There is a sad truth about recruiters: for a profession focused on the value of people, there are far too many in our profession that are incredibly bad at dealing with human beings.
About a month ago, I met with three friends for breakfast; Each was hoping to transition into a new job, for very different reasons. They had all been working with different recruiters for the past 3 months.
Over a 90-minute conversation, I heard about recruiters’ poorly-planned or last-minute interviews, failing to respond to emails and dodging phone calls week after week.
These candidates were angry and emotionally exhausted. I was frustrated for them and embarrassed for my profession.
The following Friday I met with two HR directors, which strangely enough, complained about being stalked by recruiters.”They email, they drop-in without appointments, they call incessantly”, one said.
“I avoid them like the plague.”
What is wrong with this picture?
Treat Your Candidates like Clients
If you are a headhunter, you have two type of clients: the employer searching for talented people and the candidates waiting to be placed.
Despite what some may tell you, they are both “paying” clients. The employer pays your invoice. But candidates pay recruiters with feedback to other candidates and their impact can be far more reaching.
Being in transition is a scary time that floods candidates with a myriad of emotions, ranging from fear and anxiety to loss and rejection.
If you are lucky enough to be looking for a job while you still have one, you are nervous about losing the job you have before you find another one. Some candidates feel deceitful if they haven’t been transparent with their employer about wanting to leave.
If you don’t have a job, your sense of urgency may be heightened by dwindling savings. The clock ticks away and you can almost feel the gap in your resume growing. Not knowing if their finances will last can make candidates more anxious than normal.
So, is it any surprise that when recruiters treat candidates like cattle, candidates will lash out and share names and details with anyone within earshot?
It shouldn’t be. Because just as a consumer that has a bad experience at a store or with a service, your candidates can do the same damage to your reputation if you don’t apply basic common concepts of decency and respect during your relationship. To start:
Be Transparent With Non-Viable Candidates
I’m not saying all candidates can be placed, or even that you should be the one that tries. But,if you have chosen to be a recruiter, and expect to profit from your placements, you are accepting taking someone’s livelihood in your hands and have a responsibility to wield that wisely.
If you don’t feel you can place the candidate, tell them so. Suck up the fact that’s not a job for you. There’s no shame in being honest. Or, if there is a chance you can place them, but the resume needs work, give them advice on how to improve their chances. Earn that fee you are charging (which these days is around 20-25% of your candidate’s annual base salary). Let them know you are an ally.
But, whatever you do, don’t let a candidate hang in the wind. Even if you can’t place the candidate, be transparent in how far the relationship can go. They will value your transparency and possibly refer you to other candidates you can place, or if they find another job, they will remember your kindness. I can attest to this many times over.
Keep Your Viable Candidates Warm
Your candidates need your attention. Whether that’s in the form of a phone call or an email you send out just to touch base, candidates needs to know they are still on your radar.
Perhaps you aren’t the most organized person in the world, but everyone can make a list. All it takes is a pencil, a sheet of paper, names and phone numbers or emails and 10 minutes a day. Set up a time in the morning to reach out. Is it 5 candidates you are juggling? Is it 10? 35? 50?
Are you perhaps representing too many people at once? If so, aren’t you doing some of them a disservice?
How about focusing on the ones you have?
What good is it to have 30 viable candidates if you risk losing them by ignoring them?
Be a Recruiter’s Recruiter
One detail I left out before is that those three professionals I mentioned above are three HR professionals. Two are corporate recruiters. One is a VP of HR.
HR is a very small world and if I have leanred anything in my years in HR is that what goes around comes around.
Today, that HR professional you have ignored is a thorn in your side because you can’t place him/her. They are just one more in a lot of people you have added to your talent inventory as a recruiter. You don’t have time to talk to them. You don’t have time for their questions.
Tomorrow he or she is the head of HR for that company that represents that big account you wanted. Or, they are interviewing candidates for that job you want for yourself.
That is – some other recruiter found the time to do what you wouldn’t. You do that one too many times, and you will alienate a lot of good people in a field that has a memory like an elephant.
Being a recruiter is not for everyone. Sure, having a sales background helps, but what helps even more is to have a sense of compassion, transparency and connectivity. To be successful, you need to keep your karma clean; treat everyone like they are your best and only client, even if they can’t be placed right way. Because if you get in the habit of treating people as if they are disposable eventually you may find that it is you that people see little worth in keeping around.
So, be a recruiter’s recruiter. Be the type of recruiter that other recruiters want to be represented by. Be the first person people think of when they think “talent”. You may find that is a sure way to stay well-regarded and profitable. Not to mention, you will always have the ear of the very people you need to stay in business.