Dear recruiter, 15 reasons why you lost the best candidate ever

Man on phone 2

As a career strategist I’m privy to conversation from job candidates who are at the mercy of internal and third-party recruiters. I say mercy because before they can sell themselves to the hiring manager, they have to get past the recruiter.

In the grand scheme of things there seems to be a misunderstanding of the importance the role job candidates play in the hiring process. They are the bread and butter of the process because they’re the ones who are going to solve the employer’s most dire need, the need to fill a position.

While we see many articles written on what jobseekers do wrong, rarely a word do we see on what recruiters do wrong. I personally don’t see the justice in this inequity of blame; and I’m not even applying for jobs. I’m just the messenger.

Some recruiters (a small number) are treating their job candidates like shite, Mate. This seems counterproductive to achieving the goal of hiring people for the jobs that need to get filled. And there are numerous jobs to fill. I know, recruiters are busy (#11 on the list of job candidate complaints) vetting candidates to present to their clients, but their lack of sensitivity, courtesy, and plain logic is sometimes baffling.

I realize there are some great recruiters and some lousy recruiters (the number favors the former); and the same applies to job candidates (ditto). But some of the behavior I’ve heard about recruiters is well…baffling. Without further ado, let me relay what my customers have told me over time.

  1. You told me I was your number one and then didn’t call back. Didn’t that make me feel cheap.
  2. You knew less about the job than I did. (Ouch.)
  3. You thought I was too old. Hint: don’t ask a candidate how old she is. One of my former customers was actually asked during a telephone interview, “Just how old are you?”
  4. You took the liberty to revise MY résumé. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the interview to find the interviewers holding a different version of the résumé I sent.
  5. Do you really think what I did after graduating from college (25 years ago) is relevant? The last time I checked, no one was using DOS.
  6. You called me an hour late and wondered why I was pissed. I  had to pick up my child from daycare,  which by the way takes up most of my UI benefits.
  7. You wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn so you could have access to my connections. I’m not stupid, stupid.
  8. You sent me to the wrong interview. Imagine my surprise when the hiring manager started describing a position that I wasn’t aware of applying for.
  9. You overlooked me because I was out of work for three months. No, technology in finance doesn’t change that much in three months. Oh, I get it; I’m damaged goods.
  10. I may not be as beautiful as your dream date, but I can manage a project with my eyes close. Incidentally,  you’re no looker yourself.
  11. You complain about being sooo busy. I’m not exactly sitting around watching Oprah and popping Bonbons. I am out beating the bushes.
  12. Really? “What is your greatest weakness?” Why do you ask idiotic questions like this? Do you think I’ll really tell you my greatest weakness? Besides, I have the answer memorized.
  13. I wasn’t a fit? Couldn’t you get a better explanation than that. I only want to know if I need to improve my interviewing techniques.
  14. Speaking of interviewing, couldn’t you have told me that I was going to be the oldest person in the building? I can rock with the best of them, but it would have been great to have a heads up.
  15. No means no. I don’t want to take a position that pays half the amount I was making at my last job. I know salaries may be lower these days, but doing twice the amount of work for half the pay doesn’t add up.

Many of the people I serve have had favorable experiences with recruiters, but the process could be a lot better if some of these common complaints are addressed.

Read the follow-up post, Dear hiring manager, 15 reasons why you lost the best candidate ever. There are 15 different reasons!

Photo: Flickr, Kev-Shine


5 thoughts on “Dear recruiter, 15 reasons why you lost the best candidate ever

  1. Josh

    This was a great post! In my job search, I have found recruiters to be very confusing. There are jobs which I have applied for and made every effort to get in contact with the recruiter. I have gone above and beyond to show the value I bring to the table. However, after emailing, connecting on LinkedIn, I would be lucky to receive a response from a recruiter. I understand they are busy, but I believe at the very least, effort deserves recognition. If you have a candidate that is active and interested in a position, pay them attention! The perfect candidate may be in your lap, but because you haven’t responded to an email or returned a phone call, you might miss them! I’ve experienced this many times. Great article!


  2. brickmasterraj

    My primary complaint about recruiter calls recently is that they try to match me with jobs that I am not qualified for. I graduated in 2014 with a BS in Chemical Engineering, with a concentration in Biochemical Engineering. I have not found a job in the field yet, so I have been in my previous profession of automotive heavy collision repair in the interim. I have been recently been contacted for a Mechanical Engineering position for engine piston design and failure analysis, though I have never been on the design end and have little experience with ME. Another recruiter saw that I had “limited experience with VBA and Java programming,” so they thought I would be a good fit for a Software Engineering position…
    I feel that some recruiters are trying to hit their numbers rather than trying to find a good match for the position.


  3. Husniya

    I regularly happen to be on either side. Some times i am a candidate, sometimes I am a recruiter. I can see the frustrations and difficulties for both sides. Been asked stupid question like “tell us about a difficult situation and how you dealt with it?” I told them about strategies i use for these situations, as they happen multiple times daily, at least in the part of the world I live. I had gone through a massive stress at the time, related to huge violence case in my home town. So I said, if people are not being killed and there is no war, anything else is manageable. 🙂 Of course no one liked my answer. Later I learned, there was a little conspiracy in there, as the recruiter wanted to hire a specific person. So this small “bad answer” was used against me. It is difficult then to overcome the feeling of bitterness after something like that. In my next job, I have been hiring, and was overwhelmed by the amount of poorly qualified candidates. However, one thing which is important is – you can be the best technically, but if you do not have the right attitudes for the job, then you are not the fit. And i think that is a good explanation. I have seen some colleagues who were good, but too proud, too arrogant, not wanting to be team players, intolerant to critique and too conflicting. And this is not a good fit. I would not mind to review a candidate’s LinkedIn profile, to learn more about him/her, not to see who your contacts are. It is after all a platform for professionals and should be open enough for both candidates and recruiters to review each other’s profiles. All i want to say is that there is no need to become cynical and negative, if your recruiter commits any of the sins in the post, they may not be worth working for. And if an applicant is not a good fit, or any of the points in your CV seems irrelevant, than, yeah, you do not get that particular job. Just remember that majority of the decisions, even most rational ones have a great emotional base to them.


  4. Carla Houston

    If recruiters ask the questions that are illegal and try to reveal your personal information rather than focusing on to place you on the job. then avoid such lousy recruiters. sometimes it’s found that candidate, which is approaching the recruiters, calls and emails them also never heard from recruiters.

    In some situations, they try to place the candidates in the irrelevant jobs. So recruiters lose the top talent by doing such unethical tricks. Pick the good recruitment agencies based upon their review on the platform



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