how to chase down a constantly disappearing recruiter

A reader writes:

I’m hoping you could give me some advice on what to do about a recruiter who cannot seem to follow up and actually schedule the interview.

After I talked to the recruiter briefly on the phone, he suggested we schedule an interview for the following week and said that he would be in contact. He never followed up, so I sent an email to find out if he was still interested. He was, and we set up the time/place. I showed up. He didn’t.

We rescheduled for the next day and had a fine first interview, after which he suggested a second one to meet some of the other staff. Now I am having the same issue. He didn’t follow up to schedule when he said he would (that next week), so I followed up and he said he had gotten busy, but would be in contact on Monday.

Well, I have yet to hear from him. I know his schedule is hectic, and I don’t mind if the interview is delayed or the time frame changed, but I am growing tired of chasing him down. He seemed to still have an interest in moving forward, but I don’t want to become a nuisance by constantly trying to contact him about it. The thing is, I have to rearrange my current work schedule if/when we do have an interview, which is why I have tried to follow up based on when he said he would be in touch.

At this point, I am unsure if the lack of communication is a company-wide thing, or just his own issue. Would you recommend that I just let it go, and trust that he has my contact information to schedule with me, if he decides to do so, or should I follow up one last time to let him know that if he is still interested to follow up with me at his convenience? I don’t want to become a nuisance who is constantly following up, but also don’t want to give the impression of not being interested in the position.

You showed up for an in-person interview and he wasn’t there? That’s a big deal, and unless he was profusely apologetic and mortified, that’s in no way okay.

The rest of his behavior — not following up when he said he would — is pretty common, unfortunately. But the no-show to the meeting is unusually bad.

In any case, as for what to do now … I’d follow up one more time, but after that, I’d move on and assume he’ll be in touch if he ever plans on actually moving you forward in the process. He might or might not, but at that point there won’t really be anything that you can do on your side of things to push him into action.

(And if he does follow up and says something vague like “I’m hoping to set up an interview for next week,” don’t change your work schedule or otherwise inconvenience yourself until you have a firm, confirmed date and time. He’s shown you that he’s a flake, and so you should act accordingly.)

{ 44 comments… read them below }

    1. Former Agency Recruiter

      I think this post is referencing an internal company recruiter rather than an agency/external recruiter, in which case, it would be more likely that there is already a specific job on the table, rather than that this person is finding OP a job.

  1. BGirl81

    OP, I really feel for you here and totally agree with Alison’s advice! Sometimes it’s the recruiter and sometimes it’s the company. If this isn’t the opportunity for you, trust me, there is one out there that will be. Trust me, I’ve done the legwork…

    Behold, The Low Point of My Year-Long Job Search:

    When I was looking, I had a lovely phone interview for an admin position with the office manager and was told to expect to come in for an in-person within two weeks. Never happened. Nearly a year later, I applied for another role at this same company. About a month later I received a phone message from a recruiter looking to do a phone interview. I called her back at the most five minutes later (I had the apparent misfortune of being in the ladies’ room when she called – ha!) and left a message. No return phone call. Left another phone message. Again, no return phone call. About a month later I saw the job was still listed and thought, “I have nothing to lose by sending an email!” No response to that either.

    There are a lot of people involved in hiring that should start thinking about what kind of message they are sending about their company with the way they treat potential job candidates. So sorry you had to deal with a no-show recruiter OP (really, that is SO BAD) and best of luck in your search!! :)

    1. nyxalinth

      She might have been one of those “Unless you’re sitting by the phone like a lovelorn date, I’ve already moved on, too bad for you.” types. That really does suck!

      I had something similar in 2006. Agency recruiter contacted me for a job, but wouldn’t tell me where the interview was over the phone. She insisted on emailing me the details. All I knew was it was supposed to be on a Monday, a such and such time. I never received the info, and my two calls and an email went ignored. Come Monday, I still didn’t have it, so I sent her a rather tart email saying something to the effect of “I would love to tell you how today’s interview went, but unfortunately, I never received the details, and my attempts to contact you about it went unanswered.” Jerk ignored that, too.

