EmploymentRecruitment

Giving Candidates the Uncomfortable Truth

By March 3, 2011 One Comment

Recruitment, as we all know, can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.  Periodic highs from making placements and securing a new client can be swiftly expelled by savage lows and doubting introspection when things don’t work out so well.  The longer you spend in the recruitment industry the better equipped you are to deal with these highs and lows.  As Rudyard Kipling said, it is the making of you when you can treat the imposters of Triumph and Disaster as one and the same.  So seasoned, hardened veterans of recruitment will greet a big-fee placement with no more than a mildly raised eyebrow, and equally confront the loss of a contractor to the competition, or a permanent placement falling over inside the guarantee period, with barely a flickered downturn at the side of the mouth.

For me this week has been one of those weeks.  You know, one of the flickered-downturn-at-the-mouth ones.  Things just haven’t quite gone to plan.  The Midas touch has taken a well-earned rest and my candidates are not getting the breaks this week, and I have had more interview rejections in one week than in a long time, probably since the recession (when I was hardly even arranging interviews, let alone getting clients to say “Yes, I actually quite liked them and would love to have them on board thank you.”)  Now I’m ok with this.  These days I know how to get the positives out of these situations and make sure the weeks ahead follow a different path.  But it was how I have had to relay the feedback and rejections to my candidates that I have found quite interesting.

When I started out in recruitment I probably didn’t quite have the guts to be brutally honest with candidates.  Of course I would let them know they had been unsuccessful, but out of my natural inclination towards people skills, candidate care and customer service, I would try and soften the blow by pulling the punches.  If someone was rejected for having a poor personal appearance and crumpled suit, I might say to them that the culture fit was just not quite right and the client couldn’t see them suiting their particular team dynamic.

Of course, this kind of feedback isn’t at all helpful to the candidate, which is why I no longer sugar-coat my feedback and give it to them straight, whether they like it or not.  These days I am always mindful of the quote from Timothy Ferriss:

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations they are willing to have”

 

This has always resonated strongly with me since I first heard it and is probably the main reason I no longer try and dress up my feedback to candidates to “make them feel better”.  What has really struck me this week though, is how well all of my candidates have taken the brutal, honest, constructive feedback given.  Sure, they’ve been disappointed, surprised, mildly offended, and in one case strangely relieved (!) but all have responded well to the constructive feedback and I could tell it will actually help them as they plan their forthcoming career moves, whether that be trying out again for a new opportunity or making more of their current role and position.

In recruitment we are often accused of being poor communicators with our candidates, of not listening, of lying, of providing inadequate feedback.  In his latest blog post Greg Savage relates the story of a fellow sideline Dad watching their sons playing sport, who turned to Greg and declared his hatred of recruiters.  As a senior IT professional he had recently left his old job and had a less-than-satisfactory candidate experience from the Sydney IT recruitment industry.  The post is well worth a read for all of the comments alone  but some of this candidate’s beef included:

  • They tell you lies. They lie about the jobs they have, and they lie about what stage your application is at with the client.
  • They provide no feedback, or scant feedback on the process, on interviews and on client opinions.

 

I personally have long ago made the decision to be bold and give it like it is to my candidates.  Of course I will then enter a dialogue about how things could be better, or different, next time, but it is amazingly liberating and powerful to feel you have given your candidate everything there is and held nothing back in reserve so as not to hurt their feelings.

And thank you to my staunch candidates this week all of whom took the bad news on the chin.  Let’s work hard to get it right next time.

Jonathan Rice

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.

One Comment

  • Avatar Paul Leacock says:

    Hi Jon,

    Another great post – Like you, I made a decision some time back to give candidates meaning feedback and can say 100% that they have really appreciated it. In fact, a number of them have commented that it was a refreshing change to hear something of use. Hopefully other recruitment professionals are taking this approach and together we can raise the bar to minimize the unfortunate experience your refer to in your post re the Senior IT candidate.

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