6 reasons your recruitment consultant doesn’t give you feedback

by K B , updated on August 17, 2010

This week Recruiter Daily warned recruiters about the dangers of giving feedback, and how recruitment consultants should phrase that feedback to avoid being sued.  The writer, an Employment Lawyer, stressed the importance of making that feedback competency based.  It’s sound advice and you can read it here.

One of the biggest complaints my job seeking clients make about recruitment consultants is that they actually never hear back from consultants sometimes even after they have been for an interview. So they actually receive no feedback, good, bad or otherwise.

Silence is really tough, especially if you, as a candidate, have put your heart and soul into your application. I’ve been a recruitment consultant. At times I’ve been a good consultant, and at times I’ve been an overworked and over-stretched consultant, struggling to meet all the targets I’ve faced and to do all the follow up I need.   So  I want to dive a bit further into what makes up the silent treatment from recruitment consultants, that is why, you as a job seeker may never hear back.

I’m not making excuses, but many of the posts I have read on this stuff just skim the surface about what’s going on behind the scenes. Or people indulge in old fashioned finger pointing labeling recruiters simply as slack sales people who are focused on the dollar. The reality is actually a lot more nuanced.

1)      First up, yes, fear of litigation, the consultant does not want to be sued. It is actually often hard to give you as a candidate constructive feedback around your skills, when the interview process itself, has not been that scientific. If you’ve faced a behavioural interview, around your competencies, then the recruiter could give you some targeted and useful feedback based on which competencies you did not demonstrate in your answers. Trouble is, not everyone in the recruitment process sticks to the interview script. If that’s the case anything a recruiter says, could be easily disputed by you.

2)      You may not receive any call or feedback when you are no longer a priority to the recruiter. Read this post on the silent treatment. Generally if this happens, the consultant is focusing on what it takes to meet their targets. They’re rewarded on placing candidates and they’re paid commission only when they meet their activity targets (client calls, visits, interviews). If you, as a candidate, are out of the running for a role, then you are not a priority call, as the consultant focuses on what they need to make a placement.

3)      It’s really tough to give feedback. Consultants are human (funny that). Most people like to be liked. Disappointing a candidate is a hard thing to do, especially if the recruiter knows this is the one job their candidate wants. For a stressed out consultant, it’s easy to let this call go to the end of the day, or the end of the week, or the end of the month, or…..

4)      The employer is giving the consultant the “silent treatment.” The job may have fallen through. Just because the agency advertises a job, doesn’t mean the job will be filled. It’s relatively cheap to place an advertisement on a job board. Sometimes employers will place a role with an agency to test the waters. Sometimes they may change their minds about who they want. Sometimes they forget their own internal processes and don’t get sign off to recruit. Sometimes there is an unexpected restructure. For many reasons the job may not eventuate and sometimes clients do not return consultant’s calls.

5)      The consultant has no useful feedback to give you. Clients can sometimes give the vaguest of reasons about why they don’t want a candidate, “just didn’t think you’d fit the team,” “just not sure,” “if in doubt say no.” Or the client may give the recruiter reasons that they simply cannot repeat about your age, gender, nationality etc. There is no way that information will ever be passed on to you as a candidate.

6)      The consultant could give you the tough feedback, but knows you won’t accept it, and doesn’t need the grief you may give them if they tried. This one’s a tricky one. If you don’t have a technical skill, for example, a qualification, experience in programming, software experience, knowledge of the law etc, then you know you don’t have that skill. It is easy for you to accept any feedback around this.

However when you lack polish (to put it politely) in the so called “softer skills” such as communication, you need to be very self aware to know that you have a problem. If you’re not a good communicator, for a whole host of reasons, you may never know this. (Many people are great at nodding politely as if they’re listening, if  for example, you are a chronic over-talker and they’ve tuned out). Plus you’re only likely to trust this kind of communication about your communication skills if you trust the person delivering it. As a recruiter no matter how carefully I’ve worded some feedback to reflect what the real issue has been, I’ve had people dispute it. The conversation has not been pleasant, nor easy. I’m only human. If one person gives me a hard time for trying to do the right thing, it makes it a whole heap harder next time I go to pick up the phone.


