Why finance recruiters don’t respond to your applications

Why don’t financial services recruiters respond when you apply for jobs? The populist response to this common question usually involves some recruiter bashing, but I’d like to provide a different and more balanced perspective (if not a full-blooded case for the defence). To understand the reasons why recruiters appear to ignore you, it’s best to consider the different types of recruiter as well as the different reasons why you might be waiting on a response.

Whilst recruitment consultants (agencies) and search consultants (headhunters) are quite different in their approach, they have one important thing in common: they don’t exist to serve candidates – they exist to serve the corporate customers that pay them their fees.

Of course, most of these firms want to provide a professional and reputable service to the candidate community. Contrary to public opinion, even individual recruiters have a conscience. Most want to help people and be responsive, but it would be a mistake to think of them in a similar vein to a walk-in high street agency or a public service such as a government job service. When you work for a recruitment firm then time is money and as harsh as that sounds, they don’t exist to find you a job any more than they can magic one out of thin air. However, rest assured, that if they think your background/CV/résumé ticks boxes for an incoming mandate, and they think they can monetize you, then they will be in touch soon enough.

In-house recruiters (corporate talent acquisition) have different motivations. This species of recruiter exists not just to help employers hire the talent they need, but also to represent their company and brand in the market too. However, in-house recruiters are extremely busy. Their roles are multi-faceted and internal meetings often fill 50%+ of their day. Their phones ring off the hook from the aforementioned agencies and search firms as well as from candidates (and in the case of talent acquisition directors, from tech firms and service providers purporting to make their jobs easier). This can make them sometimes feel like they’re under siege. Their priority will be working with the hiring managers and with business areas they serve, plus the candidates they are putting forward for roles.

Most in-house recruiters I know will respond to candidates who contact them professionally, but they will certainly prioritize those that appear to be a good match on paper over the highly speculative and impersonal approaches that are becoming far too common.

This is the case for the defence. However, I appreciate that irrespective of the type of recruiter you are waiting on, if you have been put forward for a role, had an interview or even waiting on an offer, then you clearly deserve a response and there is a moral ‘duty of care’ for the recruiter to get back to you. I’ve been a candidate myself and know what it feels like to wait – especially with so much is seemingly at stake. In many cases, though, you’re probably not being ignored. It’s more likely the recruiter doesn’t have an answer for you and is desperately trying to reach their client or hiring manager (who sometimes go AWOL as unwell or have taken a last minute holiday) for news before coming back to you in-between juggling multiple other open roles, meetings and responsibilities of course.

As mentioned previously, I’m not looking to excuse – only to explain. Ultimately, if you think you’re not being treated with due respect and professionalism then vote with your feet and work with a recruiter or employer that treats you the way you would expect.

Dan Whitehead is founder of City Career LAB (a career coaching company) and a 20+ year veteran of recruitment and corporate Talent Acquisition in Financial Services.

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