Few interactions are as potentially fraught as that between job seeker and recruiter. For the job seeker, everything is on the line. The recruiter has the ability to connect the job seeker with the next opportunity which will provide income, benefits, experience, and contribute to the job seeker’s sense of self-regard, career development and accomplishment.
But a lot is riding on the recruiter, too. He wants to match the right person to the right position; hopefully, he is motivated to avoid the high cost of employee turnover. A successful match can lead to a beautiful long-term relationship: the job seeker fits perfectly within the organization, contributes to the company mission and bottom line, and both employee and company grow as a result of the partnership. That’s what recruiters are aiming for. Right?
Not always. I know this because I’ve spoken to many recruiters who have yet to find the real purpose and meaning of the organizations they represent. This impacts how the recruiter portrays the company brand, his loyalty to the company, job performance, and how he shows up with recruits.
Whether or not the recruiter has a proper understanding of the company’s purpose, there are numerous ways that recruiter/job seeker communication can break down:
1. Ineffective communication of recruiter contributes to poor employer brand experience
Stacy Caprio of Accelerated Growth Marketing responded to an email from a company recruiter because of how attractive the company looked in the advertisement. Stacy was excited about the new opportunity. She went through three phone interviews and one in-person interview with the recruiter’s manager. Stacy got the job. . . or so she thought.
One week later, Stacy received a form email rejection from the company’s application site. The recruiter did not even use her personal email, through which she and Stacy had communicated previously. This impersonal rejection, combined with several other negative experiences Stacy had while interviewing, left a bad taste in her mouth.
The Solution: It’s impossible to know exactly what happened to cause this breakdown.
Perhaps the unprofessionalism Stacy witnessed during the interview process is endemic to the organization; maybe the recruiter wasn’t confident to be transparent with the candidate throughout the cycle; or, perhaps the recruiter wasn’t fully informed by the hiring managers and was unable to provide transparency due to her own lack of knowledge.
The recruiter could have alleviated the situation with common courtesy–an apology from her personal email at the very least. Her embarrassment over getting it wrong needlessly contributed to Stacy’s bad experience with the brand—which she readily shared with me and, one can assume, her own network.
2. The candidate has unrealistic expectations or inaccurate understanding of his own competencies
Sarah has over twenty years of experience in her field and received positive reinforcement concerning her job performance from friends and family. She was excited when, after a layoff, she was contacted by an enthusiastic recruiter via LinkedIn. After two phone interviews, an in-person interview in which she was told she “could” do the job and would be “perfect” for the role, Sarah left the interview–never to hear from the recruiter again.
Next, Sarah contacted the VP of a major tech company via LinkedIn and said she was “desperate” for work. She was given an interview, then disappointed to be told she wasn’t a good fit for the organization. Sarah came away from both interviews feeling disillusioned and “used” by LinkedIn advertising process.
The Solution: Leadership assessment thought-leader, Ulrik Juul Christiansen from Area9 would consider Sarah to have something called ‘unconscious incompetence’. She does not have a realistic grasp on her strengths and areas of growth. This unconscious incompetence led Sarah to go straight to the VP of a major tech company without an introduction rather than take a more measured approach to finding her next position. Sarah could benefit from a coach to provide a thorough review of her resume and competencies; this would help to ground her and give her a more accurate picture of her unique, valuable skill set.
However, what can recruiters do to help here? Recruiters can learn how to outline the recruitment process and gently provide feedback to candidates when necessary. This will help manage candidates’ expectations. In addition, if candidates feel disillusioned by the LinkedIn recruiting process, recruiters can provide disclaimers noting the size of the talent pool and encouraging the candidate to further educate himself/herself regarding a particular employer brand. Managing expectations is key.
3. Recruiter seems uninterested in the job seeker
Nate Masterson of Maple Holistics said that working with a recruiter made him feel “cheap.” The recruiter was third-party, not a member of the organization’s team. Nate said that this resulted in the recruiter viewing potential employees as game pieces to be sorted into their proper places rather than people. Nate also reported that the recruiter was unable to answer in-depth questions about the organization for which he was head-hunting.
The Solution: Whether or not the recruiter is on the company payroll, he should have a detailed knowledge of its workings before attempting to communicate to a candidate. Developing emotional intelligence is key here to manage stress, have a learn-it-all mindset and proceed with genuine confidence. The recruiter must get in the simple habit of putting himself in the job seeker’s shoes. ‘If I were considering working here, what would I want to know?’, ‘How would I want to feel after a conversation with a company representative?’ A recruiter should ask himself these questions and be equipped to engage in a meaningful conversation with job seekers. Such an exchange is ultimately for the good of the job seeker and the organization.
When things go right: Kenton Kivestu is an ex-Googler who founded RocketBlocks, which helps students prepare for case interviews with top companies. He’s contacted by recruiters all the time; mostly, he ignores them as the pitches aren’t relevant to him. But two years ago, Kenton was approached by an executive recruiter for a leadership position within a startup. The recruiter told Kenton about his background, gave a brief summary of the company, and then asked lots of questions. He wanted to know what types of products Kenton had experience with, what he valued as a people manager, and what products he would gravitate toward.
Kenton was so impressed with the process that he was happy to speak with the COO after the first round. The recruiter’s pitch was too good for Kenton not to take a second look.
Why? It’s not because the recruiter had a golden tongue. He didn’t use a special “pitch formula” or rely on flattery or false promises. Rather, the recruiter shared deep information about the opportunity and paved the way for a two-way dialogue. He asked targeted questions which opened Kenton up to exciting new possibilities. That’s what recruiters who develop and strengthen their emotional intelligence have the power to do: put good people – employer and talent, or talent and employer — towards the best outcomes and possibilities.
Recruiter/job seeker communication can easily fall apart—at any stage–but it doesn’t have to. When job seekers own their unique offerings and recruiters maintain the right balance of enthusiasm and empathy, communication can be authentic, respectful, and full of truly exciting potential.
About the author: Caroline Stokes is the Founder of FORWARD. She is an executive career coach and headhunter. She is also the host of the Emotionally Intelligent Recruiter podcast.