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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane Blackmore August 17, 2010 at 1:28 am

I agree with the points raised here but the fact remains that as a recruiter you are obliged to give feedback and a good recruiter should be able to manage relationships with the client to be able to get appropiate feedback. My candidates frequently tell me there is nothing worse than being ignored so even if the truth hurts silence hurts harder. Honesty remains the best policy and if you have a client giving you feedback that could get you sued raise it with the client, educate them and act as a consultant and you will find your skills more appreciated.

Karalyn August 17, 2010 at 3:35 am

Thank you for the comment, Jane. Your comments are one of the reasons I wrote this post. What you’ve said is exactly what an experienced consultant should do. One of the problems with the industry here is that it does have a high level of turnover. And it does takes confidence and experience to be able to be effective in what you suggest.

Natalie Weaving August 17, 2010 at 4:36 am

I agree with Jane. As a recruiter I always make sure that I get feedback from the candidate to then call the client to “hopefully” get the same back.

Even if I don’t have anything decent to feed back to the candidate I always call them after and let them know what was said and give them the expectation to whether I feel i will get anything more “tangible” for them.

All candidates are important and should be treated as so. Just because they may not be right for one job does not mean they are not going to get the next.


Leah Gibbs August 17, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Fantastic article Karalyn.

I really enjoyed reading it from your perspective as an ex-recruiter. I appreciate your honesty.

I would like to add my two bobs worth as a (temp/perm) job seeker who has worked with many agencies here in Sydney and when I was living in Newcastle.

There are the good, the bad and the downright ugly – Recruiters from a variety of well known brands.

Some lessons I learned along the way on my job seeker journey

First lesson, Recruiters never take phone calls.

Second Lesson, Recruiters are always busy

Third Lesson, Recruiters work for the Client

Fourth Lesson, Recruiters never follow through

Fifth Lesson, Recruiters never call you, except for Lesson 6

Sixth Lesson, Recruiters will call you at all hours of the night and including weekends and more or less beg you to fill a role they are desperate to fill

Seventh Lesson, Recruiters should always remember that one day the Candidate will become the Client.

As a professional and well qualified Candidate, well I could of frankly made some of these Recruiters alot of money.

I asked to be shown a little respect – some Candidate Care thrown in along the way for good measure – very few agencies provided a personal service built on relationships.

I then go back to Lesson 7. The agencies that did provide me with Candidate Care were the ones that certainly reaped the monetary benefits when I chose them to be a preferred National supplier of recruitment when I became the “Client”

Food for thought

Karalyn August 17, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Thanks Natalie, that’s a great attitude to take.

Thanks too Leah, I personally found being a recruitment consultant, one of the toughest roles I had, because it was very challenging to juggle everything in a day. We were always encouraged to call candidates for candidate care, to touch base with people and see how they were going. Ironically some candidates were emphatic they only wanted to hear from us if we had a job for them, and would make that known in no uncertain terms.

Melissa Jelfs August 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Thank you for being honest and explaining the in-depth recruitment process, I found the article very interesting. Silence is deadly and being a candidate looking for a new career and not receiving feedback is disheartening, but I have learned not to take it personally. I do get annoyed, as how are you meant to improve your skills, better yourself or understand why you were not successful with a role without any feedback? This is when you start doubting your abilities or think twice about applying for a role when they never give feedback? From a candidate perspective, if a recruiter treats me well, gives me feedback, I will refer them on to friends. I agree with Leah’s lessons especially number 7. Karalyn, I would like a recruiter to call me, just to touch base to see how I am, get updates on industry news & movement and not just call me for a specific role, do these caring recruiters exist, if so I want one!

