What a Recruiter Can Learn About Recruiting by Being a Candidate

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Dec 31, 2015
This article is part of a series called Wake-up Call.

It is exhausting to look for a job … especially when you are employed. Recently I completed just such a job search and it was no fun at all. It never is. I hate looking for a job and I bet most of the candidates I work with hate it too. I do a better job now of keeping that perspective in mind when talking to candidates.

There are a lot of good lessons recruiters can learn by sitting on the other side of the desk. What follows is only my experience but hopefully it will be useful information for other recruiters as well.

Working with agency recruiters

I’ve worked with agency recruiters before and have had mixed results. One incident in particular though was so bad it made my blood boil.

I contacted a recruiter at a staffing agency — let’s call her Debbie — who was highly recommended to me by a recruiter I had worked with at a previous job. Debbie has more than 20 years of experience and is a partner at her firm. We got along great and she did a thorough interview with me. Debbie arranged a phone interview for me with her client and sent me details about the company and even suggestions about questions I could ask them during the interview. I did the phone interview and called Debbie immediately afterwards to let her know how I thought it went. The call went to voicemail and I left her a message and sent her an email. Her response was radio silence. I called Debbie a couple more times (all went to voicemail) and sent her a couple more emails. I never heard from Debbie again.

Lesson learned: I already know it is a bad idea to be a jerk, but once you are treated badly by a recruiter you understand a little better why candidates get so angry and write hateful things about us on social media. I don’t want to ever give anyone a reason to write those things about me.

My resume

I was constantly asked questions that were already answered on my resume. For example, I was almost always asked which ATS systems I had used even though I listed them all underneath a bold-faced section header right after the summary at the top of my resume. Either they were not paying any attention to what was on my resume or were just reading down a list of standard questions without any access to my resume except for my phone number. I was not impressed when this happened.

Lesson Learned: I make sure now when I talk to candidates that I let them know I am looking at their resume and would like more detail about a particular position or don’t see where they have mentioned certain information. At least that way they know I am actually reading their resume and trying to understand what they have written.


Having a complete and detailed LinkedIn profile is a great job search tool. All the best job leads I received during my search were from recruiters who contacted me on LinkedIn. Messages sent to prospects on LinkedIn may not have a tremendous response rate, but there is no denying that LinkedIn is still very widely used by recruiters.

Lesson Learned: This just emphasized to me the importance of connecting with all my candidates and most promising prospects on LinkedIn. Birds of a feather flock together, and I want as many quality connections on LinkedIn as possible because that will give me a network with the most relevant prospects. There’s nothing wrong with accepting connection requests from people who I don’t know or who don’t work in a field that I recruit for, but I need to always be adding people to my network who are on target for my open positions.

Responding to ads

Filling out online applications is not a job search strategy. Even customizing your resume to include the key words in the job description will not generate many interview requests. After completing dozens of online applications with no response, I ended up just using job ads to find out what companies were hiring and then trying to contact the hiring managers directly on LinkedIn.

Lesson Learned:

I will continue to post ads but I also make sure my email address is easy to find in my LinkedIn profile in case anyone wants to bypass responding to an ad. There’s no sense missing out on a good candidate because some people refuse to throw their resume into what they perceive is a big black hole.


I worked in a small office that was an open environment (no cubes or conference rooms) so there was no place to do a phone interview during the work day. Not many hiring managers were willing to do phone interviews after 5 p.m., so I always let people know I was also available to do a phone interview early in the morning before leaving for work, during lunch, or on the weekends. Some days I worked from home and had more options when I could do a phone interview on those days. I only required two days of notice for an onsite interview. I was very motivated to make a change so I was willing to be as flexible as possible with my time.

Lesson Learned:

It served as a good reminder to me that candidates who won’t work with me at all on their schedules are probably not that motivated to make a change. (“Can I do the phone interview after 8 p.m. tomorrow or at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday? Otherwise it will have to be scheduled for next month.”) It also reminded me that if a hiring manager can’t make time to interview candidates, I can only assume filling the position is not as high a priority as I have been told.

After the interview

I had to learn not to expect a courtesy email or phone call from any company I interviewed with letting me know the job had been filled. It irritated me no end that most companies would not only not follow up with me to let me know the position had been filled but would also not reply to any of my emails or phone calls asking for a status update.

Lesson Learned:

I make it a practice to follow-up with candidates after they interview to let them know if there is any feedback on their interview or if someone else got hired for the position. It was good to have a personal experience to confirm to myself why that extra step is so important.

Searching for a job reinforced to me everything I should already know about how candidates want to be treated throughout the hiring process. Good lessons to learn.


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This article is part of a series called Wake-up Call.