I have a strange problem and am completely at my wit's end as to why it may be happening. I have friends and family in my or similar fields and they are all baffled when I tell them about this.

I work in software, I currently hold a job but am seeking to move. I have a long history of recruiters "ghosting" on me. That is, I will make contact with a recruiter, get into some hiring process, and they will at some point stop responding to email/calls. It's quite literally as if they've simply vanished.

It has happened across the board from large companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon as well as medium sized companies and small startups. I live in Seattle, where there is a lot of supply/demand for software engineers. I am a US citizen authorized to work for any employer, etc. etc.

This happens at various points in the recruiting process. It sometimes goes something like this:

  • A recruiter will respond to my application by reaching out via email.
  • I respond with any requested information, very often offering times to have an initial phone call.
  • We have a phone call, it seems to go well. I answer all their questions thoughtfully, try to be personable and down-to-earth, and ask followup questions showing I've done some homework on the company. The recruiter often seems engaged and happy. They mention they'll send out an email with next steps in a day or two after they speak with the team.
  • Now it gets weird. I don't hear anything for ~1 week. I will reach out with an email after saying something like:

Hi [recuiter]!

Thanks again for speaking with me last week. I just wanted to touch base and see if you had any updates regarding the hiring process, or if I can answer any more questions for you.

Take care,

-Me

This will receive no response. I'll try to follow-up again later that week or next week, and maybe call and leave them a voice mail. No reply, ever. Sometimes, 1-3 months later, I'll get an automated email from a donotreply@company that I'm no longer being considered for the position. Usually nothing ever comes.

It gets stranger. I've had technical screens with an engineer and then my recruiter contact ghosts.

I've gone in for on-site interviews and had this happen. Here's a somewhat recent (~1 month ago) example:

I applied to a position and heard back from the recruiter who said I sounded like a great match. We had a lovely phone conversation, were both laughing, I have a genuine interest in their product, etc. He asked if I'd like to come in for an on-site evaluation for about 2 hours, which would lead to a full interview if it went well. He gave me some articles to read about their company. I read all the articles and brought a notebook with questions about company culture, their product, etc. I solved a white-board coding problem they gave me with what I'd consider a very typical amount of difficulty and had enough time to provide optimizations to the general solution as well as pointing out edge cases I'd address in real life and further optimizations I'd make if I had the time (and white-board space) to write them out. The engineers seemed happy with my solution and I was able to ask them some of the questions I'd written down which they both seemed happy and interested in answering. Lots of smiles, nodding, positive body language, etc. Recruiter and I spoke again and he said he'd get in touch in a day or two to let me know if they wanted to interview.

A week goes by without any contact. I send a follow-up email as above, no response. I call a few days later and leave a voice mail along the lines of "Hey thanks again for having me visit, I really loved the office and felt pretty good after the interview! Just touching base to see if I can help with anything else or if you might have any updates for me." Nothing.

edit: For emphasis in this scenario the recruiter, while sitting in a room speaking with me personally, was very adamant that he would follow up with me in a day or two about whether or not they would be moving forward. He further went on to explain that either way he would provide me feedback about why they wouldn't be moving forward and what I could do better in the future, or why they were moving forward and what I should showcase in the final round. It seems beyond unprofessional, and instead trending into blatantly rude, to tell someone this in person and then never followup and ignore their attempts to reach out.

I am completely dumbfounded. I consider myself to be at least tolerable if not personable, and I am polite and professional to everyone I meet. I arrive dressed smart-casual (jeans, dress shoes, cardigan with a fitted t-shirt) and I shower before the interview (if I've gotten that far). I avoid political, polarizing, or highly opinionated topics at work. I've had several friends in my field and a professional service review my resume and say it looks great.

All in all I'd say this has happened to me upwards of 15 times in the past year to year and a half. I've had 3 different Microsoft recruiters alone do this to me. I'd say about ~40% of ghosts are after the initial screen, ~40% are after a technical screen, and 2 or 3 times it's happened after meeting someone in person at their office.