Karen F. September 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

Great post, Karalyn 🙂 The job search is tough enough without worrying about what the outcome will be…recruiters are partners in a job search and job seekers do deserve to get feedback whether it’s good, bad or ugly. Can’t make a decision without being fully informed of your options…

Karen, the Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter for questions, comments or violent reactions)

Melissa October 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm

What a great article. My husband and I experienced this exactly when we arrived in Australia. My husband was looking for a job, got called and heard nothing. Or what I think was even worse, he got called by a colleague a few days later, for a different position. And nobody knew what the status of the first job was.
If I read this, I wonder what the benefit for a company is to hire a recruitment agency. A bad recruitment process would also harm their name…

PipMacdonald October 25, 2010 at 6:08 am

RT @InterviewIQ: #jobhunt #interview 6 reasons your recruitment consultant doesn’t give you feedback http://interviewiq.com.au/6-reasons-your

InterviewIQ October 25, 2010 at 6:00 am

#jobhunt #interview 6 reasons your recruitment consultant doesn’t give you feedback http://interviewiq.com.au/6-reasons-your

SuzanneLahaije December 21, 2010 at 7:07 am

RT @InterviewIQ: #jobhunt #interview 6 reasons your recruitment consultant doesn’t give you feedback http://interviewiq.com.au/6-reasons-your

InterviewIQ December 21, 2010 at 1:30 am

#jobhunt #interview 6 reasons your recruitment consultant doesn’t give you feedback http://interviewiq.com.au/6-reasons-your

Nadine February 1, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Hi Karalyn,
I was just revisiting this topic, as I have now registered with several recruitment agencies (some of out necessity, when applying for positions advertised on the Seek website).
I have two questions please … I have heard that if you register with many recruitment agencies, and these recruitment agencies are aware of this fact, they “don’t work as hard for you”. Is this true?
Secondly, I have done skill testing in Microsoft applications such as Excel and Word, as well as Data Entry and typing tests, with the first recruitment agency I registered with. Is it above board to offer these test results to other recruitment agencies, to avoid the necessity of repeating them?
Thanks for your help!

Karalyn February 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Hi Nadine,
Great question, I may answer this as a blog post. I think recruitment agencies will work really hard for you if you are a gun applicant, and in those cases, a good agent may say, can I have you exclusively for a week. When I was a recruiter if I had a good candidate I work work quickly if there was a job coming up I could place them in. If I knew they were with other agencies I would just keep tab on the other offers they may have. If it was unlikely that I could place that person, I was happy for them to be with someone else. With your second question, yes offer. Sometimes they use the same systems.

Roshan March 28, 2011 at 3:46 am

I think it is bad manners to send someone to an interview and then fail to let the person know if they have been short-listed or not. I do not accept a quick email to the interviewees that do not get through at the same time as letting those that did will affect targets. It is a slap in the face and there is no excuse. Fine, don’t give feedback, but informing someone they are no longer in the running should be part of the process, not an exception. It seems very strange that years ago when letter was the usual form of communication, at more of a cost to a business, an interviewee would receive a response but now, when it is so much easier and cost effective to contact people, that respect for an interviewee has disappeared.

Karalyn March 28, 2011 at 4:38 am

Thanks Roshan, You make some very good points. It’s funny how this has slipped down the priority list even though it’s easier.

Sam Histler July 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I interviewed for a position last week and have written three emails to the recruitment agent…. no response….. nothing….. its hurtful…..

Rosalind October 12, 2011 at 3:28 am

Great post and I would love to read more about making candidate feedback competency based. However the article you link to is no longer available. Can you recommend any other good resources on the topic?

Neil Roebuck November 7, 2011 at 4:36 am

Because I asked a specific question about how a recruitment agency selected candidates for interview, I now believe that that agency refuses to even consider my CV for any post, even short term contracts or part time.

For those with an extensive career in a certain sector (marketing in my case) and now seeking some kind of meaningful position where my expertise can be used to develop a company’s portfolio, I find this exclusion very annoying.

It’s particularly annoying when another recruitment agency has complemented me on the style and substance of my CV.

Andrew Murphy November 10, 2011 at 7:56 am

What a load of nonsense excuse making. Agents don’t give feedback because they are rude, lazy and arrogant. It’s as simple as that. They’d *never* accept being treated as such so why treat someone else that way? Because they can. It is possible to send someone a quick email stating that the application has been unsuccessful without having to delve into detail. However, they choose not to and that is purely a reflection of the poor professional and personal attitude pervasive in the recruitment industry.