      All I can figure is she changed her mind about me at some point and disliked confrontation. Or the client changed their minds, and she disliked confrontation. I’ll never know, but it didn’t give me a good opinion of their agency.

      1. BGirl81

        “I would love to tell you how today’s interview went…” That. Is. Awesome. I also couldn’t agree more that basing who you are going to interview on who is available to pick up the phone right that second (especially when someone applied weeks ago….I mean…COME ON) is asinine! I came to expect this sort of foolery from agency recruiters, but it really did amaze me when it came from internal recruiters, as it did in mine and the OP’s case. Your last point is a perfect example as to why this sort of thing is a bad idea, i.e. many great candidates will say “THEM? Oh hell no.” Maybe it flies in today’s job market, but if it ever becomes a candidate’s market again…good luck to these people!

        1. nyxalinth

          Thanks! :)

          And yeah, there’s one place here in Denver which is quite bad They lured me in 3 (I should have walked the second time, but I was a lot more trusting then) times over a five year period with a so-called great job, good pay, close by…but then I’d get there and they’d say “Oops, that position was just filled, but here’s a not so great job, paying 2-3 dollars less an hour, and twice the distance on the bus.” Third time that happened, I rather unprofessionally told them off about it. (I’ve grown up personally and professionally since then).

          I can understand a mix-up or the position being filled at the last second before my interview might happen once, but three times? Nope.

  2. SevenSixOne

    When I’m trying to get a schedule commitment out of a known flake, I offer two or three possible times at least a week away (“I’m available before noon next Thursday and Friday, or any time on the following Wednesday.”) instead of asking Flakey Flakerton to get back to me with her availabilty and endlessly going back and forth.

    1. esra

      You’d think that, but my current (very nice) new job had an internal recruiter so flaky I thought at least half a dozen times of just sending a “THANKS BUT NO” email and taking myself out of the running.

  3. cf_programmer

    My attitude has always been something like “hey you get one chance to figure out how awesome I am, if you blow it, well, too bad”. Should this guy contact you again, I’d ignore him. He probably won’t be able to help you get a new job anyway.

    Is this normal recruiter behavior? I’ve never dealt with one, other than to tell them I am not looking for a new job.

    1. RedStateBlues

      Recruiters, in particular the freelancers, are essentially sales positions. Generally, they aren’t interested in finding you a job, they are interested in putting you in a job they have to fill. While my experiences with recruters have for the most part been at the very least professional, I’ve encountered a few that were essentially no better than the stereotypical used car salesman.

      1. Former Agency Recruiter

        Yes. This.

        Recruitment agencies are not free job services. Agency Recruiters are paid by companies to fill positions. If you do not have what a paying client is looking for, the recruiter will focus on candidates that are more likely to make them a sale. Also, in order for a recruiter to fill a role, companies have to be willing to pay agency fees. There could be a vacancy that a candidate is 100% perfect for, but if the company isn’t open to using agencies, a recruiter cannot advocate on their behalf. This is where a good recruiter should tell you to apply on your own, but some recruiters view that is giving away one of their candidates.

        I feel like a lot of job candidates forget that they are getting what is essentially a free service. You are not paying anything and so the recruiter has no obligation to make you their top priority. That said, there is a general level of respect that should be shown to everyone, but some candidates also have extremely unrealistic expectations about how much time/effort a recruiter is going to put into “finding them a job”.

        1. nyxalinth

          So with this in mind, why the sudden disappearing acts? Do they sometimes find someone better suited, and then rather than contacting you, they just vanish and ignore you?

          1. Former Agency Recruiter

            I never did this, so I can’t really give you a solid answer. Sometimes it was time (they’re dealing with 50-100 candidates and don’t have time to give personal attention to everyone), sometimes they’re forgetfull (we’ve all meant ot do something, gotten distracted, and realized a week later that we forgot to do it), and sometimes they’re just plain inconsiderate. (unfortunately, this one is probably the most common)

            This is much more on a personal basis than an industry standard from what I’ve seen.

