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A little background: I'm a CS junior at college and I've been lucky enough to be at an exciting internship program with an amazing company, but I'm extremely irritated at the application process for internships.


Over the past year I've been seeing this happen a lot with campus recruiters during the busy February-May recruiting season:

  1. Potential job applicant responds to recruitment email / job posting.
  2. Recruiter responds back scheduling phone interview, on campus interview, or some sort of screening question.
  3. Job applicant responds back, does great on the first round (usually very basic competency questions), and never hears back from the recruiter ever again.

This has happened to me twice after answering screening questions, once after an on campus interview, once after a phone interview, and once after an on site full day interview. Both times with the screening questions, none of the applicants from my school recieved any response from the recruiters. While I respect that recruiters have a lot on their plates at this time, I can't help but feel this is rude and unprofessional. I understand being turned down because I'm unqualified or a poor fit for the company, but please have the decency to at least send me an email notifying me.

So what can I do to confront recruiters who do this, who often represent very exciting companies? And is this a problem with just internships and college recruiting, or does this type of thing go on in recruiting for full-time positions as well?

  • This is very common and as you get into the industry, you'll get used to it. Recruiters will be VERY responsive initially, especially if they really think you will make the jump (thus $$ for them), but as soon as they realized you won't (eg. the hiring team don't see a fit, or you are asking for way too much, etc), they will disappear (because you wont translate to $$ for them, why would they spend anytime on you) – tsOverflow Jul 12 '12 at 20:47
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It's happening in the post-college world as well. I can say with certainty that the nature of recruiters and the recruiter/employee relationship has downgraded horribly in the last 10 years, and it impacts businesses as well as candidates.

My approach is to understand the relationship and make whatever system I have work for me. You have a unique bonus in that if your school is affliated with the recruitment program (for example, if they post on the job board at your school) then your program likely has a lead to a point person at the recruitment. If you are pursuing internships out in the wild, however, then you're at the mercy of the regular world.

If it's through your school:

Take it to your college placement/intern program people. Most companies work closely with schools to improve the candidate pool, so if the company's process is wasting candidate time then your school should be helping to fix it. It's in your school's best interest to make sure communication is flowing here, because if for some reason the opportunities are not flowing to your school, there's a real possibility that your school is not preparing candidates as well as it could and they should pursue that feedback.

Particularly in the world of internships - this is supposed to be a growth experience, and you have a little more right to feedback than you might in the wild world of post-college work.

If its not through your school:

It's a nasty world these days. I have yet to find a job board that gave good job leads.

When it comes to recruiters, I basically expect that they will flake. Many flake before the phone screen with opportunities that are never fulfilled. In most cases I do expect to hear back about a phone screen - but if I don't, I don't really waste time on it. Calling the recruiter back and asking is as much a waste of my time as theirs. However, if the recruiter or recruitment agency comes to me another time with a new opportunity, I do say "how about that last one???" And if they seem to have absolutely no clue, I do give some commentary that I am not so thrilled about working with someone who can't seem to keep track of where they've sent my resume or what positions I've been interviewing for.

In general, I've started to treat recruiters as human search engines. Since they seem to invest little time in developing a relationship with me, I do similarly - I won't promise exclusives, I won't promise to check back with them, I won't go out of my way to help them be more competitive in the marketplace, since they aren't doing likewise for me.

I do up my expectations if the recruiter is from the company in question. I expect to hear back from them, and if I haven't heard in a week, I may touch base with a friendly "hey, how'd it go?" sort of professional style email. No judgement on my part, just an honest question and expression of my interest in the position. If i don't hear back, I don't bother with more. But I understand that in-house recruiters are slammed, and often adrift in a sea of too much work, so perhaps my friendly ping will remind them of something that fell off the radar.

  • Almost all of these recruiters are in-house people for large companies or in-house people (mostly managers, C-O level people of startups, and sometimes alumni charged with recruiting). I'm just frustrated at the whole process. – Hans Z Jul 12 '12 at 15:58
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You need to follow up with the recruiters.

At the conclusion of each phase of the hiring process, you should inquire as to the next steps before you get off the phone or leave the interview. Find out when you should hear back and if there is anything else that you can do to move through the process. If you don't hear back at the end of this time period, call or email the recruiters. You should explicitly mention the position(s) that you applied and interviewed for, when you were last in contact, and let them know that you expected a response by this point in time. When contacting the recruiters, don't approach this as a confrontation, but as a gentle reminder that you're still interested in the company and position.

If they don't respond to those nudges and the recruitment happened through a university-sponsored event, it might also be a good idea to follow up with your university's career office if you don't hear from the company within a couple of days of the nudge. Let them know that you talked to the company, didn't get a response in the window you were told, tried to follow up, didn't hear back, and see if they can help.

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It is very rare in any hiring process to hear back if you were not selected to move on. That's just life. It is annoying but it is something you need to get used to. Annoying people with repeated calls (one is fine) to find out can ensure you won't ever be considered for anything else by that person either.

If I had resumes for 1000 candidates and phone interviewed 100 and decided to interview only 3, who am I as a hiring offical or recruiter most interested in contacting? It takes a lot of time to contact everyone you eliminate from a hiring process and the people doing the hiring rarely have that time nor have any particular need to make the people happy that they weren't interested in hiring.

Now if you are down to being one of the final two candidates, you will hear back sometimes when they decide against you. But that is usually when they would have hired both you and the person they did hire and they might be interested in you in the future, so they want to stay on your good side.

I can assure you that you will hear back if they are still interested. Not hearing is an indicator that they are not.

If you think they are interested and just haven't gotten around to making a choice and you have another offer that is less interesting that the one you are waiting for, feel free to call and tell them that you have another offer but are more interested in their job and would like to know if you are still in the running or when a decision will be made.

But don't keep calling and calling. This makes you look desperate, it annoys busy people and it gains you nothing. I have never seen a hiring decison turned around positively for a person because someone kept calling us.

Just because you feel you did well in an interview, doesn't mean that ten other people didn't do better. So don't put your eggs in one basket and keep looking even if you think you did well.

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