Christopher Ring November 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I agree with Andrew. Having been away from Australia for a few years, I was amazed to see the jobs I wanted to apply for being listed with recruitment agencies. There seems to be no controls on these agents. They never get back to you. Why do they ask for personal details such as bank account and super before you even get a final interview? They all seem to be too young and inexperienced to judge if a client is suitable for the position being offered. A total waste of time and a gutless way of employing people.

London36 December 6, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I wanted to share my personal experience . I have been through 3 interviews for a 60K job with the same company. It was running through quite smoothly and then it hit cold storage in the last 2 weeks. I would fully understand and appreciate if I was unsuccessful in my final interview , However to be ignored by the recruitment company is very unfair considering the amount of time and resources allocated during the interview process. As a recruiter you should be trained and professional to share positive or negative outcomes and provide feedback to candidates. I have decided to write to the CEO of the hiring company and inform them of the quality of service being provided by the recruitment company as it is representing this company in the UK.

Sara May 10, 2012 at 1:18 am

Hi Karalyn, I’d love your advice (or anyone else’s who’s reading this!). My recruitment agent has consistently placed me in jobs since 2007 due to great feedback from the client. I’ve asked my agent in January for a written reference on my LinkedIn and have asked several times since and she always makes excuses why she hasn’t had time. She has written a reference on LinkedIn for another candidate who is now based overseas, even though the candidate only worked for the agent one year. She keeps asking me to do assignments but I told her I can’t until she can write me a reference. I would at least like a written confirmation that I have worked consistently since 2007! That’s 5 years. This would greatly help me with applying for home loan, rental apartment, etc! I explained this to my agent and still no response! She just wants me to make money for her. I have to draw the line. It’s bad enough that temps have no rights in regards to long service or maternity leave. I would appreciate your feedback, as I am thinking of taking legal action. It’s the principle of the matter! I feel I have a right to a written reference or at least a confirmation of my work history. She has certainly given me plenty of verbal recommendation to her clients. I want a written reference as I would like to apply for jobs overseas and agencies there would prefer a written reference rather than having to call an overseas phone number. Please help!

Karalyn Brown (@InterviewIQ) (@InterviewIQ) (@InterviewIQ) September 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

6 reasons your #recruitment consultant doesn’t give you feedback http://t.co/J4hiX0Mq

@SaliSantosh December 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm

IMHO many are not trained – how to conduct effective interview – leading not giving feedback in interview #HR502 http://t.co/Rtf39gOH

@SaliSantosh December 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm

why not to nurture some norms in giving feedback to candidate after interview/Selection process #HR502 http://t.co/5uFLdsIK #SHRMIndia

Candi date January 14, 2013 at 3:22 am

The whole recruitment industry standards needs restructuring ASAP ! Focusing on calls, interviews and targets leads to misleading & deceptive practices because making calls and interviewing people who are not even going to be considered for the job but will be ticked off as part of target KPI’s is not the right approach. Instead, only a time wasted exercise for professional & ethical candidates who take the time to prepare and go to the interview! Having secured a job direct with a company not a recruiter! I will always avoid going via recruiters in the near future! Sorry your industry longer term is doomed if no changes are adopted to set benchmark approach to ethics & standards when dealing with potential candidates!
Good luck !

sukhjeet singh June 27, 2013 at 12:48 am

i am jobseekr.i have not idia.now i am under deprasion.my all disision rong.how mony time
i have lose too many.through treval agent.no have reafunde my fease.
Worlde wide counsalted.wwics chandigarrh.file no’42087 as a
heavy duty truck driver.aply canada work permet.in thaousend.
2006/but no any news.

David October 24, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I have been employed all my life. I am in early 40’s. I have excellent references, work ethic, I have updated my resume, I have done courses to update my skills, and yet I still get rejected with no advice from recruitment agencies. And most companies go through recruitment agencies these days. The industry needs a shakeup and more employers should be recruiting through their own company to give people a better chance.
For every job rejection, I will put this agency aside to never use them or anyone I know with a business use them. If I have a business one day and I will, I will never use these agencies.Give candidates a chance regardless of age, race, whether you are meeting KPI’s etc

After job rejections for nearly a year now, it’s depressing, and living on hardly any money. No wonder there are so many suicides and depression.