        2. Lily in NYC

          Your last paragraph really annoyed me. The recruiter had an obligation to actually show up at the interview he scheduled!

          1. Shane Watson

            It may annoy you, but it’s true. I’m not saying that not showing up for a scheduled meeting is right or that the attitude behind it is correct. Still, recruiters don’t get paid by candidates. They are either paid by their employer (corporate) or by the client (freelance). Since the candidate (you) doesn’t pay a dime, you’re not top priority. You are a means to an end. Most good recruiters will not treat you that way, but the fact remains.

          2. Former Agency Recruiter

            I don’t think I made that super clear – a mistake on my part.

            A recruiter SHOULD 100% show up to a scheduled interview, and recruiters who don’t give all recruiters a bad name.

            At the same time, I’ve seen many recruiters look at their use of time and decide if it’s not making them money then they aren’t going to bother.

            This is a practice that I am very against, and part of the reason I ended up leaving agency recruiting (I was told that I tried too hard to help everyone and wasn’t making enough money). At the same time, it’s a reality of the industry. Just because it’s not right, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

      2. WWWONKA

        I have had a few bad experiences with outside recruiters. What you have to consider is as said, they are not trying to get you a job, but they are trying to sell you to a company that many times they DO NOT have a contract with to fill a position.

  4. MR

    How do you chase down a constantly disappearing recruiter?

    You don’t.

    It’s just like someone ‘disappearing’ on you after a date or two. It sucks, you swallow your pride, and you move on.

  5. MiketheRecruiter

    Hi there! Assuming this isn’t a corporate recruiter this can be any number of things:

    -This person doesn’t have a “hot” job for you, and are therefore placing you lower on their priority list
    -This person has no idea what they are doing (very common in recruitment)
    -This company is a disorganized mess – which could be from both a corporate or agency standpoint – in that case, do you want to work an environment like that?

  6. Lora

    Can I just say that an HR person at a company I’d very much like to work for did this to me, today? We were supposed to have an initial interview today at 9am. I show up. 10 minutes go by. Nobody can get her on the phone or seems to know where she is. 30 minutes go by, and I leave a message for her asking politely if she could let me know when she expects to be available. No reply, so at 10am I sent an email telling her politely that we will have to reschedule and to let me know when her schedule would be more open. Then went about the rest of my day, fuming that I had taken time off to do this nonsense.

    Today at 4:23, I get a snotty email about how “she told me what her availability was in her first email” and how she would generously make time for me 3-6pm today. Or we could do next week sometime. No apology. No acknowledgement of our previous appointment time. No reference to the email chain I had cut-n-pasted confirming our 9am time slot.

    Yeah, not looking good. I know HR is often not representative of how the company actually operates, but this is just really rude.

  7. WWWONKA

    Unfortunately some of these recruiters think they are the God to job placement and do not take other peoples needs into consideration

  8. Wilton Businessman

    So I’ve noticed a little trend lately. Said recruiter contacts you about potential jobs and they want to meet with you. You try to setup a meeting to find out more about the job. Sometimes they meet with you, sometimes you end up chasing them like the OP.

    I posed this question to a buddy in the recruiting industry. Seems as though some recruiters have a set quota of the number of people they have to see in a week/month. Basically, they are just fishing to fill a bucket instead of worrying about what YOU are looking for. Most times, they don’t even have a job for you.

    Now I can’t disagree that it’s not a bad idea to get out and press the flesh every now and then, but I certainly wouldn’t disrupt a day to go do it. But realize this is about 1% more effective (if that) than a cold call.

    If he’s that into you, have your prospective recruiter meet you at a Starbucks near your work!

    1. Former Agency Recruiter

      Yup, you pretty much nailed it.

      Agency recruiters are typically expected to have a stable with a stock of candidates ready to go and pitch to companies to win contracts.