It's completely fine if I apply and am not considered or if I get somewhere in the process and they decide not to move forward, and that has happened! (i.e. they've emailed saying they're not going to move forward and that's 100% okay) However more often than not, the recruiter vanishes and ignores any attempt to reach out. I always check that the email comes encrypted from @company so I know I'm talking to real people.

What on earth could I possibly be doing to cause this? Unless this is simply a typical experience and my friends have had atypical ones, I feel that I must be doing something to cause this to happen. It seems far too frequent to be random.

edit per a suggestion to make a tl;dr:

I've had multiple recruiters stop replying to their email/phone at multiple stages in the hiring process. Even ones I've met in person, and ones with whom I've spoken on the phone and who have promised to get back to me "either way". Everyone I've told in person who works in my field is shocked that this has happened to me so much, and I cannot believe it's mere coincidence but I also genuinely have no explanation.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 15 at 14:40

What on earth could I possibly be doing to cause this? Unless this is simply a typical experience and my friends have had atypical ones, I feel that I must be doing something to cause this to happen. It seems far too frequent to be random.

As you describe it, yes, it seems too much of a coincidence to happen this often to you. However, this doesn't mean that you must be doing something, so don't take this as something you did.

It seems to me that you have encountered quite some recruiters that just don't care on giving follow-up on candidates they are no longer considering. There is nothing you can do to change them; some recruiters do follow-up even if they are turning you down (which IMO is the professional thing to do), and other simply "vanish".

To be honest, this doesn't mean that you are "ghosted" or similar, it just means that all these companies you mentioned turned down your application (and they didn't bother on saying so). Perhaps they chose another candidate, or the job opening became unavailable, but clearly didn't chose to contact you for the position.

I guess that what is left is for you to continue searching for other jobs. Don't give up just yet, it is rare when you land a job on your first application, as sometimes you have to apply many times and with many companies to land an offer you like.

Also, it is common advice to wait at least a week (maybe week and a half) before doing follow-ups, so you don't come up as too insistent or start to bother them. Also, while waiting for a recruiter to reply it would be wise to keep your options open and continue job-hunting regardless.

Finally, you may consider having a Recruitment Agency match you with potential jobs, so they do all the contacting and related work for you (and hopefully get better follow-ups).

  • 1
    I always wait at least a week after the longest time estimate they give me for getting back. This is a better way to consider it though vs that they've "vanished". If I'm no longer being considered I always appreciate an email telling me so. In the case of the last story I gave, the recruiter was very explicit (while speaking face to face) that he'd contact me either way in 1-2 days. He even said he hates leaving people hanging. Not the first time I've heard it and this has happened. But, again, thanks. Assuming they've moved on vs "disappeared" provides a little closure. – brenzo Jun 13 at 2:57
  • I've had recruiting firms/their recruiters ghost or have no follow-up after submitting resumes for positions too (possibly because HR/hiring managers at their clients don't respond to the resume?). It's not a sure-fire way to avoid the problem. – alroc Jun 13 at 11:33
  • @alroc sorry to hear that. Recruiting agencies was just one of my suggestions, though – DarkCygnus Jun 13 at 13:33

Are these actual recruiters from the company or are they recruiters from some consultant firm?

I ask because this sort of behavior is very typical for recruiters at a consultant firm. They will seek out as many applicants as they can. The initial phone call is not a interview, but the first step to make sure your resume is up to date and then they pile it together with a bunch of other resume. The recruiter then takes it to the company and tells them they have all these applications for them. The company reviews and starts the interviewing/hiring process. Chances are your resume may not be what they're looking for.

With that said, the recruiter doesn't care about you. He just wants to gather as many resumes as he can to present it to the company in hopes you get hired and he gets a pay cut. As soon as you are no longer useful, he'll "ghost" you.