I would love to see an employee of recruitment agencies be long term unemployed. Maybe they will have a better understanding of employment and people.

Karoline November 14, 2013 at 12:03 am

I am having this experience with recruitment consultants at the moment. I am starting to wonder if they even read CV’s and cover letters properly, as I have been told, especially by one person, that ‘I do not have enough experience’ when clearly, if they had actually bothered to read my CV, they would find I actually do. Having spent a portion of my working life travelling, I also find that recruiters find this to be a disadvantage, when in fact I have developed quite a few very valuable skills which have easily translated to the work place. Yet nobody seems to quite get past this. I agree the recruitment industry is in dire need of a massive overhaul.

Donal Reddington June 18, 2014 at 4:59 am

I am absolutely sick of people who are not in recruitment anymore for what ever reasons writing blogs that make us all look like unprofessional kids.

Recruitment is not mirrors and shadows.

90% of the time we don’t give feedback is the client has either rejected for a better fit or has put you on the back burner where they want to keep you in the pot but hope for better.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a applicant/candidate calling me and requesting feedback. 9/10 the feedback given will be limited but if its lacking and a candidate requests more most recruitment consultants will oblige.

goodcopbadcop May 11, 2016 at 9:59 am

A late response ….. What I’ve learnt about recruiters? Do you notice now that there are in fact less of them around advertising on seek? The truth is that recruitment agencies are facing extinction, since employers these days are questioning the need to spend up to 20% of a position’s total package, when quite frankly a lot are doing it themselves. The job of a recruiter is a thankless task. Always so busy; always trying to source their next sucker employer who will pay their demands for a high paid commission-only vacant position; and damn all of those people who call expecting to talk to me personally! I’ve researched what’s required to become a recruiter. You’re not required to have any sort of a licence to work in the recruitment industry; no specific qualifications are necessary; and no specific skills except maybe if you’ve worked selling cars before then you’ll know how to do the sales side of things. Seriously though – if you can talk to people and ask them questions; if you can use a computer; if you can write a job advertisement and if you can pick up the phone and call people – then you have what it takes to be a recruiter. If you’ve tried this type of work and found it stressful, with no time to scratch yourself, let alone respond to all of those phone calls and messages. And as for calling back and giving feedback to candidates – what for each and every job and with each and every candidate that I interviewed???? You’re joking…? Right??
Oh and the one thing that I did forget to mention was the power that they hold as gate keepers and how they love it and gloat about it. Did you notice that? How they won’t tell you the name of the company or much about the role – because after all you don’t need to know – you just love applying ‘blind’ for a job with a company that could be worse than the one you are trying to get away from. And hey – you don’t mind applying for a “no-name” company and tailoring your CV and cover letter so that it appeals to this no-name company, do you? There’s nothing that you’d rather do than spend your nights at home applying for a job only to find that if/when you do get an interview that it’s with THAT company and there’s no way that you’re driving 50kms in peak hour to work at that place or with that manager. That’s at least 5 or 6 hours out of your life that you’ll never get back! Do I sound jaded???? You betcha!!!!
There’s nothing that I hate more than to be told by a 20-something princess “that your experience and qualifications are really good but …. I can’t really say exactly why you didn’t get the job.” Or there’s the other sort of recruiter who is at least 60 and can’t do anything else so recruiting will do – and says when you ask for feedback – “We received 200 applications and you got an interview – that’s really good – but you are probably not the right fit!” How can you tell that after a 45 minutes max chat? And then sometime later when I happen to be browsing companies on LinkedIn and come across that company and they employed her for that position? Why? She’s not even worked in that industry – so why was she a better fit than me?” $64,000 question…..
So to those of you who have had a gut full of recruiters’ shenanigan behaviour – consider how much they actually rely on good people – like you all – applying for the positions that they have advertised on behalf of those no-name employers. If no-one responded – other than twenty or so from far away lands such as India – well they’d never be able to create a short list and bring you in and interview you and then never respond. Or they might send you to be interviewed by the employer as one of their preferred ‘hopefuls’ (candidates) but when you’re not the employer’s preferred candidate, well then they’ll drop you as though they never heard of you and literally will never talk or email you ever again.