      To show their productivity, recruiters are also expected to log a certain number of candidate calls, candidate interviews, business development calls, and client meetings.

      Additionally, most agencies require recruiters to get a certain number of interviews with clients for their candidates (my ex-job called them “Permanent First Interviews” meaning a first interview for a permanent job.)

      Unfortunatley, this ends up creating a massive numbers game where we needed to bring on candidates that we would probably never be able to place. Sometimes, though, you do have to bring on candidates without having a job lined up in order to get contracts. Most companies would not be interested in working with a recruiter who didn’t have candidates ready to immediately send their way.

      1. WWWONKA

        These games are exactly why I do not like sending resumes to recruiting agencies. Bad thing is you never know when they may have a job. I have only received ONE interview that was put together by an agency. Then as soon as I didn’t get the job she could not be found.

    2. tcookson

      So, they get credit for simply scheduling the interview, whether or not they keep it? Like the Seinfeld episode with the rental car reservation: “Anyone can take a reservation; it’s the holding the reservation that counts”.

  9. Dang

    I feel your pain.

    Last week, a recruiter who I’d already been working with called me. I got her voicemail when I called her back- 3 minutes later, literally- and never heard back.

    And that’s only the most recent story about a negative experience with an external recruiter.

  10. Brett

    Is there a point at which you inform the recruiters boss (for an internal recruiter) or inform the hiring company (for an external recruiter) of how unprofessional the recruiter is behaving?
    If you are clearly not going to be getting a job with that company or through that recruiter any time soon because of their antics, do you have much to lose from that?

    1. Former Agency Recruiter

      I really wish people would do this.

      At my past job, I worked with a HORRIBLE recruiter, he would lie, do underhanded things to colleagues, and is generally just a horrible person. His lies are usually easy to cover though, so he makes a lot of money for the company and they assume everything is great. His candidates, however, hate him. Unfortunatley, people are much more likely to turn to the internet to tell their horror stories than go to the people who could actually make a difference. Recruiting is based entirely on reputation, and any good company would want to know if one of their employees was damaging their reputation.

      1. tcookson

        So many times, people think that, if a recruiter (or any company rep, really) is engaging in certain behavior, that the behavior must be condoned by the company. That is why it is so damaging for a company’s reputation: their customers/clients conflate the behavior of one rep with the company’s condoned method of doing business. So they don’t complain and the company takes the reputation hit along with the rep.

    2. BGirl81

      I actually did do this once! I had applied for a role that was listed with the company name and contact info, so I had no idea I would be dealing with an agency recruiter. The company was a real estate company and my background is admin work in real estate. The agency recruiter that contacted me only asked questions about when I worked as an admin at a recruiting company (I worked at two agencies…seven and eight years ago, respectively) and literally zero questions about my real estate experience.

      She then proceeded to critique my resume for twenty minutes and tell me that she’d submit me for this job and would probably have others available. I very politely told her that I wasn’t interested in signing up with an agency and would only like to be considered for this particular role. At that point, she told me that unless I agreed to be one of “her” candidates, she couldn’t submit me for the job. I decided this was information that the company that hired her should probably have and called their HR department. Needless to say, the HR director I spoke with was very happy I shared haha!

  11. MrSparkles

    After reading the entry title multiple times, one question comes to mind:
    Why would you continue chasing them?
    I don’t mean to sound harsh but…I admit that it baffles me that you would still want to seek and conduct business who clearly has no care for your energy, time and mental angst involved in seeking employment.
    That said, it’s reasons like that (and what Former Agency Recruiter has mentioned above) why I try and stay clear away from recruiters.
    At this point I should admit my bias as I’ve never had success with them. From experience, I’ve had much greater “success” (applying, interviewing, etc) without them.

    Your sanity is worth more than the nonsense this person is pulling.

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        I suppose it might be a case of keeping irons in the fire. When you are looking for work, sometimes any job lead, no matter how weak can keep you going.

