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Tales of Candidate In-Experience

By March 12, 20157 Comments

This week’s exposure to recruiter-bashing came at a business networking function I attended earlier this week.  A conversation with a very entrepreneurial-minded lady wound it’s way from her upbringing in New Zealand, to her life overseas, and her “work” history littered with strange, bizzare and barely credible business ventures.  In her own mind she was an entrepreneur anyway, although the truth is this word can seemingly apply to anyone from Richard Branson down to people that don’t know what they want to do for a living, so they end up doing nothing of consequence.

Her return to New Zealand in a jobseeking frame of mind saw her encounter all forms of nefarious entities of our recruitment industry (you know, the recruiters posting vacancies on job boards).  Naturally, with no actual credible or tangible working history to refer to, all the recruiters she encountered struggled to “understand” her and failed to “get her any interviews”.  I explained to her that recruiters are there to recruit for clients, not provide career advice to someone effectively looking to enter the permanently-employed workforce for the first time.  Recruiters by necessity, driven more by the behaviours and demands of their clients and hiring managers, are always going to be looking for the candidate that fits more neatly into a box.  Because it’s those candidates that are known as being place-able.  And recruiters place people, to please clients, and to make money.

It’s that simple.

But it didn’t wash, of course.  She decided she could do better.  Amazingly, she got a job in a (since acquired, now defunct) recruitment brand, where she proceeded to “treat candidates with the respect they deserve”.  Funnily enough she didn’t last much beyond a year.  I’m sure the candidates all loved her, but clearly she didn’t place enough of them into roles to actually make a worthwhile living out of our disgraceful profession.

The thing is, you just can’t work in recruitment and please all the people all the time.  That’s why it’s always a red flag when a wannabe recruiter tells me they want to get into recruitment because they like people, and want to help them.

They will hate it.

When we receive spammed or generic job applications from candidates, particularly the ones from people not even vaguely related to the role we are recruiting, we typically respond with a generic reject email.  And so it was that another one of my team received a disgruntled email from a rejected candidate this week:

WOW!  I’m so glad that its a ‘no’ as I would be unwilling to go any further with a company that produces a ‘rejection’ letter like this!  So unprofessional on so many levels! I wasn’t applying for a specific job so I don’t know why you read my email “along with everyone elses” …. next time you send out a standardised letter maybe you should read it first.

Never ones to turn down the chance for debate, we responded:

Thanks for your feedback, it’s genuinely appreciated. Unfortunately, due to the number of CVs we receive, we simply don’t have the time to write personalised emails to every single applicant who emails a CV. So yes, our  “rejection” letter is generic. Another option is no reply, which I’m pretty sure you’ll get from some other agencies that you’ve emailed. I don’t think this is ideal either. A further option again, would be the standard “We will keep your CV on our file etc.”. To be honest, I find these emails to be slightly insincere. You can read our generic email as being “unprofessional” as is your prerogative. Personally, I prefer (and stand by) the sentiment expressed in our “rejection” letter, which I feel is a more personable.

In terms of you not applying for a “specific job”, I will with respect turn your argument around slightly. You suggest my response wasn’t relevant to the email you sent and that I haven’t taken the time to read your email and amend my response accordingly. How much research have you done into Rice Consulting? Have you read the vacancies on our website? If you have, you’ll know that we recruit exclusively for the Recruitment and Recruitment/HR industries. Therefore, all candidates who have taken the time to research what we do, will have made contact in order to pursue opportunities within this sector. This is why our generic response for unsuccessful candidates carries the line “recruitment consultant vacancies”.

I am absolutely guilty of sending a generic rejection email. I also agree that we as a business can put more thought into making it “non-recruitment” specific for people such as yourself. However, you have also sent me, and I’m guessing many others, a generic email. I believe that your career search would be better spent engaging with agencies who are specific to the sector that you wish to work in, and then personalising your email based on the vacancies that they advertise or the specific sector that they serve.

I hope you take this email as intended, and I’m more than happy to talk through any further points on the phone.

We haven’t yet had a response…

How would you respond?  Did we go too far?  Should we just send out bland, pithy-mouthed rejection emails that tick the compliance box and nothing more?  Are we just being arrogant recruiters, and should we allow candidates to spam us with generic applications but not receive the same in return?

You can comment below.  Or even better, you can tell us in person, at the upcoming #RicePowWow on 26th March.  It’s a free networking event that we run at the end of every quarter and is open to anyone in or associated with the recruitment industry.  Even the people mentioned above, if you read this, you’re more than welcome.  What better way to celebrate the end of another Financial Year of recruiter bashing and recruitment stories with some drinks on the boys from #GetIn and some pizzas from the Trade Me Jobs team.

We also have a free ticket for #IT18NZ to give away to one lucky PowWow attendee – so come along – RSVP here.


