Article main image
Jul 31, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Job candidates sometimes bash recruiters.

Most of the complaints are due to their misunderstanding of a recruiter’s role. However, some of the issues are valid.

Whether the complaints are justified or not, ultimately, it is in the recruiter’s best interest to build relationships and protect his reputation. As we all know, job seekers often refer recruiters and sometimes are in the role of hiring manager down the road.

Here are some of the top candidate complaints:

1. The job did not exist

Candidate’s perspective: Candidates become resentful when they are encouraged to consider a “great opportunity” then nothing happens. They share a resume, complete an online application, take assessment tests, and interview, only to be told that the recruiter “will be in touch if something comes up.” They feel manipulated. The candidate assumes the recruiter lied about the opportunity and is either building her database of candidates or using this candidate to fish for information about openings at the candidate’s current employer.

What the recruiter can do: Let the candidates know what to expect up front. If you do not have a suitable opportunity at the moment, tell the candidate that you frequently work with companies hiring candidates just like them and you would like to get them in your database so you can act quickly when an opportunity arises.

2. They never return my calls

Candidate’s perspective: A candidate applies for a dream job, and the recruiter tells the candidate that he is a great candidate. Then the candidate never hears from the recruiter again. The candidate is annoyed because the recruiter does not return calls.

What the recruiter can do: Take a moment to call explaining the status of the opportunity. If you don’t want to be mired in a protracted conversion, send a quick email. Most applicant tracking systems have mechanisms for “rejection letter” templates that can be emailed with a couple clicks of a mouse. You may encounter this candidate again; it is better to maintain a high standard of professional courtesy.

3. They lack expertise in my occupation/industry

Candidate’s perspective: Some candidates expect the recruiter to be an expert in a specific industry of occupation. For example, a candidate will be annoyed if he is a big data software engineer and a recruiter continues to email him about database administrator positions. How can the recruiter not know the difference?

What the recruiter can do: It is unreasonable to expect a recruiter to know the intimate details about the jobs they are filling. Recruiters work for a lot of clients and might have many openings they are working on simultaneously. That depth of knowledge is not necessary to work effectively with candidates and the hiring manager. It is reasonable to expect a recruiter to understand the jobs well enough to clearly and comprehensively present the role to candidates.

4. They never give me feedback

Candidate’s perspective: After the interview the candidate feels insecure, anxious, and eager to know how he performed. The next thing the candidate hears is that he did not get the job. Of course, a savvy professional wants to know where he fell short so he can do better next time, but the recruiter gives them bupkis.

What the recruiter can do: It’s tough because sometimes the recruiter does not get a solid reason from the hiring employer. Other times, the feedback is harsh or personal. This puts the recruiter in an awkward spot when a candidate wants to know what went wrong.

It is important to close the loop. A simple, “Sorry; they selected another candidate that was a better fit. They did not elaborate.  However, you made it to the interview round, and I will be in touch when I see another similar opportunity for you.”
If the candidate interviewed poorly, you could add, “In the meantime, consider some interview coaching, so you are ready to impress when the next opportunity arises.” This will tell the candidate that she needs to improve her interviewing skills so she can perform better during subsequent interviews.

The Bottom Line

Recruiters who achieve long-term success build relationships based on honesty and professionalism.

Tactfully communicating with your candidates will benefit you and the candidate. They may not be the right candidate for the position today. However, by treating candidates with care you can win referrals and possibly place them in the future. It only takes a small amount of time and a few wisely-chosen words to turn candidate complaints into candidate referrals.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.