Sometimes, whether we want it to be or not, the answer is just “no.”
No, you’re not going on in the interview process. No, the hiring manager isn’t interested. No, the recruiter doesn’t think you’re a strong enough fit.
Unfortunately for you, people aren’t always stellar at saying “no.” Maybe they don’t like having uncomfortable conversations. They don’t want to (gasp) disappoint you. Or perhaps it’s because they’re simply lazy or inconsiderate.
Regardless, it’s important to be able to spot the signs that this isn’t “the one.” This way, you can redirect your energy and focus toward opportunities with genuine promise.
Here are five indicators that it’s probably time to move on:
1. A Super Responsive Recruiter Suddenly Becomes Hard to Reach
It’s kind of like the non-appearance-focused spouse who suddenly races out and buys a bunch of new clothes and a gym membership. When someone starts behaving completely out of character, you smell trouble.
This is also the case when working with a recruiter. If he or she has been totally Johnny-on-the-spot in the correspondence and follow-up—and then suddenly becomes tough to reach or turtle-slow with responses—this may well be a sign.
Agency recruiters usually make money only when they close deals. Corporate recruiters are typically evaluated on how successful they are at filling open positions. Thus, if it becomes clear to them that you’re not going to go the distance, they may blip off the radar on you and focus on the favored candidate.
Is it cool? Nope. Do you deserve closure? Absolutely. Does it happen every day? Yep. (And if this is news to you, you’ll probably love this article: 4 Truths About Working With Recruiters That They’ll Never Tell You.)
Again, people aren’t always exactly graceful about delivering difficult news. Don’t let it unravel you. Focus on what you can control, and keep pushing forward.
Side note: I don’t advise giving the other party a piece of your mind if you’re not 100% certain it’s called for.
2. You’re Told She’s in a Meeting, Every Time
This is thematically like the suddenly unresponsive recruiter, but arguably worse. In this instance, she simply goes dark without any sort of explanation. And when you call her office to see if you can gain some clarity on what’s going on, she’s in a meeting. And another meeting. And yet another meeting.
Or maybe she starts (uncharacteristically) sending all your calls right into voicemail.
Here’s the thing: A recruiter’s job relies on prompt correspondence. We sink or swim based on our ability to communicate with and update our candidates. Thus, if you’re dealing with one who shifts into “completely unavailable” mode, it’s a sign that she’s both rude and, likely, no longer interested.
3. You Get the “I Think We Have a Bad Connection” Treatment
Years ago, one of my recruiting colleagues earned the infamous reputation as the master of the bad connection. He was so terrible at having the, “I’m sorry, but they’re not interested and here’s why...” conversation with his candidates that—when they started to become a bit pesky with the follow up calls—he’d pretend he couldn’t hear them.
“Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? Hello?”
Meanwhile, they’re on the other line, talking to him clear as a bell.
And it appears that my co-worker isn’t the only “professional” who uses this technique to close things out with candidates they no longer want to deal with. I recently coached a client who, upon following up to ask why he wasn’t moving on in the interview process, got the exact same response. When he hung up and called back, he went right into voicemail, multiple times. She was the VP of the company.
4. He Contradicts Himself on Social Media
Social media can also provide you with evidence that someone doesn’t want to talk with you anymore. Case in point: I once hired a copywriter to support a substantially large project. I paid the deposit and she went to work preparing a project outline. Shortly thereafter, she flat-out vanished. I tried every which way to connect with her to see what had happened and how we were going to resolve this most unexpected turn of events.
When I finally (after weeks of trying) got a response, she said she’d been so sick that she couldn’t reply to any emails or correspond at all.
Interestingly enough, I discovered that she was not too ill for Twitter or Facebook. Not only was she there, none of her posts gave any sort of indication of an illness at all.
If you’re a job seeker dealing with what feels like the runaround or a fabricated story, mosey over to that person’s social media platforms. You may uncover signs that he simply doesn’t have the gumption to tell it like it is.
5. She Consistently Has Something Urgent to Attend To
Via phone, this may be in the form of an audible doorbell or secondary phone ringing that the other party “has to” attend to, stat. If this is an in-person conversation, it may be a glance at their mobile followed by the urgent need to rush off to a faux emergency.
Don’t get me wrong: Stuff goes wrong sometimes, for all of us. In fact, my own kids have an uncanny talent for texting me with their “unsolvable problems” right when I’m in the middle of things like client meetings. I get it.
However, if you’re interacting with someone who seems to have these mini-emergencies with frequency, this could mean that she’s trying to get away from you.
These signs may annoy you or make job search feel even more challenging. But my intention is not to create despair. To the contrary, I want to help you spot game-playing or evasiveness swiftly. From there, you can decide how you want to play it.
Maybe you just table that opportunity and turn your focus elsewhere. Maybe you seek out another contact within the organization. Whatever your strategy, don’t let one opportunity or one unresponsive recruiter unravel you.
Fine-tune your performance as needed. Control what you can control.
When you dwell on the “no’s,” you take energy away from the activities that could lead to a “yes.” Certainly, you should give every opportunity that interests you your full effort and attention.
But when it’s time to move on from a job rejection? Move on. (And trust that karma will even everything out in the long run.)
Photo of person on tablet courtesy of Tetra Images/Getty Images.
Jenny Foss is a career strategist, recruiter, and the voice of the popular career blog JobJenny.com. Based in Portland, OR, Jenny is the author of the Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit and the Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. Also check out the Weekend Resume Makeover Course, find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny, and book one-on-one coaching sessions with her on The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author