You Can’t Remember Every Candidate’s Story

I’ll never forget him. The network engineer who waited until one minute before an onsite interview was supposed to start to send me an email saying he had been in a car wreck and needed to reschedule. And this was the third time he had needed to reschedule. Hmmm.

Or the desktop support analyst who didn’t know the answer to one of the questions during a phone interview and hung up. The business analyst who used partygrrrrrrl@—– for the email address on her resume. The technical writer who was characterized as an emotional basket case by a hiring manager who worked with her at a previous company was especially memorable. Then there was the interwoven developer who needed a cash advance on his first paycheck — sob story — and subsequently never showed up for work or paid back the money. I’ll definitely never forget that one!

The reality is that no one should overestimate their own ability to remember all of their candidates and everything they do or is told to you about them from a hiring manager.

I vividly recall the name of the network engineer I mentioned above, even after four years, but I don’t remember the names of the others. There are (sadly) plenty of candidates I have worked with who I don’t want to ever waste my time working with again. Right after something bad happens with one of my candidates, it seems like it will be seared in my brain forever. What happens in actual practice though is that names and details fade from memory over time.

Recruiters come and go at companies, especially at companies that use contract recruiters, so odds are pretty good that anyone you find for your company will be found by other recruiters hired at your company looking for the same profile. What a waste of everyone’s time if a recruiter just starting out at your company comes across a candidate who has already been rejected but there is no record of any of the details in the ATS. Don’t expect the candidate to tell you the reason and don’t expect that you will remember either.

One of the most useful features of an ATS is the ability to make notes in a candidate record. So do yourself and all the rest of us a favor and start making specific notes in your ATS about why candidates have been rejected. Other information you find out about your candidates, such as salary requirements, location preferences, motivation to change jobs, etc. should also be documented in the ATS. Knowing up front those sorts of details can also save you and/or the next recruiter who comes across your candidate a lot of time.

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Recruiters spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince hiring managers how important it is for them to tell us why they are or are not interested in candidates. So why don’t recruiters consider hiring manager feedback important enough to actually retain all that information? If it is important enough for recruiters to practically beg hiring managers for feedback, shouldn’t we be keeping track of what they tell us? Do you really ever want to go back to a hiring manager and ask them why they previously rejected a candidate because you think the candidate might work for a different position? In that scenario, the hiring manager would probably wonder why HR was so sloppy about record keeping and possibly even be a little miffed they had bothered to give feedback in the first place.

There is also always the possibility that you will take a vacation or be out sick or win the lottery (!) and someone else will need to contact one of your candidates in your absence. They should not have to start from scratch with your candidate. Everything you know about your candidate should be in the ATS. Even if you never forget a single detail about anyone, the rest of your recruiting team can’t read your mind and should be able to have access to a candidate’s complete history with your company.

 

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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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