The Real Reason a Recruiter Isn’t Calling Back

Have you experienced the frustration of a job search or tried seeking the attention of a recruiter?

If you’re looking for a job, you’ve probably encountered a million articles and how-to tips about how to dress at interviews, or the right way to format your resume.

The truth is, however, that the majority of them are missing the point. They’re addressing the problem of how to land the job after you’ve already gotten a call back.

The Myth of Equality

Many companies and the job boards behind them paint an idyllic picture of how recruitment works. They would often have you believe that the world is an utterly fair place and they evaluate each candidate on the basis of their skills and history. If this were true, your resume would have as much chance as any other person.

However, the numbers paint a different story about how jobs are actually portioned out.

The Reality of Hiring

Having been on both sides of table for the hiring process as a recruiter and hiring manager, as well as a job seeker, I can tell you that the reality of hiring is very different.

It all comes down to one single fact: The number one source of hires is from employee referral.*

The reality is that recruiters and hiring managers often have to sort through hundreds if not thousands of resumes. If you’re going through a job board, your chances are very slim out of the gate.

The most important part of selling yourself for your next job or employer is about how to get them to even LOOK at your resume in the first place. It’s not to say that job boards don’t work (they are still the #2 source of hires), but if you don’t have a strong resume or aren’t a great fit for the position, your chances of getting a call back decrease dramatically.

Get a Second Look from a Recruiter

The quickest shortcut you can do to get to the top of the pile on the desk of a recruiter is to get an employee referral. As a hiring manager, I’ve phone interviewed people who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten a call back on the basis of a referral. This is because referrals are endorsements from employees.

If an employee took the time tor refer this person, it means that they are taking a personal stake in that person’s success within the company. Through their referral, they’re endorsing the person and saying they are a good cultural match for the company as well as a good fit for the job.

Also, there’s just the power of a relationship. If an employee sends me a resume, I’m going to give it a second look out of respect for that person.

Maximize Your Chances in One Afternoon

If you’re trying to get a job, the single most important thing you can focus on is your relationships. Here are three ways you can get started on becoming an employee referral, rather than just another resume in the pile.

1. Start by making a list of dream companies

The first thing you can do is create a list of companies you’re interested in working for. Getting to the list can be a simple project, and doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Think of it like a brainstorm to help clarify your thoughts about what kind of job you want, and companies you aspire to work at.

You can start this search by going to Monster, CareerBuilder or LinkedIn. If you’re looking for a specific job function, you can type in titles (like “Accounting” or “Marketing”) and filter by distance from your home to come up with a list of companies that are hiring.

If you’re less specific and instead looking for something like a startup job, you can visit some of the top blogs in the industry (e.g., TechCrunch for tech startups) and looking through articles and writing down a list of companies that sound interesting. This creates your target list of companies.

2. Send an email to your friends

The next step is to email your friends about your search. Your personal network is a very powerful asset. Many people are nervous about asking their friends for help. Think back about the last time you helped a friend. How did that make you feel? The reality is that helping a friend can feel really rewarding. The worst thing they can say is no.

Page through your address book, Facebook or LinkedIn, and start sending emails out to friends. Personal one to one emails are better. If they don’t work at one of your target companies, use the brainstorm step earlier to send them a general email describing what you’re looking for and asking if they have any suggestions or people you should meet. If they do work at a company your’e interested in, even better! Tell them you’re interested in working there and would love to hear about their experiences with the recruiter.

3. Clean up your LinkedIn

Finally, LinkedIn can be a very powerful helper in your job search because it shows the second degree connections to a company. If your target company is Microsoft and you have fifty friends on LinkedIn that don’t work at Microsoft, LinkedIn will still show you a list of your friend’s friends who work there.

Finding these second-degree connections through LinkedIn can be a great way to get in touch with a company that you’re hiring for. It’s always impressive when a candidate takes the initiative to connect directly with a company. It demonstrates that they’re actually interested in the company and not just out to get any job.

It Takes One Great Connection

The challenge of finding your next dream job can be a roller coaster of ups and downs. Don’t get discouraged. While it may feel like there are a lot of hurdles to get through or companies which won’t call you back, keep in mind that it only takes one amazing connection to land you in the job of your dreams.

How do you grab the attention of a recruiter?

*Source: (CareerXRoads 2010 Source of Hire Report)

Photo by meddygarnet via Flickr

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Ada Chen Rekhi is head of user growth at Connected. Connected provides contact management without the work, and helps professionals manage their relationships across email, calendar and social networks. You can also follow Ada on Twitter (@adachen) or read more at Connected Life.


  1. Mitesh on the 10th June


    This is a good post but what if you don’t have any qualifications, experience or skills and you trying to land another job in another industry?

    • Ada Chen Rekhi on the 12th June

      Mitesh, situations like what you are describing are some key examples of when your relationships will come in handy. Hiring managers will be much more likely to go out on a limb and take a risk on you if you are coming in through a trusted channel.

  2. Leigh Harris on the 10th June

    Great article. Personal relationships are the key, especially these days when so many rely on online relationships to connect. A friend, or a friend-of-friend, will respect the initiative you take to make a personal connection when you are interested in working with them, at their company.

    Thanks Ada!

    • Ada Chen Rekhi on the 12th June

      Thanks for the great comment, Leigh! I completely agree with you. I’ve definitely had job seekers take the initiative in finding a common relationship.The extra bit of effort is always impressive.

  3. Michael Dao on the 10th June

    The best story I’ve ever heard was there was one manager who took the stack of resumes on his desk, divided the stack into two, and threw one stack away. He explained, “I only want to work with people who are lucky.”

    • Ada Chen Rekhi on the 12th June

      Michael- I’ve heard that one too from investment banking. 😉

  4. Al Pittampalli on the 10th June

    Great post Ada, This is a reality. Relationships matter, and there the world of resumes is so cluttered right now, one of the only ways to stand out, is to be pointed to by a person of trust. Referrals are the best way to do so.

    • Ada Chen Rekhi on the 12th June

      Thanks for the comment Al, glad you agree!

  5. Rochelle del Callar on the 12th June

    Great article! I also believe that network/connection/relationships matter a lot.

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