Why the Recruiter Didn’t Call You Back (And the Hidden Silver Lining)

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This article is part of our Video Game Job Hunt Guide. Read the full guide to learn how to write a strong resume, build a winning portfolio, ace your job interviews and more.

Hand reaching for telephone receiver

Why do you suppose they still haven’t called you back?

Have you sent your resume to several companies and haven’t heard anything back? Did you even have an interview, which was followed by… radio silence?

You might be surprised at the reasons why companies don’t follow up on applications and interviews. The good news? It’s usually all about them, and not about you. Here are some reasons for their delays, and what you can do to push things forward – and even use the delay to your advantage.

They’ve Lost Your Application

There’s a variety of great applicant-tracking software available to modern-day recruiters. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t use them or don’t use them correctly, because they can’t afford it or because their staff is not properly trained.

What does this mean for you? It means that it’s very likely some companies will simply lose your application before they get a chance to look at it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s stuck in a tracking system or lost in somebody’s mile-high inbox. The end result is that the process has stalled out.

What Where

The Manager/Recruiter Is Swamped, Disorganized, or Left the Company

Even when your application makes it into the hands of the hiring manager, it’s possible that they’re so overwhelmed with their “normal” work (programming, producing, etc.) that they don’t have time to look over your resume and get back to you. Unfortunately, this can knock you out of the running whether or not they think you might be a good candidate.

This is especially common in the software industry, where teams are frequently in “fire-fighting mode. Maybe they have a product deadline. Maybe they’re in an extended crunch. Maybe they’re scrambling to put together a product demo for a big industry event like PAX or E3.

It’s even possible that the person who received your resume has been moved to a different position, or has left the company. Whatever the reason, it may be a while before you hear back from them. If you hear back from them at all.

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They’ve Changed Their Hiring Plans

In the games business, things change fast. Projects get rebooted or redesigned. Teams get cut. Projects change their release dates or get canceled. Whenever a big change happens in a project or studio, the management team needs to rethink their staffing plan. That can mean that the job you’ve applied for is no longer needed right now, or might not be needed until weeks or months down the road.

Whenever that happens, it takes time for the company to reassess and get the new plan approved by senior management. In the meantime, you’ll be left in the lurch and wondering why they didn’t get back to you. And if they do get back to you? It might be to tell you the job is no longer available.

Bad News Is A Bummer

What if they’ve seen your resume or interviewed you, but decided that you’re not a fit for the role? Normally, somebody at the company will let you know they’re passing you up. But some managers will simply drag their feet because – let’s face it – it’s no fun to be the bearer of bad news.

Experienced recruiters and HMs won’t have a problem delivering this bummer of a message. But if the recruiter or HM is junior or bad at handling conflict, they might procrastinate. The work of doling out rejection letters is unpleasant. You might not get one until long after your interview, or not at all.

What You Can Do About It

Are you surprised at how these professional-looking companies can drop the ball in such unprofessional ways? If you’re frustrated at all the silly reasons that they didn’t call you back, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most complained-about aspects of any job hunt. But the best way to work with this problem is to be proactive. Sometimes, all it takes to get the ball rolling again is a little push in the right direction:

  • Contact the recruiter/HM and ask if they can give you a quick status update. This will remind them that it’s been a while since they’ve worked on their hiring responsibilities, and hopefully get them to take a look.
  • If you applied through an applicant tracking system, check the system to see if your status has changed (for example from “submitted” to “under review”). If it hasn’t changed, then at least you know it’s not a problem with your resume – the ball has been dropped on their side.
  • If you have a contact inside the company (as a result of your networking efforts… you’ve been networking, right?), ask them to track down the hiring manager. See if they can get a status update for you.
  • If the job was posted online, then check the web site to see if the job is still listed. If it’s not, then maybe the job opening has been closed or they’ve already filled the position with somebody else.
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This cloud has a silver lining: If their process has stalled out on you, it’s probably stalled out for the other applicants as well. This as an opportunity to get ahead of your competition! Take the actions listed above to get your application moving forward again – while your competition sits around complaining that nobody got back to them.

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Image: ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4 comments on “Why the Recruiter Didn’t Call You Back (And the Hidden Silver Lining)
  1. Teh vang says:

    This does clear out a lot of question on why I haven’t receive any call backs. Love the article, but what step should be taken if to get your application going forward?

    • Jason W. Bay says:

      Hi Teh, the last section in the article (“What You Can Do About It”) offers some suggestions. If you’ve tried those and still haven’t heard back, there may be nothing you can do about it. Sometimes companies won’t get back to you, and you just need to move on and continue your job search.

  2. Denise says:

    What would be a decent amount of time to wait? A week? A month? I don’t want to see *too* desperate or impatient, but I also don’t want to wait too long and get stepped on by more proactive competition.

    • Jason W. Bay says:

      In general, I think 1 week would be a reasonable amount of time to wait before you emailed the hiring manager or recruiting team to ask for a status update. But you can also ask them directly – at the end of the interview, you can ask something like “If I don’t hear back from you after 1 week, would it be okay for me to follow up via email? If so, who should I contact?”

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