How To Get Recruiters To Reply To Your Resume

I know this is one of the major complaints by candidates. I hear it all the time, “I send them my resume and they don’t reply. Most won’t even return my phone call.”  As difficult as it is to say, for the most part these candidates are correct. That doesn’t mean it is right, it just means you are correct.

Similar to most at the manager level and above, when you are working, you are generally overwhelmed with things to do. So you have to prioritize. Some things are high priority and some things go on the low priority list. The low priority items may never get done, or may get done in the next few months. Generally, this depends on what other higher priority items trickle in.

Recruiters are really no different. We have to prioritize our day. Some things are high priority and other things are low priority. If  you want to engage recruiters, your job when working with or contacting them should be to move up the priority list. Knowing how I, and many other recruiters prioritize, might help you do this.

Here is how I set priorities regarding the basic duties as a retained recruiter.  Contingent recruiters might vary slightly, but when I was a contingent recruiter it wasn’t a whole lot different.

High priority:

  1. Clients always come first. So some might ask, “Who is your client?” The company paying my fee is the client, not the candidate. Therefore, the company has first priority on my time. That means I will return their phone calls before a candidate’s, I will meet with them prior to a candidate, reply to their emails first,  and screen resumes they send me first.
  2. Candidates on an active search. These are candidates that I’m actively working with on an existing retained search. They could be at any stage within that search which includes, recruiting ones I have identified, interviewing them, returning their calls or emails, reviewing their resume, meeting them, scheduling interviews, following up after an interview, compensation discussions, reference checking, or basically anything I need to do to move the candidate and the search to the next phase.
  3. Marketing. The next priority for me is marketing. This is meeting with clients and potential clients, attending networking meetings, and making sure I’m out in the market so that when a search comes up I’m the one that gets the call. When that call comes, refer to number 1 above.

Important but not a high priority. These I try to get to by the end of each day. Sometimes they spill over to the next day, but I usually try to complete these within 24 hours.

  1. Returning emails not related to a search from people I know or have worked with in the past. These are generally people updating me on their search, prior clients with a question, a request unrelated to an active search, general emails, and clearing SPAM. Sometimes I don’t get to these until the afternoon. I scan down the “sent from” and subject lines, and when I see someone I know I will read the email and then reply appropriately.
  2. Reply to emails and return calls that are a referral. If someone is referring a person to me, I will always reply. I respect the fact that they have taken the time to do this. I feel I owe the reply out of respect to the referring source.
  3. Return voice mail calls. Basically the same as above. I listen to them and clients get an immediate call. Anything to do with an active search gets a call. Others I evaluate and make a decision on what to do with them. Refer to low priority below for many, not all, of these calls.

Low Priority:

  1. Return emails from those I don’t know. This is one of those low priorities that tick many candidates off. The good news is that you have a much higher chance of getting a return email than a phone call. I often try to catch up on these on the weekend or at night. Because of the large volume of these, I’m often two weeks behind.
    1. If you are just sending me an unsolicited resume, I may or may not reply to you. Generally not. I may take a look at the resume to see if it fits an active search. Probably less than 50% of the time I reply. This is why I preach, tweet, and blog,  DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON A RESUME SERVICE THAT WILL SEND YOUR RESUME TO 1,200 RECRUITERS. Save your money as most recruiters don’t even look at them. I doubt more than 5% of retained recruiters do.
    2. If the email is just to introduce yourself to me with no referral,  I will probably just delete it. What else can I say? Like me or hate me, that is what will happen. (If it makes you feel better, then “yes” I spend hours late at night reading the hundreds of unsolicited resumes I receive on a weekly basis).

Lowest priority. So low that I have to be bored and/or very lonely to take action. I’m desperate to just talk to someone and my wife and kids are all busy. I have probably already called every person in my contact list, any tech support that I can possibly think of, and if it’s the only way to get out of having to watch Driving Miss Daisy or The English Patient, I will claim I have to return these phone calls.

  1. These are the  voice mails that simply say, “Hi Brad, this is (fill in the blank) please call me at (fill in the number. I probably don’t even recognize the area code).” or “Hi Brad, this is (fill in the blank) I just want to introduce myself to you. Please call me at (fill in the blank).”  I will apologize now to all of those I have offended. Sorry, if I didn’t return your call.  It is just that I don’t have the time, and I rarely can help you.  I know each call is going to take 5–10 minutes, and in the end, I can’t do anything for you. I used to make a list of these calls. When time permitted, I would work my way down the list but over time the list just got too big. For every 3 calls I returned, I added 5 or 6. I stopped adding to the list when it exceeded 100 calls to return. Sorry, but this many calls to return just isn’t possible. Heck, it is hard enough to reply to that many emails.

