Dear candidate, are you a professional stalker?

In case you’ve missed the post on how to make it onto the blacklist (or graylist) of a headhunter, read this. We’d like to pick out one particular bullet point:


When looking for a job, a job hunter – when done right – will be in touch with:

  • headhunters (that’s short for Recruitment Consultant or Executive Search Consultant)
  • decision makers at potential employers, incl. board members and HR representatives
  • their own contacts

Contacting the above people correctly will result in invitations to first round interviews, that to a certain extent will result in second, then third and fourth round interviews.

So far, so good.

Job hunters will notice that:

  • responsive headhunters suddenly fall silent
  • encouraging decision makers stop responding
  • people you clicked with don’t return your phone call
  • emails go unanswered

Not good.

And that’s the tricky part. How do you maneuver that labyrinth? When do you interpret lack of reaction as lack of interest? When do you follow up? How much following up is too much following up?

[Note: in a perfect world we would not have to even discuss this. It should be standard for everyone to give and receive feedback. It should be obvious for people to keep their word. The vast majority of job hunters can’t afford to throw a tantrum and simply decide to discontinue a recruitment process, just because somebody was a week late with feedback or not re-engage with a headhunter that a year earlier failed to provide feedback to a shortlisted candidate. We do not live in a perfect world. Deal with it.]

Preventive measures to avoid miscommunication and false assumptions:

End every conversation with the following question: what are the next steps?
In other words: who is in touch with whom, how and when? If you don’t hear back for any reason, when is it OK to follow-up and how? After the conversation, send a thank you email and confirm the agreed. Then stick to it… kind of.

Kind of?
Let’s assume somebody offered to inform you about the outcome of the interview by Tuesday. DO NOT write an email on Wednesday morning saying, “You promised to write yesterday. You haven’t. When can I expect an answer?”. Give the person another 3-4 days and then write something like, “Dear XX, I haven’t heard back from you. When do you think can I expect some feedback?”

When do you follow-up?
If you don’t hear back, write a follow-up message after 7-10 days, kindly inquiring, if the person has received the below email. And then? If there was an intermediary, ask them for some feedback. If not, give them a call. If that does not help, do a final follow-up within 4-6 weeks and then let go.

How much follow-up is too much?
Anything that exceeds the above.

Let’s consider another scenario: you had a “let’s get to know each other meeting”, though most interviewers will have an agenda that they may or may not disclose depending on how you present yourself and how well you fit the projects they have – so it’s almost just a “let’s meet”-thing. An interviewer might end the meeting by saying, “We’ll be in touch.” If you have failed to clarify what that means, do not become a stalker. If an interviewer has something for you, they will let you know… after one month, after two months, even after three months. Don’t call / write them once every 2-3 months (or God forbid even more often). Whenever the person sees your number on their screen, they’ll think, “Oh no… not that person again!” If you are that intensive with them, you might behave the same way when actually in a recruitment process. They won’t want to risk that by vouching for you.

When do you interpret lack of reaction as lack of interest?
Never. You don’t know what you don’t know. The person who promised to provide feedback might be in the hospital. An HR person that was asked to screen you by phone might have had a bad day. Maybe their dog had just died. You don’t know what you don’t know.