Honesty: The Best Policy No Matter Who Is Involved

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Dec 22, 2011

Have you ever been in a situation where the perfect candidate pulled out at the last minute? Or even worse, have you ever been used by a candidate to leverage a raise or a promotion with his/her current company? For me, the worst thing that could happen is a when a person accepts a job, goes through the background check, does everything you expect…and then doesn’t show up.

And that really happened – the guy just never showed up and never returned any attempt at contact by me or anyone else from the client company. Now, I would have understood if the person’s spouse didn’t answer the phone to take a message. I would have really understood if he ended up in the hospital or the worse case scenario dropped dead, but no — he just decided not to show up.

Let’s be absolutely up front about things here – IT SUCKS!

Yes, it’s for best in the grand scheme of things. After all, no one wants an unstable hire. But is definitely doesn’t make a recruiter’s life any easier.

For those of us who not internal recruiters, there’s the old, “The position went on hold,” or “We didn’t have an internal candidate before but one just surfaced,” after we’ve put heart and soul into a search.

We ask ourselves, “Why couldn’t that person just be honest?”

So now that I’ve picked at some old scars you can imagine how a candidate feels when the recruiting process takes a long time. And it doesn’t matter if it’s because of our process, the hiring manager is traveling, or we’re inundated with reqs — we have to remember that even when we’ve passed the candidate to the onboarding stage we still have a relationship with that candidate.

And because of that relationship, we, more than anyone else have a responsibility for the candidate experience.

A recruiter has an interesting place in the recruitment cycle. Unless we’re hiring for our own team, we are providing a service for our client. Now, it’s easy to think of a client as the person paying us to fill the job and that’s true to a certain extent. But when you define “client,” things get a bit more complex.

Customer Vs. Client

Jay Abraham, a famous marketing expert, makes a very clear distinction between a customer and a client. According to Jay, a customer is someone with whom you have a transactional relationship and a client is someone whose interests you watch out for.

In my world, here are my clients:

  • The Primary Client (the one paying me) – after all, we don’t just do this for fun.
  • The Candidate – when this person has a great experience dealing with me, not only will he/she be a potential candidate for something else (if not for this project) but a potential paying client down the line.
  • Myself – by building relationships with candidates and giving them a great experience, I expand my access to talent and gain potential clients. After all, we’re ambassadors to the talent community not only for our paying clients but also for ourselves.

I’ve found one of the best ways to make sure that our candidates are being honest with us is to be honest with them first. I know there’s a lot of pressure to get assignments and candidates, especially in the short run. And believe me, I’m not advocating trying to shoehorn a person into a role.

But when we’re looking out for our Primary Client and being honest, sometimes we’re able to get them to hire the person they need — someone who will have a major impact on their business — rather than the person or skill set they want. Then we’re treating them as clients. And they will come back to us over and over again.

Honesty Isn’t Always Easy – But It Can Be Rewarding

Sometimes making a placement isn’t in everyone’s best interest, even though it might appear that way on the surface. I recall a search I was doing that was particularly difficult. There were only a few qualified candidates who were willing to make a move to a remote area. I was speaking with someone who was perfectly qualified for the job in every respect but had a child in the middle of high school.

He was eager to move on to the new job, sure that his family would go along. I counseled him several times to include the family in the decision and although they would have made the sacrifice, it would be just that, a sacrifice — and a big one at that. Because of the situation, I advised him against moving forward despite his personal interest. After all, there would be other opportunities.

Because I was honest with him he gave me several contacts, one of which got the job. As an added bonus I was able to place the first candidate in another, better position at a different time and his relationship with his family became stronger because of their experience. When we say to truly qualified candidates who would be a slam dunk hire that a move would not be in their best interest, then we’re doing the right thing not only for them, but for the other clients on the list I outlined above – especially the “Myself” client!

Remember: what we do is absolutely legitimate. We have the best job in the world — we get to offer people an opportunity. And when we’re honest about who we are and what we’re doing we stand out in the crowd positively and our ability to connect expands exponentially.

Some things never change – honesty really is the best policy.

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