It isn’t personal, and please don’t take it personally, when recruiters don’t get back to you. Most recruiters are not trying to be rude, but as I said in the first paragraph, we only have so many hours, just like everyone else, and we have to manage our time too.

My guess is that most managers, when working, don’t have time to return calls from all of the sales people that call. My guess is that you also don’t return unsolicited calls you receive at home.

My hope with this article is two-fold:

  1. The most important of all is to save you money by discouraging you from using a resume blasting service. They are easy to find and often may even call you. When they do call you, do me and yourself a favor, DON’T RETURN THEIR PHONE CALL.
  2. Give you a path to getting to recruiters. Knowing the path of least resistance should help you. If you can’t get in the highest priority group, you may be able to move into the important but not high priority group. All this takes is some time and getting a referral. Most candidates are capable of getting a referral given all the networking tools available.

You can download for free many tools and resources from our Web site. For example, you can download a sample thank you letter. CLICK HERE to download.

If your search is stalled, you can download an 8-Point Job Search Assessment Scorecard. Use this to identify the areas in your job search that may be causing you to be stalled. CLICK HERE to download.

Finally, if you are a member of LinkedIn, you should join our Job Search Networking Group. Over 4,400 people have. It provides an extensive amount of resources and articles for you to take advantage of. CLICK HERE to join.

I welcome your comments and thoughts.



About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By Rajendra Singh Chauhan, March 8, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    I agree with you Brad.Now I know what are in your priorities.Thanks for giving insight about your job.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, March 8, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

    Thanks Rajendra. I am glad this was helpful. That was what I was trying to accomplish.

  • By Mather, March 9, 2010 @ 11:19 am

    You should send this article out to everyone in LOW and LOWEST priority. :)

    I agree with you. When I was a recruiter, I would always have friends (sometimes strangers) complain that recruiters never call them back, or all they care about are the clients needs. I usually just shrugged and said, think about who their client is.
    Often times I would ask them about their search, and it would be an unfocused “shotgun” approach. As you do, I suggested taking a networking approach and tell them to attempt to get a referral.

    The other frustrating question: “Can you get me/my son/my niece etc.. a job?” I would explain to people that recruiters don’t “get” people jobs- they work with employers and employees in order to match qualified, talented candidates with potential employers that are offering employment opportunities.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, March 9, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

    Well said Mather.

    You are correct, recruiters don’t find jobs for people, we find people for jobs.

  • By Scott Spicer, March 9, 2010 @ 2:05 pm


    Well done and well-shared, too. Straight to the point–who can’t appreciate this honest assessment of a recruiter’s current climate, daily grind, and work flow processes, all while attempting to balance the delicate relationships centered on the client and candidate as well? Having been in recruitment and staffing for 15 years, your thoughts are a terrific reminder–especially the “don’t take it personally” angle. Set your work-related goals, persist and persevere.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, March 9, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    Thanks Scott. I hope this helps everyone.

  • By Reign Newbourgh, March 10, 2010 @ 8:23 am

    You’ve said it yourself, “recruiters don’t find jobs for people.” So along with your article you’re saying not to contact recruiters but instead wait for them to contact you. New candiates are not a high priority, and many will be quickly dismissed. I guess it works during this poor economy, but once it gets better the shoe will be on the other foot.

  • By Mayya Motorova, March 10, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    I very appreciate your time to post it for all the complainers that sit home and complain instead of going to career fairs, asking around if they anybody from XXX company and trying to connect with those, or just walking in to the company office building and ask for a tour. When I started my job search a year ago I was one of those complaining people who wouldn’t get a call back from a recruiter. Then I started looking for possibilities to make them remember my name and actually recognize when they see me in 6 month after we met. Networking is a key word to being noticeable and also it builds up your confidence when you face a company representative for a couple of minutes and you have to get the most out of it. I gained a lot of social experience just by making myself to talk to anybody who could locate my name closer to the “priority” group.
    Thank you Brad! This is one honest and fair insight!

