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What do recruiters look for? (A guide for 2024)

what do recruiters look for?

If you feel like you’re being watched, you probably are—by a job recruiter. Recruiters play a very important role in you getting a job and that’s why you need to stand out in the best possible ways. Their job requires them to scour through applicants and pick the candidate who’ll be the best fit for the job—and we need that candidate to be you. But what happens when they ghost you? What do recruiters look for and how can you secure a call-back from them? 

Sharing her insights is Mandri Hettiarachchi, Global Partnership Associate at Capital Placement. Mandri is a certified career coach who helps candidates identify and achieve the right internship opportunities for them. 

Who are recruiters?

A recruiter, in the context of the hiring process, encompasses individuals responsible for identifying and bringing in new talent to a company. The scope of who qualifies as a recruiter can vary based on the company’s size and culture. In larger corporations, there’s often a dedicated Human Resources (HR) team overseeing talent acquisition, while in smaller setups, recruitment might involve everyday colleagues within the team. 

In this piece, the term “recruiter” extends to hiring managers and those associated with recruitment agencies. 

Now, understanding how to connect with recruiters is crucial. Whether you initiate contact by submitting your application directly or they reach out to you, building a relationship with recruiters is a two-way street. The proactive approach involves taking ownership of your application process and submitting tailored applications to specific companies. 

On the flip side, recruiters might discover your profile and initiate contact, headhunting you for potential opportunities. This segment explores the dynamics of this interaction, shedding light on how candidates can navigate and engage with recruiters effectively in both scenarios.

Why do recruiters ghost you?

Recruiters may occasionally vanish from the conversation—often without even an initial response to your conversation. We’re going to break it down into two camps: things that could be on you and things that are entirely beyond your control. 

When it might be your fault

We all make blunders, from grammatical errors to forgetting the company name. This category covers some common missteps that might lead recruiters to ignore your application. Things like a lacklustre application are pitfalls we can steer clear of.

#1 Not considering ATS

A common blunder is underestimating the impact of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS serves as a filtering tool for recruiters, managing the flood of applications. However, many candidates miss the mark by not tailoring their resumes and profiles to meet ATS criteria, resulting in missed opportunities.

“One mistake we see a lot of candidates making is that they don’t create their resumes, their CVs and their profiles to match the ATS system. By doing this, even though you might be the ideal candidate for this job, you are missing out. Because even before you get a chance to make a good impression—or even a first impression, you’ve already been kicked out of the process by an automated system,” explained Mandri.

Her advice? To beat the system you would need to redo your entire resume to match what the system is looking for. Avoid things that ATS dislikes. For example, overly creative CVs may fail to pass the system, leading to applications being sifted out before reaching the recruiter. 

Aligning resumes with ATS requirements is crucial, ensuring a better chance of making it through the initial screening. Let your accomplishments and your qualifications speak for themselves on your CV.

#2 Not meeting the requirements

The second pitfall to dodge is submitting a faulty application. This isn’t just about sending in a resume; it’s about ensuring your application aligns perfectly with the job’s requirements. As discussed in our conversation, Mandri brought up a crucial point – candidates often neglect the details outlined in the job description.

From graphic designers skipping assigned tasks to applicants targeting the wrong opportunities, the importance of comprehending the job description cannot be overstated.

Many people overly rely on LinkedIn’s Easy Apply and don’t read the criteria, and of course, this could lead to rejections. 

“Read the job description. It’s like having a cheat sheet for the exam. They’ve given you the answers, and all you have to do is read it to understand how you can be the solution,” advised Mandri.

By meticulously reading and comprehending job descriptions, candidates not only apply to the right opportunities but also tailor their resumes effectively. This not only increases the chances of getting shortlisted but also provides a strategic advantage during subsequent recruiter conversations. 

#3 Sending in generic CVs

One common blunder many job seekers make is using the same resume for different job applications. While it might seem like a quick and easy approach, it’s a big no-no. We have seen our fair share of generic CVs—but there is a way to fix it up!

Sharing her experience with one such CV, Mandri said: “I had a candidate with a niche background – mechanical engineering, a master’s in robotics, and a focus on bionics for animal welfare. Despite a well-crafted resume, connecting with employers was tough.”

To tackle this, Mandri took a personalised route. She researched companies matching the candidate’s interests, tailoring each resume for a specific company and even customising the candidate’s profile for a stronger impact.

“We shortlisted companies, found startups related to her interests, and tailored every CV. It was extra work, but she ended up with more tailored resumes.” This approach led to her securing the ideal internship.

The takeaway is clear: research, keep it relevant, and send tailored CVs for each job. Showing interest is only the start of it all; it significantly boosts your chances of standing out. Customisation could be the key to unlocking opportunities that generic applications might miss.

#4 Reaching out the wrong way 

The tone with which you approach recruiters matters—and so does the person you’re reaching out to. Mistakes in communication can be costly.

If you’re reaching out directly to the recruiter, get the basics right. Start with the company name and job role. Remember, you’re not the only one reaching out, so stand out. 