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Kevin Chappell says:


    What is the saying by John Lydgate? “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

    I think you went beyond what you needed but I understand why you did. I suppose as we get older, we get more grumpy at timewasters who don’t seem to give a proverbial that their nonsensical application for a job that isn’t even in the same stratosphere as their skillset, even deserves a response! In today’s environment where clients want to pay less for what we deliver, then somehow we need to be much leaner in how we operate. So we just have to ignore these people or simply do what you do – autoresponse. Respect deserves respect, lack of it doesn’t. I’m much blunter now than I used to be. Just this morning I had a conversation with someone who applied for a job where the key competency was fluency in English. I spelled it out clearly in the advert because it is absolutely essential for this role. I received a call from someone I could not understand. But I was polite…

  • Good on you, Jon. Your email response was articulate, accurate and assertive yet respectful. I heartily congratulate you for standing up to the junk thrown at you. It’s interesting how many people hold our industry to a standard that they don’t regard as relevant or appropriate for themselves.

    • Sean Walters says:

      Ross, don’t be too quick to praise Jon. This email response lacks correct citation. 😉

  • Mark Mansour says:

    Great response mate. 🙂

  • Dave Mitchell says:

    Ha, had a similar experience this week myself John – exchange follows. Original approach was an email sans CV but with a hot link to their Linked In profile. I would have waxed a little more lyrical like your eloquent response but I was too busy trying to make a hole in your retirement fund ; )

    1. Morning Dave
    I am interested in the position above, would you be able to send me more details e.g. company profile, job description, etc…
    Thanks for your help
    Man seeking job

    2. Hi Man seeking job

    Thanks for the note but I checked out your profile on Linked In and unfortunately you do not have the desired background. A strong operational recruitment background within an agency environment is required.


    3. David
    WOW that was special.
    – You did not answer any of my questions
    – You quickly made judgment and assumptions based only job titles
    It gives me a flavour of the caliber and customer services you are providing 🙂
    thanks and good luck

    4. Man seeking job – do you have a strong operational recruitment background within an agency background?

    Provide me the evidence and I’d be happy to elaborate.

    Enjoy this magnificent Tuesday afternoon.

    It was from a bloke high up in local government who I’d happened to spy being interviewed on TV last week…zero history within a sales environment let alone recruitment.


  • Judy Moore says:

    I view this slightly differently from the previous responders. I used to work for a recruitment company where KPI’s, target and sales were what it was all about. Obviously the business model needed to be financially viable, but I felt it was at a cost of not being able to offer some basic kindness and support to some people who were desperate, depressed and even seriously vulnerable. Where some genuine support or advice would go a long way to giving them hope – and in most cases that is what some people needed………… just hope that things would change for them one day.

    Experience of a job seeker………, a job ad leaps out at me – this is just the job for me, I am excited by the prospect, my skills and experience match the ad, I write a great letter that takes hours to get just right, reformat/edit my CV and send it off with my heart in your mouth – will I get a generic response, will I get a response at all, will some-one phone me, will I get an interview? When the rejection arrives or I hear nothing further (but why have I been rejected my skills and experience matched exactly what they were looking for – but the generic response gives no real explanation) a little bit of my self confidence, energy, belief in my abilities takes a knock and each time I am rejected a bit more of that confidence is chipped away so each time I apply for a job it is a bigger hurdle to climb. Applying for jobs can be an emotional roller-coaster.

    This of course is not the experience for every job seeker, but as recruiters dealing with people on a daily basis I think it does not take much effort to offer support to individuals whom we know need it. Maybe the fact that they apply for jobs that do not suit their expertise or are unhappy with a generic response is more of an indication of someone who may be feeling desperate.

    The virtualRPO model of recruiting offers me an ideal balance of being able to provide both client and candidate care. I absolutely focus on the needs of the client, sourcing the best candidates for them, working as economically as possible, keeping them regularly updated with progress, reference checking, negotiating offers, but when the clock stops ticking for the client and it is my own time, I will offer words of encouragement to candidates. I talk with them about what they really want to be doing in their future career – are they really heading in the right direction, give them advice about their CV, just offer some words of encouragement if I sense they need this. Hopefully they read in the email or leave the interview with some re-affirmed belief in themselves and their abilities. It doesn’t take long – is this really too much to ask of us as recruiters?

    I have had feedback from people I have previously interviewed who themselves have moved into recruitment. They said they have modelled their style of recruitment on how I dealt with them when I interviewed them. They commented on how different I was from other recruiters and how they valued their interactions with me. At the end of the day we are dealing with people and I think it is important to remember that.

    • Hi Judy, thanks for adding this perspective. I would certainly spend more time delivering bespoke feedback to a jobseeker if they write “a great letter that takes hours to get just right” as you say. Unfortunately that is a rarity, certainly in response to my ads anyway, and CV’s are usually spammed out with a click of a button. Thanks for handling all of your applicants so professionally though, it’s a pleasure to have you working with us in the vRPO model 🙂