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Ask the Headhunter: Why do job applicants stand up interviews?

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: I am an employer looking for reasons why candidates who apply for my jobs either:

a) Don’t respond when I reach out to schedule an interview, or
b) Don’t show up for an interview.

You often write about how irresponsibly employers, HR and recruiters behave toward job applicants. [See “How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.”] I don’t disagree, but it appears that there’s some fishiness happening on both sides of this. Why do you think candidates don’t respond and don’t show up? Aren’t they just hurting themselves?

Nick Corcodilos: I agree with you. Candidates hurt themselves when they apply to jobs or when you reach out to them, but then fail to follow up with you. But often they’re not hurting themselves for the reasons you think.

Their real mistake is applying for jobs they don’t really want or care about. The people who are ignoring you have responded to cattle-call recruiting, and I’m afraid that’s on you — and all employers who rely on it.

The problem with job boards
The way the employment system operates encourages people to apply for virtually any job that pops up in front of them. That’s the behavior you’re encouraging when you — as an employer — post your jobs on huge job boards where anyone and everyone can easily click and gamble. The system encourages people to apply to all the jobs they can. That’s how job boards like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Indeed and others make money.

Then recruiters and employers waste job seekers’ time with demands for resumes, more application forms, online video interviews by robots, silly phone and e-mail screenings, and instructions to “wait until we get back to you.” (See “Is Applying for Jobs Online Not an Effective Way to Find Work?”)

Is it any wonder they get fed up? The system dulls their motivation because it conditions them to a 99.9 percent failure rate. And if the job you’re contacting them about is a marginal one anyway — one they just clicked on for the heck of it — then if they’ve got a really interesting opportunity cooking, you’re just a bother.

How the system fails both employers and job seekers
If you’re using job boards to solicit applicants, most of them are probably applying blindly, just because they saw the posting, not because it’s a job they really want. They apply to so many jobs this way that they just can’t keep up — or, by the time you get in touch, they’ve moved on. That’s why many are ignoring you. This is how the employment system fails you.

The problem is that when employers solicit so broadly from the pool of “everyone out there,” the rate of failure is virtually guaranteed to be huge.

Do the work to recruit right
My suggestion is, don’t solicit widely by using job boards. Figure out where the best potential candidates hang out. Carefully identify the people you’d really like to interview — and go look for them in those narrow hangouts. I think your hit rate will go up dramatically. Do the work to recruit right.

For example, if you’re recruiting programmers, go to a conference or training program where the kinds of specialized programmers you want congregate. This takes work, but of course it does. The automated method you’re using takes almost no work — and that’s why it doesn’t work.

I know that posting on job boards is what employers do. LinkedIn, Indeed, Zip make it seem so easy and they promise they will take care of everything. That’s nonsense. Please consider this: Job boards make money only when job seekers keep job hunting and when employers do not fill jobs. Everyone keeps spinning the roulette wheel. Only “the house” wins.

There are no doubt some errant job seekers who are just as rude and irresponsible as employers and recruiters. But if we put those aside, the fact remains that people who respond to cattle calls are not likely to be the people you want to hire.

Dear Readers: Do you ever ignore employers or blow off job interviews? Does the system dull your motivation? What can employers do better to hire the right people?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2018 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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