Talent Acquisition

Assumptions in Recruitment: They Will Bite You in the Butt!

The biggest cause of placements going wrong is the recruiter making assumptions. Assumptions that are flawed.

Information is what drives success in recruitment. And that is why our industry will never die. Because the craft of managing the process still determines whether a candidates is offered and, crucially, accepts a job.

Successful recruitment is not all about ‘sourcing’. It is about matching too. And then consummating the deal, usually by finessing the attitude of both client and candidate.

So next time your ‘dead cert’ placement goes belly-up, resulting in tears all round, there is a good chance you assumed something that is not the case at all. One of these, probably:

  1. You assume your client actually has the authority to hire. Often they don’t. Check that early in the process. Has this hire been authorised? Given sign-off? Are we good to go?
  2. You assume your client actually knows what they really need in their next hire. Often the client sets out simply to hire the same skill set and profile as the guy who just left. Meanwhile, the business has changed, the role has changed, and the skills required has changed. You need to ask the questions that expose that, because if you don’t, you will spend time looking for the wrong person. And the client will only realise that late in the process. And then they will change the brief, and ask you to start again. Sound familiar?
  3. You assume the client you take the role from is the decision-maker on who gets the job. Often not the case. Who gives the final nod?  The line manager? HR? The line manager’s manager? The CEO?
  4. You assume that your client is briefing only you on this role. Yeah, right! And every person, in every marriage, is faithful too. Always. You have to ask the question! And you need to try to get that exclusivity.
  5. You assume that the ‘critical’ skills, qualifications and experience that the client described in the brief as ‘essential’ are indeed “must haves”. They rarely are. Usually there are just 2 or 3 total deal-breakers. You have to dig until you find out what they are. A client will forgive a multitude of missing skills, if your candidate has the two key things they really want.
  6. You assume your clients’ ‘top salary package’ for this role really is the ceiling. It almost never is. You have to find that out before you start your talent search.
  7. You assume your client is not considering internal candidates. They are.
  8. You assume your candidates are as interested in the role as they tell you they are. You also believe them when they say they are not looking at other roles, and they will not accept a counter-offer ‘under any circumstances’.
  9. You assume your candidate knows how to sell herself in an interview, knows how to highlight why she is suitable for the role, and won’t do dumb things like bring up money and benefits in the first five minutes. You have to coach your candidates how to interview well. Even role-playing questions and answers. Too hard? Well prepare yourself for many disappointments then.
  10. You assume your client knows how to interview and sell their company and their job. They usually don’t. Subtly, via feedback, suggestion and sometimes outright counseling, you need to make sure your client knows that they are being assessed too – and need to “perform”, or miss out on the top talent.
  11. You assume your candidate is as fixed on their ‘salary floor’ as they tell you they are. Sure. And that’s why a better recruiter than you will ‘sell’ the opportunity better than you do, and get the candidate you overlooked because they ‘wanted too much money’, to go for an interview, get the job, and accept it at 10 grand lower than they told you they would ever accept! This will help you avoid that mistake.
  12. You assume your successful candidate, knows how to resign and has the confidence to do that without succumbing to emotional or financial blackmail from their current employer. You have to manage that, prepare them for the resignation meeting, and follow up right afterwards.
  13. You assume that an offer, once accepted, is a done deal. It’s not. You have to keep in touch between acceptance and start date, every day if you must. There is many a slip between acceptance and the candidate actually turning up on day one.
  14. You assume your client will do a good induction job with the new hire. You must be in touch with both parties often after the start, smooth over difficulties, manage feedback from and to both parties. This is crucial. Many an early fall-out can be saved.
  15. You assume the candidate is making decisions on his or her own. Often wrong. The spouse or significant other is often hugely influential and sometimes actually driving the decision. Ask, “What does your wife/husband think about you making this move”.  If it’s a senior role, and maybe a geographical move, get the spouse involved. I have had the spouse meet the client before. Seriously. It worked too. If I had all the fees back that I have lost because of a spouse getting cold feet…I would be retired by now!

Assumptions. Lack of knowledge. Overconfidence. Lack of attention to detail. Missing the signals.  Not asking the key questions.

All poison to your next placement.

Never ever assume anything in this business.

Assumptions in recruitment will bite you in the bum. Hard. And it hurts!

By Greg Savage

Greg Savage is a sought-after speaker and presenter, as well as consultant and advisor to the industry. He has founded several highly successful recruitment companies and worked in recruitment all over the world. To contact Greg please email: