Talent Acquisition

9 Ways Recruiters Screw Over Candidates

We live in a hectic world, and recruiting candidates is a tough business, like most others. A good company reputation matters now more than ever before and in our 24/7 instant world of communication, it’s essential to make every effort to invest in great customer service and care. A poor reputation impacts the bottom line. Everybody knows that!

Sadly and bizarrely, however, some recruiters and even headhunters – all of whom claim to offer a personal service and insist they respect both candidates and their clients – fail at one or more basic steps in their communications with candidates. Some of their errors are so basic and egregious that they both mystify and offend candidates.

The consequences vary, but none is good. The candidate rightly feels let down and even insulted by the bad treatment they receive and, worse, they are never likely to forget how they’ve been made to feel.

More damaging to the recruiter is the fact that, out of frustration and anger, those abused individuals will be telling their peers, family and friends in detail about who you are, the name of your company and what you did. That’s a big fail for your PR, branding and all-round reputation of your recruitment firm and you which could have permanent repercussions. One candidate may not matter to your revenue stream, but add them all up, and the impact will be devastating.

Some of those disappointed candidates may also one day go on to require the services of a recruiter for their own team, as people increasingly rely on word-of-mouth recommendations as the best form of advertising, and they may be asked to recommend one based on their own experience. They may even own the budget and have the decision-making authority over which recruitment firms they can hire.

Take this 2013 Nielsen study, as one compelling proof of the significance of word-of-mouth:

“Not surprisingly, word-of-mouth formats such as recommendations from family and friends and consumer opinions posted online prompted the highest levels of self-reported action among 84 percent and 70 percent of respondents, respectively.”

If they’d been treated well by you, they could be ambassadors of your recruitment firm and even introduce you to a new client, meaning you’ve developed a stronger brand reputation as well as leading to more work and revenue.

Instead, you may be one of those recruiters that’s struggling to figure out why your client list and revenue is dropping.

By taking on board these nine ways not to treat your candidate, you can be sure of gaining their appreciation, good will and, most likely, they’ll happily and naturally end up your free ambassadors for life – both of you as an individual and of your recruitment company. Who among us, after all, ever forgets great service and consideration?

Here’s to you and your firm achieving a great reputation with your candidates as well as your clients!

1) Don’t send out generic recruiting emails:

You think they save you time but it damages your reputation. It shows you are lazy and have no consideration for the candidate.

Often, too, the job(s) you email have nothing whatsoever to do with the candidate’s background, skills or current experience. That’s irritating and alienating. Who wants to be treated as a widget on an assembly line or a number in Pi?

2) Don’t pretend to be writing a personal email by addressing the person using “Hi [First Name]”.

It becomes obvious within a sentence or two that, in fact, you’re still failing by ignoring rule no. 1, above. Or no. 2 in this case, and all over the candidate, at that. It’s as unpleasant as it sounds.

3) Unless you’ve communicated with the candidate in the past, address them formally by using their full name:

Make a simple effort to say/write “Dear/Hi First Name and Second Name”. After all, you don’t know them, have never been introduced, so you may come across as too forward, pushy and inconsiderate. Friends, colleagues and family address each other respectively by first name because they know each other. You don’t. If you still insist on addressing this unknown-to-you candidate, do them the courtesy of writing “Dear/Hi First Name (if I may)”. It shows respect and thoughtfulness!

4) Don’t Auto-Direct Message with a confirmation of a candidate’s application without stating in that communication the conditions for your follow-up:

If only successful candidates will be contacted thereafter, make that obvious. You’d be amazed how many fail to do one or the other. And never forget to give a date for how long it will take for a reply if you commit to one. Then make sure you honour that commitment. (Too many times, the candidate who doesn’t get through to the next stage is simply forgotten.)

5) Never approach a candidate for a job only to fail to update them in a follow-up:

Let candidates know it may take several days to update them, but word-of-mouth evidence makes it clear so many times recruiters don’t bother to follow-up with everybody they’ve approached: they only update the ones whom the client has chosen for further consideration.

This treatment reinforces the candidate’s impression that you’re playing a number’s game, and you have no real interest in the individual person you approached in the first place. Take responsibility for your actions and follow-through. If there’s a delay on the client side or for any other reason, be sure to inform your candidate. Don’t leave them dangling, wondering and even worrying.

6) Don’t communicate with a candidate until you have at least read through all of their CV:

It’s amazing how many times a recruiter will approach someone, having noted only one particular company or point on their CV, but they’ve not taken the time to read – or at least skim – the entire CV. Some of the other information and jobs on the CV may end up benefiting the case to the client you wish to make on behalf of the candidate. Don’t overlook this simple step.

(I once had a recruiter first contact me for a job with an ‘unnamed client’, he gave only the industry and job title, and I expressed an interest. He then called me and gave the name of the client, and it was one already on my CV as having consulted with for over a period of 16 months. The recruiter didn’t have a clue and expressed surprise. Imagine what I thought of him?)

7) Don’t put a candidate forward without then making an effort to give feedback:

This may be impossible in some or even many cases because the client might offer none. But at least explain that you tried (we hope you  did), and be frank about why there is no feedback.

READ MORE: Why You Should Always Give Feedback After an Interview

8) Don’t invite a candidate to consider a specific job and then take days to to acknowledge their reply, or only respond after the candidate has chased you:

It’s disrespectful and reinforces the impression that, again, you’re only playing a game of numbers and don’t care about them. If you anticipate not being able to respond in a reasonable amount of time (24 hours from the time of their reply back to you – unless, fair enough, they write back on a  Friday, you have until Monday), then be sure to let them know this in your first communication with them. To advise is to keep your candidate informed and shows thoughtfulness on your part. It also avoids any feelings of frustration or doubt on the candidate’s part.

9) If the candidate gets the job for which you put them forward, follow up with them after a month in the job to ask how they’re doing:

Make a note in your diary and set a reminder for yourself and be sure to do it. A month is enough time for the employee to get their bearings brief. An enquiry from you sent to their personal email address or a voicemail on their mobile shows consideration. It’s evidence that you do care for your candidates and you’re not solely interested in the fee you made from placing them.

That way you build a long-term relationship, not just a one-off placement. By doing so, you’re investing in their future interests and long-term career, as well as your own reputation as a recruiter by doing a great job and you contribute to the reputation of your recruiting company. Everybody benefits. Such an approach can make all the difference between a candidate not only being truly grateful for being put forward, but also being a delighted ambassador for you and your recruitment company for life.

Author: Robert White is Founder of

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