The Mysterious Tale of the Incredible Vanishing Candidate

Here’s a story I’d wager all Recruiters are familiar with and despite its toxicity for all parties involved it is still a regular occurrence. I’m working on a vacancy for one of our clients and I find the perfect candidate; they have the right skills, are at the correct point in their career, are located close to the employer’s offices and when briefed are really keen on the role. We agree to present the applicant forward for the role and to get back to them with feedback ASAP.

Now the next stage of our story can be fluid from case to case as sometimes it happens before a telephone interview has taken place, on other occasions it has happened mid-interview process (call from client “why hasn’t so-and-so arrived for their interview?”) and on one occasion it has happened to me after the candidate has completed the full three stage (telephone interview>technical test>office interview) process and is actually being offered the job!!

Whenever it happens isn’t the point, the incident is the same – the candidate vanishes into thin air.

Previously receptive to emails, text messages or phone calls all of a sudden they go completely silent, off grid, absent, disappear. Vanish.

So, what on earth is going on? Well, the cynics amongst us know that some of these early-stage vanishers could be other Recruiters who have ghosted a CV (either created a fake CV or used a real CV but just changed a few of the key details and name) in order to find out from us who our client is. Once they have that info they need no longer engage with us and so don’t answer our calls (as an aside this happened to me once and the Recruiter in question had been dumb enough to leave some details within the CV so I could trace him to his employer, a company I was friendly with….I knew his boss…..hilarious!). But this would still only explain a small portion of the vanishers so it’s safe to say that something odd is going on with genuine candidates out there. Perhaps they are being kidnapped by other Recruiters or job applicants? Maybe its aliens, they do love to abduct folk after all! Maybe it’s an injury, or illness or even death (I’m sure this must actually happen sometimes sadly) – job hunting is a perilous task after all.

The reality is some candidates just decide to vanish, I’m guessing they’ve either found a new role or decided to stay put with their present employer or, perhaps have decided on reflection that the role they’ve applied for isn’t quite what they’re after. Let’s be clear, all of these are perfectly acceptable reasons for withdrawing from the recruitment process, but what is completely unacceptable and a frankly ridiculous thing to do is to vanish into thin air without telling the recruiter of their change in plans.

Let’s pause for a moment and address the elephant in the room; the services of a recruitment consultancy are completely free of charge to an applicant and in theory that’s an amazing deal. Seriously, you give someone who knows your industry and location your CV and then they set about presenting you with a load of suitable jobs, they submit the applications to the jobs you choose to go forward for, they help you prepare for the interview and negotiate the best remuneration package available for you at the end of the process, what could be a better deal than that? Or maybe you’d prefer to spend your evenings scouring through job adverts online and in newspapers? So, to completely vanish on them when you know they are trying to work their bum off for you is nothing less than bloody rude.

Now obviously we all know Recruiters aren’t doing this entirely for the love of helping people find jobs, someone is paying us but when it isn’t you I personally think you have a bit of a responsibility to play with a straight bat and not simply vanish. Certainly, vanishing can be extremely harmful to the recruiter’s relationship with their client, as it makes us look like we had never spoken to you in the first place.

Ok, so whilst we’re dealing with elephants let’s also be honest and deal with that one’s younger, only slightly smaller brother; some recruiters are idiots. Some Recruiters send your CV places without asking you, some Recruiters repeatedly call you about jobs focused on a skill or technology you used once 10 years ago but that still lingers on your CV, some Recruiters won’t take no for an answer when you decide a job isn’t quite right for you. I’m certain there are many many more sins that some Recruiters are guilty of, I’m just not aware of them because at Novate IT and 52 Degrees North we don’t do things that way (- yeah I know, I would say that, but I’m happy for you to ask ANY of the clients or candidates we’ve worked with over the last 20 years).

The point here is that (and I firmly believe this) most Recruiters are not like this, many/most work hard to do a good, honest and reasonable job by their candidates (so they can get paid by their clients). So, with these points in mind it’s just not a reasonable act to vanish when they are trying to help you achieve your goals.

So, why should a Vanisher give a damn? They’ve presumably disappeared because they achieved whatever objective they set out to – they’ve got a new job elsewhere, or a raise from their present employer etc. so why should they care? Well here’s just a few reasons:

  1. They will almost certainly want to change job again at some point in the future and may just find that their ideal next career move is being hired for by the recruiter they’ve previously vanished on. Will they be perceived as a credible candidate given their track record?
  2. Remember, the employer also knows the Vanisher’s name too, and is likely to be frustrated at their actions and their time being wasted engaging with someone who disappeared into the ether. Even if the Vanisher re-appears as a direct applicant or through another recruiter at best they can look forward to a red-face conversation in the interview or at worst their application will be dismissed as more potential time wasted.
  3. Related to point 2, the hiring manager could turn up next working anywhere. Again, imagine being ruled out of your dream job at Google/Facebook/Debenhams/Notts County (You Pies!!!) because you’d previously messed the hiring manager around. You’d be gutted, right?
  4. We recruiters never quite believe someone has vanished on us (we’re eternal optimists) and so it’s likely you’ll be getting emails, texts, phone calls and voicemails at the very least daily for a while as we try to reach you. Seriously, who can deal with the agro of constantly avoiding phone calls etc?!? (I appreciate this isn’t exactly a major job hunting issue but still something to keep in mind – I know a recruiter at another company who will call a Vanisher 20+ times per day until he gets an answer! Ouch.)

The answer to avoiding all this silliness is simply to communicate; be willing to call the recruiter you’ve been working with and tell them the bad news. If they’re a good egg they take it on the chin, probably congratulate you and send you on your way with their best wishes. And if they throw a strop? – then you’ll definitely know who to avoid dealing with next time around. If on the other hand you simply don’t have the time/will/energy/inclination to listen to them trying to change your mind and to continue with their application then just email them; a couple of sentences explaining that you’ve made your decision and why is sufficient. They might still be a bit miffed but they’ll still be happier to have been told than if you had simply evaporated.

Stewart Smith – Self-professed recruitment expert and Bristol’s least hated IT recruiter.

– If you’d like some help with your CV, job hunt or any other career development matter DM or email me stewart@novate-it.co.uk