jeremy..a future blog of mine will drill into a successful call. You are on the right track..but it needs to be very sophisticated.. and NOT about a job at all! More to come…

  11. David Stone July 28, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Very, very true. Many ‘Generation Y’ recruiters just look at you blankly when you exhort the benefits of using the phone. (You can almost read their minds, “Shut up, old timer, it’s different now to when you used to do it….”) This, in my view, is rapidly becoming a key differentiator between good/successful and poor/mediocre recruiters today.

    As an aside, Greg, nothing wrong with being an Apprentice Chef in Wigan – change is as good as a rest, and all that. Could be a life transforming move! When’s your interview?! ;o)

    • Greg Savage July 28, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

      Its not me I worry about David.,..its the customers I feel for. I can’t cook

  12. Bill Ellerton July 28, 2015 at 7:41 pm #


    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    It appears to me that younger recruiters are also reluctant to return candidates phone calls, wasting both their own and candidates time. After a few years running my own business (inc Mature Job Search) I am looking to move back into a corporate role. A colleague forwarded me details of a job he had seen advertised by a well known executive search firm which sounded right up my alley so I called the recruiter to get some clarification. She wasn’t available so I left a message for her to call me. Not having received a call back before the weekend I spent a good part of a day rejigging my CV and submitted an application. Tried calling the following week – no response. Two weeks later I sent her an email where I suggesting that communications was likely to be an area of importance to whoever was offered the role but that it was an area where her firm appeared to be somewhat lacking. I did eventually receive a email apologising for the poor response and indicating that I hadn’t been shortlisted for the role. It was clear from the response any reading on my CV was very superficial. Her response also indicated that she had received 138 applications and 80 phone calls in relation to the role with many people calling in 2 and 3 times. I can’t help wondering how many fewer applications she would have received had she spent a few minutes responding to those phone calls and positioning the role more appropriately with prospective candidates.

  13. Alan Whitford July 28, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

    Hey Greg
    On song, as usual. You know we sing the same tunes, as evidenced in your great session with us on #RecHangout. https://youtu.be/bS-spjHXlY8

    I actually received a call today from an interim consultant I am registered with – just to chat, get some updates on what I am up to and let me know about her pipeline. Shocked and greatful that she made the call. However, she is certainly the exception, not the rule.

    Yes, calling someone at work can be hairy – but in the ‘old’ days, that was our only way of reaching potential candidates the first time. Just put yourself in their shoes – think about politeness and be sensitive to their environment.

    Looking forward to your phone tips;

    And did the job spec for the chef say you actually had to know how to cook?


  14. Bradley Richardson July 28, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

    Spot on!!!! This is a perfect example of why many recruiters, especially in-house are farmers at best or fishermen waiting to get a bite most of the time. Go hunt something dammit. …. Good stuff! @bradleyindallas

  15. Chris July 29, 2015 at 12:55 am #


    Spot on again !! Social media and email is ONE tool in our bag. The phone is our lifeline. You are a voice of reason time and time again.


  16. carole July 29, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    I was told by very well known recruitment firm I was old fashioned because I picked up the phone to candidates. HAHAHAHAHA

  17. Keith July 29, 2015 at 7:08 pm #


    I couldn’t agree more. Some of the newer recruiters struggle to maintain a conversation, let alone start one.

    I love picking up the phone and starting that journey with a new candidate and they really appreciate it, too. You learn so much about an individual that is just NOT on their CV.

    A number of my key clients were candidates once who I reached out to and started a conversation with. They are still with me many years later and are now very influential senior managers in their organisastions and keep on coming back to me time and time again to recruit for them.

    We are looking forward to seeing you when you are in London in October.


  18. Clare July 30, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    You are right, I have hundreds of unread inmails.

    But the phone thing, I think its a generation thing. So many people under 30 use their phone for everything BUT speaking to people.

    Preferred method of communication is text, or facebook, twitter, IM. Actually calling someone is viewed as extreme and intrusive.

    It’s a difficult one, because in the same way that this attitude creates negativity about making calls, I suspect it also creates negativity about receiving them.

  19. Sanjit Bal July 30, 2015 at 10:39 pm #


    I couldn’t agree with you as I have experienced other way round.

    I had spoken one of the recruiter twice – One before submission of my CV and another a couple of days later to confirm the acknowledgement thereof. Third time I called (about a month later) I found my no is being blocked by the recruiter.

  20. Natasha August 4, 2015 at 4:01 am #

    I like to refer to myself as a traditional recruiter: I respond to phone calls and I understand that this is now a thing of the past….

    I noticed that our low candidate numbers one month directly correlated with a rather low phone bill.

  21. Kitty W. August 14, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    Greg – as usual – you HIT it! Thanks for the great advice and reminder.

  22. Karen Agulnik August 18, 2015 at 11:28 pm #


    Thank you for highlighting this!!

    I can’t believe that this is something that has to be discussed.. as a 30yr veteran i find when I ask some of our less experienced talent mangers if they called, i get silence on the other end of the phone – must think I am from another planet…. regardless of technology – human interaction reigns supreme!

    .and yes, I give good phone!

  23. Paige August 25, 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    Hi Greg,

    Great post!

    I, being 22 years’ old with 3 years’ experience, am among the “generation” of recruiters who hide behind technology, and I am the first to admit I should pick up the phone more…

    I have realised the benefit of picking up the phone, and building those relationships, as that’s generally where I make my money – with the candidates I “get on with”. My issue is that I have a very candidate heavy desk, so it’s difficult to find the time to speak with them all!


    • Greg Savage August 25, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

      Hello Paige

      Be more discriminating with the candidates you interview. Phone screen vigorously. What % of candidates that you interview do you place? 10%? 20%. How much time have you wasted on the 80% you dont place? See fewer, better candidates. Then look after them

      • Paige August 25, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

        I have become more and more discriminating in the 2.5 years’ I have been in this job. It would be interesting to see the % actually, I might try to work that out!

        I totally agree with working with fewer, but better candidates – quality over quantity any day! That applies to jobs & clients too!

        Thanks Greg! 🙂

        • Greg Savage August 25, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

          If you include ALL the candidates you “work on” you will be shocked how low your “hit rate” is. Improve that, and you will make more placements, satisfy more clients, and please more candidates

  24. Mary Bolger September 8, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your insight and experience. In so many ways, we have disconnected from other people. I started my recruiting career in 1973 and know your words to be spot on true. When I speak directly to my candidates or clients, I am relationship building . It is harder for someone to say no on the phone as opposed to blowing someone off on text or email. My reputation was earned by instilling trust and being a “connector”. I will keep reading your posts.
    Mary Bolger
    Greenwich, CT.

  25. Terry Edwards August 23, 2016 at 12:28 am #


    I couldn’t agree with you more…

    We share with recruitment/search firm owners how to generate leads without “cold calling”
    And have to remind them to call the warm prospects as some recruiters are reluctant to do

    Great article and very funny, thanks for sharing….

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