4 Reasons Candidates Aren't Responding to Your Emails


Pooja is a recruiter at XYZ Infolabs.

XYZ Infolabs is a pretty good place to be - they are working on interesting problems, they have capable leaders and a solid work culture. Yet, whenever Pooja reaches out to top talent regarding open positions at her company, they usually don’t respond or they decline. With more positions opening up faster than she can close, Pooja is in a tight spot.  

Sound familiar?

As a recruiter, it is challenging enough to get a passive candidate to sit up and take notice. But it is harder to convert the candidate’s attention to interest. This happens because a lot of what happens after we reach out to a candidate remains in the dark.

What goes through their head when they read the mail?

What do they do after they read it?

What causes them to express interest or reject us?

In this article, we will look at a candidate’s journey from the time they are reached out to, up until they decide whether or not to respond. In doing so, we can identify the biggest factors that would cause a candidate to become disinterested in an opportunity.

The candidate journey after reachout

Before I took up this piece, I mapped out all the steps I usually take when I receive an email from a recruiter. Then I surveyed a number of colleagues, ex-colleagues and friends to understand their process when venturing to understand an opportunity better.

The chart represented here contains the basic steps most of us will take when a recruiter reaches out to us with an email.


As you can see, people don’t go directly from reachout to response - there are several steps a candidate takes before a decision like that is made. And a lapse at any stage of this journey could result in a drastically different outcome.

The key point to remember here is that passive candidates today are a lot like customers. They have options to choose from. And they’d like to do their research, ask for opinions and evaluate before deciding whether it is something they want to go with. As with any customer, it is up to us to equip a candidate with all the information necessary to make a choice.

So what makes candidates not respond to/decline a hiring email?

When the candidate doesn't fall in the target pool 

The importance of targeting the right people cannot be stressed enough. There are some obvious red flags that would put off a candidate right away as a result of bad targeting. These include

  •  the role would be perceived a step down from what they are doing currently
  • the opportunity doesn’t seem to offer much new learning
  • the job doesn’t relate well to their experience

Targeting the right people is critical in closing a position quickly. It helps us understand what would appeal to the person and hence what to pitch, leading to better conversions. Otherwise, your requirement will be a generic “tier 1 college, X years experience and must have worked for Amazon/Facebook/Google” which might not be helpful to hit your funnel metrics. After all, “best” doesn’t translate to “best for me”.

How to overcome this?

Whenever a job requirement is given, build an Opportunity Description over a job mandate. Depending on what kind of role you’re looking to fill, your approach to targeting should be different.

Say you need an SDE 3 and you’ve already hired people for that role. Just doubling down on what has worked for you earlier could lead to good results. Look at the people in the team currently - why did they join? Look at your competition - what kind of people are they hiring? What is the problem your company is solving - who would be interested in this problem?

These questions will help you narrow down on the kind of people who would jump at this opportunity.

Say you’re looking for a VP of Sales - it is challenging if you’ve never hired someone for that role before. So the key here is to understand your target candidate pool as quickly as possible. So shortlist as many people you can within the first 10 days, keeping a wide selection from different competitors, backgrounds and your ideal candidates. Get your Hiring Managers to talk to them. Now, group the candidates who best fit the role and the candidates who impressed the HM’s. See what they have in common and decide your target candidate pool accordingly.

Ambiguous website, inaccessible jobs page

It is impossible to convey all you have to say about the company and the role in your first email. The candidates are heavily reliant on your website to know what your company does, and the careers page to understand the job better.

After going through your website if a candidate is still unclear on what your organization does, rest assured their interest has faded a little. Conversely, if a candidate Googles your company and no relevant results show up, the reachout email will come across as a hoax.

How to overcome this?

It is ideal to include links to your website with some press snippets about your company in the reachout mail itself (if you are a Belong customer, all that is automated). Ensure your mail and your website clearly conveys the space you work in and what you do. The careers/jobs page in your website should ideally be easily findable. It is great if you could update it with the current openings and a description for each role. Including client testimonials in the website/email also works to build credibility.

Poor Glassdoor ratings

In the day and age of social, peer review is the biggest contributor to a buyer’s decision. For restaurants it is Zomato, and for employers it is Glassdoor. 61% candidates go through Glassdoor ratings and reviews while checking out a company. So if you aren’t there yet, now is a good time to do so.

Glassdoor is the easiest and most trusted way for a candidate to get an insider perspective of the work culture, environment and happiness at your company. And right after friends and family, candidates trust the content from employees the most. Nothing scares off a candidate as effectively as your own employees saying “this isn’t a great place to be”.

How to overcome this?

Create an account on Glassdoor if you haven’t already, and encourage your employees to rate and review your company. Ask them to be frank - the reviews are anonymous and the pro's and con's they list out are great insights for your company. If you receive a negative review, even a single one, ensure you acknowledge and address it. It builds transparency and shows that you are a responsible employer.

Weak social media presence

In CareerArc’s Employer branding study, it was found that 75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job. And social channels are the best and easiest way to build your brand. Networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Quora are awesome to showcase the work you do at your company, the topics that matter to you and your work culture.

Building a strong social presence like Microsoft and Buffer requires consistency and dedidcation - it is understandable if you don't have the bandwidth. But there is no reason to have a weak social presence either - simple things like blogging on Medium and answering questions on Quora can help you start off.

How to overcome this?

Populate your LinkedIn page with information about your company, pictures of the office and people.

Check out Meetup.com and identify some relevant groups of techies, designers, etc. in your city. Offering just your office space and maybe some refreshments could spread goodwill among people leading to a boost in brand awareness. It also lets you interact with talent directly and understand what interests them.

If you have the bandwidth, blogging is a fantastic channel to educate and interest people while demonstrating the kind of work you do.

We’d earlier written a blog on how to boost your employer brand across various channels. I hope that helps as well.

In conclusion, a candidate forms a perception about your company through many stages; there is always something we can do at each stage to strengthen it. 

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