Tag Archives: candidate

The Recruiter Games

Ever wonder what recruiters are REALLY thinking when they give you “the news”? I’m dishing out the real dirt to help you better understand the process behind finding your next job!


If you have ever played a game with a small child, you know it can be frustrating because they seem to change the rules halfway through. My daughter is always making up new cards for Uno [she wanted to create a card that made us switch hands whenever I called “Uno”!]  so I never quite know what to expect when we play! 

Looking for a job isn’t much different, is it? 

Each company has its own process, its own application, and not too many are very transparent about what to expect once you hit that submit button. Wouldn’t it be handy to have a few ideas of what might be happening on the other side? 

Even though from the outside, company applications all look different, the general recruitment process is essentially the same.  All recruiters seem to use the same playbook when giving feedback to candidates. I hope my insights can help you better interpret their comments, see the other side of recruitment and make you feel a little more confident when playing the game.

What recruiters say: “We decided to go with an internal candidate”

What recruiters really mean: It really can come down to who you know. You should be networking within your industry before you need a job. Someone you know can open a door for you for an interview. You still need to have the knowledge, skills, and abilities, but sometimes there are so many people in line for a position, you need a hand up. 

What recruiters say: “We are looking for someone with “x” experience or “y” education”

What recruiters mean: As much as we’d like to give you (and everyone) a chance, we aren’t working for you. We are working for the hiring manager to fill a role with a specific set of qualifications that need to be met. And we aren’t writing job descriptions; we try to write job postings (and we aren’t all that good at it).

Many times the application system is set up to just post the actual job description. We aren’t huge fans of this. But it can be cumbersome to change the posting and chances are the day-to-day recruiters weren’t involved in the selection or implementation of the system anyway. The main point here: we aren’t setting the qualifications.

  • Which means, if you don’t meet the qualifications of the position, we won’t send you on. Sorry. (See above) And yes, we likely don’t quite agree that a Master’s degree or a minimum of 10 years of experience should be required. There may be lots of folks we want to consider for a role but just can’t — and trust me, this frustrates me as well, as both a recruiter AND a candidate. I’ve been rejected for many positions because I haven’t had the right title or right years of experience. I’m confident I could have done the job and done it well, but as there are many others with similar experience, I can’t fault the recruiter for rejecting my resume.
  • Experienced Recruiter Amy Miller explains “we take direction (and work for) the companies that pay us … the hiring manager is the ultimate decision-maker on who gets hired (or invited to the interview in the first place!); we can only work with the information we’re given, which is why a targeted resume which fully demonstrates fit for the role you want is so important.”
  • And sometimes, even if you meet the qualifications of the role, you might not get an interview. You aren’t owed an interview just because you meet the qualifications. If you are in a role that isn’t in high demand, there may be 30 others who have similar qualifications. We can’t interview everyone.

What recruiters say: So, we don’t actually say anything here, you just get the generic rejection email, but it doesn’t feel like we even reviewed your application. So you complain that the “system” kicked your application out or look for someone to help you rewrite your resume so it won’t get kicked out.

What recruiters mean: We were likely reviewing applications when yours came in or in the process of finishing up the hire. Artificial Intelligence likely did not reject your resume. I did. Most recruiters I know do not work with an applicant tracking system (ATS) that automatically rejects anyone’s resume. Most applications are reviewed by a person. And getting rejected quickly doesn’t mean it was AI either – just means I happened to be reviewing applications when yours came in.

What recruiters say: “We’re still reviewing candidates and should be back in touch soon”

What recruiters mean: The hiring manager STILL hasn’t made a final decision. Most hiring managers really do believe there is a “perfect” candidate out there. Rarely is this the case. We want the right fit, but often we have to talk the hiring manager out of keeping the posting open “just a bit longer” for that “perfect” candidate that they think is out there. We know that there are likely many people that can do the position and we want to find one of them.

  • It is also likely the hiring manager hasn’t been well trained in the selection process. So, sometimes, the hiring manager will pass the buck onto the recruiter for a bad experience. As experienced recruiter Laura Mazzullo shared “it is the hiring manager who needs education! It’s the hiring manager who may need more training on overcoming bias, being more open-minded with qualifications, learning candidate experience —it’s a bit of a “don’t shoot the messenger” situation more often than not!”

Recruiting can feel like a game. It can take time to figure out what you need to do to move forward, and then the rules change. But just like in a game, once you understand the rules, you may enjoy the challenge and even have a little fun. May the apps be ever in your favour!