Better Candidate Communication

Oct 9, 2013

As a client I try to provide my agency partners transparent and honest feedback regarding their candidates. Agencies hate hearing that a candidate was not a “cultural fit” or the team just didn’t “see it.” So I try not to be that type of client. This open feedback, though, needs to be filtered when delivering the negative news to the candidate. Just because I said something to the recruiter doesn’t mean it should be said to the candidate. The candidate invested time and energy to come visit with my team so I want to be respectful of their effort. However, some candidates don’t have the maturity to accept the feedback in the spirit of professional improvement in which is intended.

Recently, I shared with a recruiter that his candidate just didn’t seem engaged with the interview (which he wasn’t). The candidate couldn’t focus on discussion and at times seemed like he was annoyed with some of my questions. The interview didn’t go well and I provided detailed feedback to the recruiter. My parting comment to the recruiter was that “I’m not sure the candidate even wanted the position.” This was an accurate summary of our interaction with his candidate. Additionally I asked the recruiter to cushion the feedback, which was pointed (and won’t be shared here). Instead the recruiter chose to deliver the message almost verbatim. The resulting follow up email to me and our leadership team was less than well received.

The lessons learned from this situation are threefold:

  1. The client. As the client I need to be more guarded in my feedback to agencies about their candidates. I tend to be very direct, open, and honest when dealing with candidates who are not moving forward. It’s the best thing to do in most cases. However, when working through an intermediary perhaps something gets lost in translation. So, to that end, I own the mistake and will learn from it.
  2. The recruiter. As the agency recruiter, there should be a more thoughtful filter applied when sharing news with candidate. I can’t imagine he would ever want a disgruntled candidate to call his client. It does cause me to be more hesitant in future dealings and I’m sure that’s not the type of relationship an agency recruiter ever wants with a client. The recruiter should ask himself: “How would I handle this feedback if delivered to me?”
  3. The candidate. I get it. We are in the people business and people are often difficult to predict. The recruiter can’t prevent a rogue candidate from calling/emailing the client after the interview and doing something dumb. For this reason I am a bit more forgiving. This incident reflects more negatively (at least in my eyes) on the candidate than the recruiter. But the next candidate needs to be better vetted. If there was a better match to the position in the first place, then we could have avoided this situation all the way around.

In short, the recruiter gets most of the blame in situations like this, fair or not. And for that reason the recruiter needs to be as mindful as possible when providing negative client feedback to their candidates.