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A little over a month ago, I tweaked my resume on some job search websites. Since then I had been too busy to realistically handle my inflow of e-mail due to personal matters. I am now in the position where I can respond, but some of them are over a month old.

I have read that some believe recruiters are not helpful, but some of these people could be a great benefit to my career if they know I am interested. Assuming I should still respond, what is the best way to handle reconnecting? Is there a point where it is too late to respond to an e-mail from a recruiter?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

In all honesty, I found the response rate on recruiters to be VERY low, overall. Unless they had an immediate opening that I fit into, very few of them were interested in a long term relationship. So the idea of getting back to people simply to keep up the positive connection proved to be fairly pointless, as return responses proved random, and there seemed little difference in the behavior of recruiters whether I was able to respond to them or not. So in the end, I largely choose not to waste my time on opportunities that do not look interesting.

My experience has been:

  • Great opportunities - if you love it, and it fits your needs - RSVP within 24 hours. Either the recruiters are messing with me, or the jobs are often filled that fast. I had very little success with responding to opportunities in longer than 48 hours. If the recruiter thought I was a good overall candidate, they might get back to me and promise to forward future opportunities, but about 50% of the time, I got no response if my email was over 48 hours from the time of receipt.

  • OK opportunities, useful recruiters - I got a LOT of flak in the incoming opportunity stream. My triage process involved responding ASAP to anything fabulous, and taking the time every 3 days or so to respond to interesting but not quite right requests. "Not quite right" was stuff that sounded close and where the recruiter clearly took the time to actually do some research on me and my interests, they just didn't quite hit the mark. In those cases, I figured the recruiter was smart and thoughtful and that we could be mutually beneficial if we had some correspondence going.

  • Say What? - I got as many or more (and still do, regardless of being in the market) queries that were laughably off the mark. Including - asking me to relocate when the profile says no relocation (radical relocation - like moving from New England to the MidWest), contract positions when I say no contract work, and very, very junior positions for a resume that is quite senior. I skipped these. After a while, I stopped opening the mail. I got so many that it wasn't worth my time reading them and responding. I figured if the recruiter couldn't be bothered to read my profile and know that the local market is QUITE good right now, then they weren't clued in enough to be working with. Some were also in nearly unintelligible English.

As a general baseline - if it's more than a week old, I think you can assume the recruiter has forgotten about you. If you want to restart the engine of job searching, I'd suggest you make a few minor edits to your profile online at a time when you can book a few hours each day to handle the incoming request stream, then be prepared to respond daily for the first 3-5 days. After that, you'll probably have your own metrics.

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Depending on the purpose of the e-mail, yes and no. If the e-mail from the recruiter was for specific positions, those may well be unavailable. At the same time, it may be worth apologizing for not getting back sooner and trying to mend some fences along with sending an updated resume that you now have.

While you may get some people that are ticked that you took so long to reply, there are some recruiters that may be OK with reconnecting at this point. The key point is to be prepared to stay on top of this and not have it become a pattern that you become known as the person that takes a month to respond to an e-mail.

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A recruiter is in sales. They want to sell you to an employer, so they can collect a fee.

They may be the employee of a company and are trying you to convince you to join the company. They might be independent of the employer and are trying to convince you and the company will be a great match.

They know that unsolicited contacts might never respond. Some will respond quickly and some slowly. If the recruiter only saw you as somebody who fir one position, the window may have closed. If they see you as possibly filling one of several positions that periodically appear, they will be interested in keeping your contact active.

Not responding will mean they might never contact you again, but they still might the next time your resume meets the search criteria. Responding now might resurrect your chances for some position. The cost to you is the time to write an email or make a phone call.

If they respond back to your inquiry then make sure you respond back in a more reasonable time frame. You are trying to keep the contact fresh and active.

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You wait as long as you need to until you require their services.

If a cleaner emailed you, you wouldn't get back to them until you needed them to clean something.

You wouldn't call a plumber before you needed one.

Therefore you don't need to reply to recruiters until you need them (or until you get very close to needing them, e.g you know you're quitting in a few weeks)

At the end of the day, they don't mind waiting, as long as they get your services they will be fine with it.

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Recruiters usually reach out to a large number of candidates. There is no expectation that you must respond within a deadline. One month is not a long time to wait. If it were one year, it is likely that they would have filled the position.

There is no harm in telling the truth here; simply tell them that personal matters kept you from job searching and reaching out. If they are a good recruiter and still looking to fill positions, they will want to work with you. If they don't, don't sweat it, and move on.

Remember, they are interested in selling you. That's how they get paid. It is in their best interest to aggregate as much talent as they can.

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