        That said, I got my current job with the help of a very good recruiter, and I know other people have had a positive experience with them too.

        1. MrSparkles

          In one sense I understand and get what you mean by keeping irons in the fire.

          In another, as I’m currently in the mist of a 3rd layoff in 6 years (first was 10 months, second was 3 weeks, this is nearing the 7/10 month threshold depending on how you calculate it), I’ve reached the point where I simply do not have anymore patience for people who have no respect of my time/situation, especially if it doesn’t directly lead to a decent position.
          That, and from personal experience, if you have to reach out to someone for an update (and who had said they were going to contact you by a specific time), then it’s usually not a good sign. That’s what I find so disgusting the actions the recruiter has been doing to the OP .

  12. SC in SC

    Just to show a little bit of love for recruiters there are some good ones out there. A few years ago my wife worked with one who did all of the upfront work for the interview, researched the position, prepped her for the interview and stayed in constant contact throughout the process. To top it off, he sent a congratulatory note along with a restaurant gift card when she accepted the position. This may be the exception but some companies still understand what good customer service is all about.

  13. Shane Watson

    I’ve had similar situations. I’ve found it best to make one or two followups at most. If the recruiter doesn’t contact you back, move on. Since this recruiter has already proven himself or herself as a flake, I’d contact other recruiters to have a Plan B (or Plan B through Z in case of total job loss). Otherwise, you’re hinging all your hopes on someone who is not going to be there for you.

    1. tcookson

      I agree . . . and after more follow-ups than that, you begin to have the stink of desperation on you and to become a nuisance to the recruiter. They’re not going to call you back after you become a nuisance to them — even if it is their fault for leading you on!

  14. David Gaspin

    If this is an agency recruiter and not a corporate one, and if you know the company and the position you’re interviewing for, I would suggest (and I know that some will disagree) just going around the recruiter altogether and contacting the company directly. If you’re right for the role, you’re not doing yourself or your potential employer any favors by waiting around for a bone-head recruiter to do his job.

    If you’re successful in getting in to speak with the company, let them know that the recruiter expressed interest and then disappeared, so it doesn’t look like you’re sneaking around.

    If they hire you, they’ll likely be able to argue to not pay a placement fee for you, since the recruiter so clearly dropped the ball.

    If it’s a corporate recruiter, forget I was ever here.

    1. Former Agency Recruiter

      The only problem here is that you can run into “ownership” issues. If an agency recruiter has sent your resume to a company, they own your application. That means that even if you contact the company directly on your own, the company would still have to pay a fee if they hire you or the agency can sue the company. (and in my experience, an agency that hires recruiters with such poor skills is much more likely to chase the fee and pursue legal action than ignore it and let the fee go)

      I warn strongly against this because I’ve seen many companies turn down good candidates just to avoid these issues all together. (Same goes if you’re registered with more than one agency and they both submit you to a job – many clients would just avoid the ownership issue by not considering your application at all)

  15. Chocolate Teapot

    How often when dealing with a recruiter have you had to deal with the cloak and dagger bit though?

    There was an occasion when I applied for a job, went for the interview (with the company itself) and got rejected. OK, fair enough, but then the same job appeared with about 3 or 4 different recruiters. I applied, and it was difficult to get the name of the company out of them. Apart from all the other reasons, having already been rejected for the role, why would I want to get my hopes up if it wasn’t going to go anywhere?

    1. Former Agency Recruiter

      Many recruiters try to keep the company name a secret because they know most candidates are registered with more than one agency and don’t want you to speak to someone else and tell them that the company is open to using recruiters for that role. I had many companies tell me a job was exclusive when it wasn’t, or not disclose who else they had given the job to.

      Sometimes, they will also keep a company a secret because they don’t actually have the contract yet and are collecting resumes to pitch their suitability to recruit for the role. Many larger international agencies have rules against doing this, so you’re more likely to see this from small boutique agencies (not that it doesn’t happen at larger agencies, but it’s definitely against the rules)

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