A Cure for the Sounds of Silence

Jun 19, 2007

Two recruiters called me last month to offer recruiting assistance on a particular project they heard my company was working on. This was a routine search in the $50,000 to $60,000 range that we had filled hundreds of times before. In this particular instance, however, we were caught in a backlog.

The recruiters were right about the period of time being longer than usual. Since both were esteemed individuals I’ve known and respected for well over 10 years, I decided to invest about a half hour with each to fully explain the search.

I should emphasize that both of these individuals travel through recruiting associations, attend conferences, keep their skills sharp, and represent that single-digit minority I would entrust sensitive projects to.

You could understand why I was frustrated when both said, “We’ll get right on this” but proceeded to not call back for one week. Then two weeks. Then three weeks.

Sadly, this is the manner in which many recruiters treat their clients. This type of behavior is not limited to recruiter-versus-recruiter relationships alone. And this is why most clients and hiring managers develop a disdain for recruiters.

At the very least, one could have called back after two weeks and stated something along the lines of, “You know, Frank, I really worked hard on this but could not find anyone suitable to refer.”

Or something such as, “I’ve had some other commitments come up and can’t work on this. I wanted to get back to you rather than leave you with no follow up communication.”

There’s nothing worse to a hiring manager (I consider myself a hiring manager as well as a recruiter) than long periods of dead silence after a recruiter is enthusiastic about helping you out.

It would be best had you not called at all. Now not only did you not perform up to your expectations, but you actually fell short of your previous image and brand you created.

The Grace Period

Is there such a thing as an appropriate “sound of silence” timeframe? And if so, is it one week? Two weeks? One call per month?

I say it depends on the level of a search and specificity of the industry and skill set.

For a few exceptions, when you are dealing with positions in the under-$75,000 per year range, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t call your client and provide feedback on a semi-weekly basis.

I have one account that demands we conference every Friday. We did just that until there was an ample pipeline of candidates and the conferences were no longer needed.

I like clients who demand action, because I usually get reaction in return for our efforts.

In my real-life experience, whenever I have actually called a client and “fessed up” that their search is proving to be more time and effort than what we had anticipated, they have always appreciated the information. This is especially true if there are particulars that go with it.

Sometimes by providing feedback, the client relaxes criteria or increases salary. Other times they have decided to rearrange the retainer so as to not have my firm walk away.

But to not call back at all is inexcusable, unprofessional, and a complete waste of valuable business time. I’m just as mad as any client would be not hearing back from a recruiter for three weeks after being promised action!

The Missing Recruiters

As it turns out, our organization finally found the “right candidate” within the next week or so after sharing this search on a split arrangement with my two trusted colleagues. So the subcontracted assistance was thankfully no longer needed.

Trouble is, they don’t know that due to their own inadequacies.

You see, I decided to call them to notify them of our success. Just in case they were working late into the evenings making dozens of calls and foregoing golfing on weekends on my account, I decided to advise them their services were no longer needed and that our candidate had been selected.

And the real punch line to this story? When I called and left a message, they still did not call back!

This tells me that they:

  • never took the search seriously.
  • lacked respect for my time.
  • probably never spent more than one hour once they got off the phone with me.
  • probably treat their clients the same way.
  • have little regard for their image.

In a recent Fordyce Letter column, more than a few recruiters from around the country reported they had no qualms “walking away from difficult clients” if the search proved to be no longer worth the effort.

Walk away? Just like that? And leave another client scratching his head as to what’s wrong with our industry?

To walk away with no explanation tarnishes the search industry. To walk away and explain why this is necessary is a much better choice.

Please don’t give the rest of us a bad name through your long periods of silence! Call your clients. Call them weekly or semi-weekly. But please let them know something rather than handing them long periods containing nothing but the sounds of silence.

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