Don’t spam the entire team, and only reach out to the right people. We’ve seen cases where messages flooded multiple departments for a role that had nothing to do with them. It comes off as desperate and sends the wrong energy. If you’ve submitted your application and you’re the right match, trust the process. The right opportunity is seeking you as much as you’re seeking it.

“Be creative, but also be courteous. It’s crucial to remember there’s a person on the other side, doing the work. Don’t be selfish; keep them in mind,” was Mandri’s advice. 

In essence, when you reach out to recruiters, precision and professionalism go a long way. Avoid being rude to ensure that your efforts to stand out are positive and memorable, not detrimental to your job prospects.

#5 Neglecting your LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not just a social platform—it puts a face to your application and adds depth to it, too. Think of LinkedIn as Instagram for adults but unlike the Wild West of social media, professionalism is the key. 

Your profile must be up-to-date and professional in every aspect. From how you structure information to the tone of your content and even the emojis you use, every detail reflects on you as a professional, Mandri explained.

“Your picture has to be professional. No more selfies, no more duck lips. It’s important that you take a professional picture.”

But LinkedIn’s usefulness doesn’t end there because it’s also a dynamic networking platform. It’s not just about reaching out when job opportunities are live. Imagine connecting with professionals in your industry, building relationships, and expressing your interest before opportunities arise. Recruiters and hiring managers notice proactive candidates. It’s a two-way relationship; if they see your potential, they might reach out to you.

It’s a tool for professionals to gauge your background, interests, and network. Don’t underestimate its power. Engaging with professionals, sharing insights, and participating in discussions can set you apart. Remember, it’s not just about what you post; it’s about who’s noticing.”

When it might not be your fault

In this segment, we’ll explore the external factors that might lead to you being ghosted. These include an overwhelming influx of applications in larger companies managed by automated systems to the unique dynamics of smaller enterprises. Understanding these dynamics provides you with a broader perspective and resilience in navigating the ebb and flow of the recruitment process.

#1 Company policy 

People often face the challenge of being left in the dark about their application status due to company policy of not responding to rejected candidates.

Many companies, especially larger ones, adhere to this policy of not notifying rejected applicants. This isn’t a reflection of the candidate’s qualifications but is often a practical decision due to the sheer volume of applications. 

Smaller companies may lack the resources and manpower to respond promptly to all applicants. This can result in longer response times.

“I remember when we were hiring for a graphic designer, I got over 200 emails. We asked for a CV and a task. We wanted to make sure that we do respond to everyone but I did not expect to have so many emails coming in,” Mandri explained.

#2: Ghosted after initial contact

Encountering a situation where you’ve had initial contact with a recruiter or company, including email conversations or perhaps even a preliminary interview, only to be ghosted afterwards can be disheartening. But it doesn’t mean that it’s your fault. Here’s a more likely scenario.

After the initial contact, the company might find themselves with multiple strong candidates for the position. Since companies often engage in thorough evaluations of multiple candidates before reaching a decision, they may be conducting further interviews and assessments to make a final decision.

Additionally, the company may have shifted its focus to in-depth evaluations of shortlisted candidates. This process could involve more comprehensive interviews, skill assessments, or internal discussions before a final decision is made.

Stay patient and consider following up politely after a reasonable period, expressing your continued interest in the position. Acknowledge that decision-making processes take time, especially when the competition is stiff.

Send a well-crafted follow-up email expressing your enthusiasm for the position and seeking an update on the status of your application. Keep your communication professional and reiterate your interest in contributing to the company’s success.

#3 Final stage ghosting

Encountering ghosting after progressing through multiple interview rounds is the absolute worst one yet. While there are several reasons why a company may drop you after rounds of evaluation, there is little excuse for ghosting the candidate. 

Reasons for late-stage ghosting may include the company facing internal challenges, indecisiveness, or a lack of effective communication. 

In some cases, a shift in priorities or internal restructuring could be causing delays. Changes in management, budget constraints, or strategic shifts—any of these factors can lead to delays and lack of communication.

If you don’t receive updates after a significant period of time, consider reaching out. Politely express your continued interest and inquire about the status of your application.

If you don’t hear back at all, then don’t take it to heart. The company’s conduct is unprofessional, so consider leaving a constructive Glassdoor review. Be honest about your experience, emphasising the importance of transparent communication in the hiring process.

Final thoughts

Ghosting is not ideal in the hiring process but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Standing out and avoiding disastrous mistakes will take you a long way, though. But when it’s out of your control, treat the situation as a learning experience. If a company demonstrates a lack of transparency or responsiveness, it might be a sign of a less-than-ideal work environment. Use this knowledge to inform your future job searches.

No matter what, maintain your professionalism throughout the process. Even if you feel frustrated, responding with grace and maintaining a positive online presence will serve you well in the long run.

Wondering how to kick off your career this year? Book a call with us! Let’s talk about it. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for the latest career information, tips, and updates.




Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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