Good people, you know what to do though, so that you never have to experience this type of disrespectful behaviour from pretentious recruiters ever again …. just never apply for any job that has been advertised by a recruitment company. Go direct – straight to the employer. Only apply for positions where the company isn’t afraid to advertise themselves in a job ad. You can decide – yes I would like to work for that company or NO – NEVER!… and you don’t even have to type in their address on your cover letter template. If this was an industry that was professional and truly saw the need to sharpen its image – then there would be a whole lot of regulating and even legislation going on. There are claims that it is self regulating. Mmmm… really? Even car salesmen have to follow the law to make a proper sale. But not recruiters! They can get away with advertising a job that doesn’t exist or isn’t even theirs to advertise. And no one turns a blind eye to the mistruths in job ads – written up by highly motivated commission hungry recruiters or recruitment consultants who only care that hopefully you’ll stick out the 3 months so that they don’t have to replace you. Except when you’ve given notice and moved into the role and you quickly realise that you’ve been duped and sold a lemon and nothing is like it was told to you – or sold to you…
I strongly recommend that you, as a highly professional and seasoned job seeker, especially if you’ve been unemployed or looking for a job for a while – you definitely don’t need that 20-something darling to make some smart-arse comment about your CV. So just let those jobs go ….don’t even look at them if they have a recruitment agent’s logo etched into them. Move on to the ad that’s been created by the employer with the vacancy and it is pretty easy to read and understand. Spend your efforts calling up and engaging with the employer. They are looking for someone just like you! In fact, you could be the one who’s going to be the best fit….. no reason why you shouldn’t give it a go and leave those other recruiters’ job ads to the dumb, the naive and the lame.
The short story is -that recruiters or recruitment consultants – they work in the same industry and do the same job so what is the difference in title – don’t like giving feedback because they don’t respect the candidates who apply for the jobs that they advertise. They work for the employers and will wield their power over the plebs by holding you, as the interested candidate, at arms’ length. They don’t particularly care or even want to hear that it is the 105th job that you have applied for this month.
But recruiters or recruitment consultants if you prefer – it’s time to get a cup of cement and harden up; suck it up and do the hard stuff. Get some training in giving feedback, if you honestly have a panic attack just thinking about having to talk to all those potential candidates that you brought in for an interview. Yes, this is the worst and hardest part about the recruitment process and earning your commission – but sorry….. totally necessary. Every person who I have ever asked about receiving a response from a recruiter, has actually said that they would welcome any sort of feedback instead of nothing. To be honest, not only should you be able to do the hard task of speaking with each and every person again especially when you know that the news is going to be tough to give and tough to receive – but you should also be able to construct your feedback in the way that you yourself would like to hear it – that is, if you were the candidate. There…. I’ve taken the mystery out of it! Just say it how you would like it to be said to you – and you can’t go wrong. Take heart in the fact that you are doing good things for not only your industry’s sustainability but also its very tentative reputation. Each and every time you treat every job applicant in the same manner as you like to be treated…you’ll always win.
And do you want to know why I know this? Because I’ve recruited for hundreds of jobs in my lifetime and read thousands of CV’s and cover letters and selection criteria; and interviewed at least 5 people for every job I’ve recruited for, using every type of interviewing model and behavioural question and merit technique ever invented. I’ve met thousands of people who have lived such interesting and remarkable lives. And that’s why I love interviewing so much. Particularly when people respect me enough to share their story. With each interview, they give up a small part of themselves and those lasting impressions are indelibly etched into and absorbed by others who partake in the process of interviewing .
And then out of all of this, there’s always been that final hard task. Where, with a deep breath to fade out the nervousness, the numbers have been dialled and the tough news given with genuine compassion, offering encouragement and feedback that makes sense – as none of this has been a waste of time; that getting nervous was all for a reason to sharpen the mind and perform under stress; and that the preparation and planning could still be useful for another role, next time. And knowing every time, that even though there is only ever one winner – the others aren’t losers – and they definitely should never be treated as though they are.

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