Recruiters: Don’t Risk Your Credibility Because You Hate Giving Bad News

A lot of the recruiter bashing that occurs online is no doubt because there are so many people who blame recruiters when a company never provides a single word of follow-up information after an interview.

It’s hard to blame anyone for being angry about that. Maybe they think recruiters are purposely withholding information from them. Recruiters get irritated when candidates “vanish” during the recruiting and interviewing process, so it stands to reason that candidates in the interview process get irritated when recruiters “vanish.”

It is impossible for a recruiter to give personal (non-automated) replies to every person who applies to a job when there are hundreds of applicants to sort through. However, when a person moves from the applicant or prospect stage to the interview stage, recruiters should feel obligated to stay engaged and be responsive to their candidates for the rest of the process. Even when hiring managers don’t — or won’t — give the recruiter any feedback, recruiters need to stay in touch with the candidate during the interview process to let them know they have not been forgotten and that they are trying to move the process forward.

Always respond to phone calls and emails from candidates who are in the interview stage … even if you shoot back a quick, one-sentence response saying you don’t have any updates yet. There have been many times when I have sent an email like that to immediately have the candidate reply back with a note that says something like, “WOW thank you for your reply!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Sadly, they are so used to being ignored by recruiters that they almost go into shock when they finally do get a response.

Tell candidates the truth. If it has been a week and you don’t have any feedback yet, let them know. If a candidate has been rejected, let them know. If you have any feedback you are allowed to tell them as to why they were rejected, tell them. Knowing why they have been rejected could possibly help them do better on their next interview, and certainly you want to be the kind of recruiter who helps them out even if they don’t get hired by your company. If you are not allowed to tell them the exact reason they have been rejected, at least have the consideration to close the loop for them. You can always tell them you do not have specific feedback you can give them as to why they were rejected but will keep their resume and let them know if another position opens up in the future that looks like it would be a good match. Also be sure and connect with them on LinkedIn because there might be other recruiters in your network who can help them.

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The lead recruiter who has been assigned to a particular job opening should be the one responsible for making sure the candidate is kept up to date. Many large companies have recruiters, sourcers, and recruiting coordinators all assigned to cover multiple positions. In cases like this, the senior recruiter or lead recruiter for the requisition can decide which person on the team relays interview updates to the candidate. Often it will come down to who the candidate contacts to ask for an update. If the ATS is updated after every contact with the candidate, it will be easy for all persons concerned to quickly find out what the candidate has been told and when they were told it.

To just leave a person hanging after an interview because you don’t have any updates or don’t want to have a difficult conversation or don’t think it is worth your time is simply unacceptable. It is also the sign of an inconsiderate and/or poorly trained recruiter. Frequently interview processes drag out for week,s and it will be very difficult to close a candidate who has been poorly treated by the recruiter during the interview process. Also keep in mind your company may not hire the person right now but may want to hire them in the future.

What do you think it says about your company when a person does an interview, either by phone or in person, and never hears another word from anyone? Do you think that person will ever want to work with you or anyone else at your company again? Do you think they will send you any referrals? How do you think the candidate will feel about your company and its products? What do you think they will tell their friends? I know how I would feel if someone treated me that way.

Don’t risk your credibility as a competent recruiter over something as basic as giving interview feedback to your candidates. The interview process is the first experience your candidate has in seeing how your company treats people. You want every candidate you work with to go away with a positive impression of you even if your company does not hire them. You never know when you will cross paths with that candidate again for a different position or company. Candidates should never burn bridges and neither should recruiters.

Charlene Long is a corporate recruiter with RPO and agency experience who specializes in IT and engineering positions. She lives in Dallas, Texas, and has over 20 years of technical recruiting experience. Previously she was an analytical chemist for environmental labs in Florida and Texas and then for Texas Instruments in Dallas for four years.

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