Employer Branding

How In-House Recruiters Can Win a Candidate’s Trust

As an in-house recruiter charged with filling a key role, one of the greatest challenges you face is in winning and then holding a candidate’s trust. That can be particularly challenging if a candidate has had a poor experience of recruiters previously.

Seemingly top-notch candidates can come across as distrustful, defensive or even downright aggressive. Regardless, you need to accept responsibility for building trust, if you’re to attract and hold the best candidates.

1. Candidate concerns

It doesn’t take much to switch on a candidate’s skepticism. Most quality candidates know what a good opportunity with a solid employer looks and sounds like, so anything that jars during recruitment and selection will set their antennae tingling faster than a hummingbird’s wings.

There are five key triggers:

  1. If the role and package that you describe differ significantly from what the candidate perceived from the ad, you’re already pouring oil down the welcome ramp.
  2. To a candidate, if the opportunity is genuine, the job scope, salary, benefits and progression opportunities will be clear. Anything put across as, ‘still to be worked out,’ sounds like a klaxon going off at the candidate’s end of the phone.
  3. Apart from interest in the role itself, most of a candidate’s attention will be dedicated to the salary and benefits package. If this drifts downwards as selection proceeds, in the candidate’s mind you’ve steepened the ramp, set light to the oil on it AND dropped the portcullis.
  4. If the selection process proceeds at a truly glacial pace and becomes seemingly endless, the candidate might not actually die before you get around to concluding things, but figuratively they will. It’s hard to claim that you’re looking for a dynamic person to seize a go-ahead opportunity if the organisation appears to need an iron-lung to keep it gasping along.
  5. If, “I’ll be back to you in a couple of days,” drifts into two weeks the candidate will be torn between wondering whether you’re ignorant, your organisation is incompetent or they’re just simply not wanted. Either way, it’s probably game-over at that point.

Prima-donnas, eh? Candidates should just be grateful, right? Sure, you work for an important company with a solid professional reputation and you’re offering a dream job at a to-die-for rate, but if those aren’t the signals you’re actually sending out during recruitment and selection, quality candidates will rapidly lose interest.

2. Positive actions

As an in-house recruiter, life can be highly schizophrenic. You’re often trapped between keeping candidates sweet and hustling hiring managers ‘too busy’ to follow the selection process. Candidates want certainty whilst hiring managers simultaneously stretch the scope of the role. You can be holding top quality talent in your hand whilst a hiring manager bleats endlessly for a unicorn and complains about the delay in filling the role. Whilst your position can be unenviable, only you can solve those dilemmas. If you don’t step up, no-one will.

The good news is that there are five definite actions you can take which will help:

  1. Formally define, in writing, the specifications for: the scope of the role; the candidate; the salary or benefits package; progression opportunities and starting objectives for the role-holder. Then get them signed off by the hiring manager. If anything later varies, it’s clear what’s changed and whose responsibility it is.
  2. Ensure that you and the hiring manager commit to the same things. Agree the stages of the selection process, selection criteria to be used and anticipated timescales for each stage. Get your hiring manager to sign up to a written agreement which lays out maximum CV turnaround and interview scheduling times.
  3. Whilst part of your job is to sell the opportunity, set realistic expectations in the mind of the candidate at the outset. If the recruiting team is going to struggle for time and resource, be open and honest and explain the reasons. If location, salary or level of experience could be an issue, get it out in the open and help the candidate address that issue. Nothing builds up trust faster.
  4. At every step of the process, keep the candidate fully informed. You’re unlikely to get penalized by them for over-communicating and the more you speak to them, the more you’ll learn about them.
  5. When you make an offer, close it down, hard and fast. A three week delay in producing the paperwork after making a verbal offer is mindless. Not only does the trust begin to leak away like blancmange stored in a string bag, you’re handing a massive bargaining chip to the candidate if they’ve simultaneously got another opportunity on the go.

To truly seize the recruitment process by the scruff of the neck, fight for full and active ownership of the whole process. If you don’t, and you lose candidates whilst things drag on, you might not be to blame for delays to the entire organization’s progress but, as the softest target, you’ll be blamed anyway. Grab it, run with it, get it done and then make sure you take the professional credit.

About the author: Jon Gregory an experienced management consultant, re-organisation specialist and recruitment professional. He currently works with both organisations and individuals, helping to get the right people working effectively in the right jobs.. He’s also the editor of

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