  • By Heather Vitaglione, March 10, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

    Thanks for being so honest as these are things we all suspect when we’re trying to attain job hunter’s nirvana and yet, we need to hear it straight. I think my query was with one recruiter who’d already met me and wanted to send me on an interview and told me to schedule one on Friday, and nothing doing. I could not seem to get through via e mail or phone. I guess it fell through, but, sure would have like to have known.

    Thanks again.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, March 10, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

    Thanks I appreciate the comment.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, March 10, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

    Thanks for the comment.

  • By Alan Ludmer, March 11, 2010 @ 8:04 am

    Execellent, a must read for all those in the job hunt.

  • By Sheryl Irvin, March 11, 2010 @ 8:19 am

    Thanks for the great insight Brad, very interesting as a job seeker to get a different perspective. Thank you for sharing.

  • By Joe, March 12, 2010 @ 10:41 am


    Thanks for the priority list and the links toward the end. As a vent, this is a beneficial article for anyone who is a recruiter. You’re preaching to the choir. But the first 90% of this post is not really advice and conflicts with the title, which makes it less relevant to your intended audience – job seekers.

    Unfortunately, it (and some of the subsequent comments) reads like a thinly-veiled rant, and the acerbic wit adds to that impression. Frankly, any job hunter worth his or her salt is _already_ working through referral.

    I won’t take it personally if recruiters blow me off – in fact, I naturally assume they have other priorities. I already know that I need someone of note – who might even have a referral bonus on the line – to keep headhunters or administrators accountable. I always assume at the outset that a recruiter is not simply a trained monkey looking for keywords, but I’ve been burned by people – unlike you – who DON’T get what their client’s needs actually are, or by hacks who initiate the search and interview process but then give candidates the fade. This is a small minority of recruiters, but they tarnish the image of the profession for the rest.

    That said, I appreciate the peek into the recruiter’s mind.

    Now, how about sharing some stories or ways – besides the obvious, referral – that we can get and hold a recruiter’s attention and secure a response? How about having multiple referrals emailing and calling? Snail-mail letters of recommendation from VP and C-levels? In-person impromptu visits? Can we buy you lunch or a beer? Send you an iTunes gift certificate? :)

  • By Tom Crowley, March 12, 2010 @ 11:40 am

    Great stuff! Thanks for putting this in a clear usable format. I am in the market for the first time in 20 years and am still trying to learn the rules. The above gives me a clear guide to see where I stand and what I need to do to move up the ladder of importance within the recruiters world.

  • By asdsa, March 19, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    Personally, I think this recruiter is crass, and he has no polish nor professionalism.

    I’ve just read, in the newest edition of “What Color is your Parachute,” that using multiple job search strategies is proven to lead to more offers… and I have always thought that getting your resume into the hands of recruiters is one way of gaining exposure in the marketplace. They WILL search their resume databanks if they have a need to fill.

  • By Alconcalcia, March 23, 2010 @ 4:04 am

    I don’t have call to use recruitment agency’s but feel I must comment on this quote.

    “The company paying my fee is the client, not the candidate”

    I disagree. The candidate is your most valuable commodity. They are your lifeblood. No candidates, no fee. Treat them with the respect they deserve and they may well look to you to be their mentor throughout their career – i.e. pick up the phone to you every time they want to move jobs. Treat them badly and they will never deal with you again and bad mouth you at every opportunity.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, March 23, 2010 @ 6:56 am


    I agree that as recruiters you have to treat candidates with respect. Nothing in my article disputes that point. However, the company pays my fee, therefore by definition they are the client.

  • By Dorothy Dalton, June 13, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    Hi Brad – this is one area of mismatched expectations that causes ill feeling – search consultants work for the client – NOT the candidate. You have covered all the basic points.

    The best way a candidate can connect with a recruiter or search professional is via a professional network so that they appear in any searches they may ever run in connection with a specific search in the future. I have heard that some companies now receive so many unsolicited resumes that they don’t even have time to upload them onto the company data base.

  • By James, July 14, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

    I use to work as a recruiter. The reason I never replied was because 90% of the resumes sent in never read the description of the job and had absolutely nothing in common as far as skills with the job.

    Just some insight from a recruiter.

  • By Chechi Martinez, February 11, 2011 @ 8:40 am

    For all of you Recruiter, Reply to the applicants, As somebody said, ” that will sets part the dealer from the professional” Both Clients and Candidates should be in high your priority list, as Alconcalcia stated, the client pays the fee, but without your Candidate “Comodity” you cannot complete the task, therefore, NO FEE. Put yourself in other people shoes.

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