  • This is with recruiters at a specific company. I have pretty low expectations with consultant firms and I haven't thought much of it if they disappear. – brenzo Jun 13 at 18:29

"You’re not alone, I’m here with you" - well, MJ or not, this isn't just your situation alone. I can assure you of that. 3 weeks ago I reached out to a LinkedIn contact, a recruiter, expressing interest in exploring opportunities with the company. She responded and requested for a resume. Since then I made two follow ups, and then no response. I emailed another recruiter, also my LinkedIn contact from the same company, again no response at all. Yet, both recruiters continue to post articles on LinkedIn about networking and job applications and have clearly stated on their LinkedIn profiles to reach out if interested.

I didn't follow-up anymore. My time is too precious to chase an incompetent recruiter. Their loss. I would recommend to move on to the next company - there are plenty of jobs out there, especially where you're located.

I don't have much experience with interviews, but I hear that sometimes companies keep in touch with each other under the table and "know" about your interviews even if you don't talk about it. It may be that your current company reached out at least some of them and dissuaded them from proceeding (or the other way around, some companies you had an interview with asked feedback about you and a kind of "nulla osta" to proceed which had a negative answer). Obviously not Microsoft and Amazon if you're working in a small company. Do you cover a relatively high responsibility role in your company, such that your work is vital to some important project at the point that your company would go out of its way to prevent you from switching jobs?

  • Unfortunately that might be true, but it would be highly illegal. – emory Jun 13 at 15:22

I don't have a complete answer for you, but I do have three tentative suggestions for you.

For the technical interviews, practice doing mockup technical interviews with other job-hunters. Those other job-hunters will give you actual feedback, plus you'll get to see how your competition does from the perspective of the interviewer.

Use this site for this: http://pramp.com (I am not affiliated with them in any way)

They provide the questions/answers, the collaborative editor, and the video-conferencing platform for those mock technical interviews.


As to my second suggestion, I'd suggest that you always try to go through a hiring manager or a non-HR employee of the company first. A long time ago, I used to scan resumes into a digital database for a very large laboratory. The resumes that came to HR forwarded by a hiring manager or an internal employee were always given priority.

The idea was that HR didn't want to be accused of losing resumes that were forwarded to them. So for that reason, those specific resumes were always displayed first in the digital database and those specific resumes were always stacked on top of the pile that was actually forwarded to the relevant hiring manager. It didn't matter if the hiring manager didn't know the candidate from Adam, or if they were best friends with that person. From our perspective, the perspective of HR, it was simply safer to assume that the hiring manager was already your best friend, or at least, would ask us follow-up questions about you and your status through our process.

Now in this day and age, a hiring manager or an employee will probably just tell you to submit your resume to their company website, but that's fine too, because then, you can just say in your cover letter that so-and-so told me to submit my resume here, and this will have the same effect as if someone had forwarded your resume to HR.

And because of this reason also, you'll be the candidate least likely to be "ghosted" as well. Because HR may not particularly care what you think, but if HR gets the reputation of ghosting candidates even among its own employees, then it could become a problem for them.


And finally, because I'm not sure if that's what you're doing or not, for all I know, you may already be doing this already. But I'd also like to suggest that you avoid third-party recruiters that don't have an exclusive contract with the company they're hiring for.

Those type of recruiters are pretty easy to spot. They're usually not upfront about the name of their client and they usually can't be reached through an official email address of the company they're supposedly working for.

Of course, non-exclusive third-party recruiters can still be used, but I only recommend using them if they already have a stellar reputation that you know of, or if they come with a strong recommendation from a friend (or a colleague) of yours. Any other third party recruiters, you should avoid like the plague and apply on your own.

These days, serious third-party recruiters still exist, but the problem is anyone can be a third-party recruiter. All it takes a is a computer and a phone line. That's it. The barrier to entry is so low. Some third-party recruiters can end up spamming your resume to hundreds of companies, not only will this add a huge markup to your cost to hire, but it can also become a source of conflicts and headaches if the same resume was received from more than one third-party recruiter.

And if some reason, third-party recruiters seem to know about more job postings than you do. Just give it a couple of days, look through several online databases, also look through company websites, StackOverflow careers, LinkedIn, and Angel List Jobs. By just looking or waiting for a couple of days, you'll see that third-party recruiters really don't have a monopoly on this kind of information.

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