Why Recruiters Need to Think Like Job Candidates

Lynda Spiegel

Founder, Rising Star Resumes

Face it, recruiters: You have a terrible reputation. The recruiting process notoriously lacks communication—and even though candidates curry favor with you in hopes of a job interview, they resent you for dropping them like a hot potato when interest wanes.

In a recent LinkedIn post, I provided job seekers with advice to prepare themselves for impressing you. While readers were grateful for the intel, many left comments providing specific examples of recruiters behaving badly. Having done a fair share of hiring throughout my HR career, I can defend some behaviors that candidates find noxious; having also been a job seeker, I find some indefensible.

Beyond keeping job seekers satisfied, though, adopting better behaviors during the recruiting process makes strategic sense. A recent survey in The Wall Street Journal reports that recruiters are experiencing difficulty sourcing qualified professionals for many of their openings. By taking the time to understand a candidate's pain points, you can overcome part of that difficulty and establish a well-regarded employer brand for your clients, your company and yourself in the process.

Influenced by my time on both sides of the job hunt, here is a list of best practices for recruiting and hiring managers. The main takeaway? In the end, good manners and practical considerations matter more than you think.

Don't Build Unrealistic Expectations

If you need more information to decide if a candidate is right for the position, say so. Is the candidate an outlier whom you hope the hiring manager will find interesting? Then let her know that even if her resume doesn't necessarily fit the profile, she has interesting experience. Candidates get lectured endlessly on the importance of coming to interviews prepared—so help prepare them by providing all the facts.

Bottom line: Don't build up a candidate's hopes unless you think the hiring manager will actually want to interview this person.

Be Upfront About Compensation

It's important to reveal the salary range of the open position upfront, but don't ask candidates about their current compensation. They're aware that you're trying to peg their suitability based on salary, and you know that's unfair. By offering up compensation parameters upfront, you let the candidate decide if it's worth pursuing the opportunity further.

Bottom line: A candidate's value is based on the skills he or she brings to the table, not on prior pay.

Provide Timely Updates

While you're under no obligation to respond to every resume that hits your inbox, if you contact a candidate—even for a preliminary phone interview—you owe that person a follow-up. If they are out of the running, they deserve to know to move on. If there will be a next step, set reasonable expectations about when they will hear from you next. Career coaches warn candidates not to pester recruiters with "what's going on" calls or emails. Do your part by eliminating their need to ask.

Bottom line: Even if it's a template response, communicate with your candidates throughout the recruiting process.

Don't Ask "Cute" Questions

Every recruiter has his or her favorite go-to questions for candidates, but let's face it: some of them are downright silly. I was once asked, "If you were an animal, which one would you be?" I'm still not sure what my answer revealed about me as a cultural fit or innovative thinker, but I do recall not having a great opinion of the person who asked it. You can have some fun questions, but the point of an interview is to get to know how a candidate conducts themselves in difficult situations, not silly icebreakers.

Bottom line: Treat candidates professionally; being cute, or playing psychologist is not the way to go.

Photo: Shutterstock

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