Eight Bad Habits of Some Recruiters and What They Must Do to Save Their Reputations

We live in a hectic world, and the recruitment industry is a tough, crowded, fiercely competitive business, so a good business reputation matters now more than ever before to help the best recruitment companies to thrive and stand out from the crowd. Clearly it’s essential for them to make every effort to demonstrate great service. After all, we all know a poor reputation impacts the bottom line.

Even so, many recruiters – and even headhunters – fail at one or more basic steps in their communications with candidates. Some of their errors are so basic and egregious that they both infuriate and offend candidates. These are the same recruiters who claim on their websites and in their marketing literature to offer a professional service, pride themselves on having integrity and insist they respect both candidates and their clients.

The consequences of bad recruitment habits vary, but none is good. The candidate rightly feels let down and even insulted by the bad treatment they receive. Moreover, they are never likely to forget how they’ve been made to feel. Proof? Search “recruiters are” on Google, and the first results aren’t pretty:

google search - recruiters are

More damaging to the recruiter is the fact that those candidates, out of frustration and anger, will go on to tell 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 reputation of your recruitment firm and one which will have grave repercussions for your business. While only one candidate may not matter to your revenue stream, if you add them all up, the impact will be devastating. As an illustration of this, just consider CareerBuilder’s case study that they conducted on the Applicant Experience. The findings there apply just as equally to the recruitment industry treating applicants poorly.

Some of those disappointed candidates may also one day go on to require the services of a recruitment company and to have the authority to appoint your firm.

Another factor impacting reputation is word-of-mouth recommendations. Take this 2013 Nielsen study, as one compelling proof of its significance:

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 candidates are treated well by you, they could be ambassadors for your recruitment firm. They could 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 struggling to figure out why your client list and revenue is dropping.

By taking on board the eight recommendations below, you can be sure of gaining your candidates’ gratitude and appreciation. 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. After all, who among us ever forgets great service and consideration?

Here’s to all recruiters developing a great reputation by delivering a quality customer service not only to their clients, but also to their candidates.

1) Don’t send out generic recruiting emails:

They may save you time, but how many worthwhile results do they generate? Even if they work for you, for the vast majority of candidates, their time is wasted. Worse, they give the distinct impression that you’re lazy and have no care or consideration for the candidate as an individual.

Often, too, the job(s) such emails have nothing whatsoever to do with the candidate’s background, skills or current experience. How helpful is that. Besides, who wants to be treated like a widget on an assembly line or a single digit in the number 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 are still failing by ignoring rule no. 1, above. Or, no. 2. It’s as unpleasant as it sounds.

3) Unless you’ve communicated with a 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 by their first names 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 – don’t they deserve that?

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. Moreover, 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 and put an alert in your calendar or database to do so. Too many times, recruiters forget the candidate who does not get through to the next stage.

5) Never approach or put forward 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. Sadly, however, word-of-mouth evidence makes it clear that too often recruiters just 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 you approached in the first place. Take responsibility for your actions and commitments and follow-through. That’s integrity. If there’s a delay on the client side, or for any other reason, be sure to inform your candidate. Moreover, some clients may not bother to give feedback – fair enough. However, don’t then repeat the same mistake by not updating your candidate. Never leave them dangling, wondering, even worrying and most likely getting frustrated with your lack of professionalism.

6) Don’t communicate with a candidate until you have at least familiarised yourself with their CV:

It’s amazing how many times a recruiter will want to talk with a candidate but, prior to which, has not even taken the time to read – or even at least skim – the candidate’s full CV. If the recruiter can’t be bothered to familiarise themselves with the details, how can s/he be competent to represent a candidate to a client?

(I once had a recruiter who interviewed me for an interim contract, and asked if I’d ever had any experience of dealing with the client they were representing. My CV clearly showed I had consulted for that same client for almost two years. However, the recruiter had no clue and expressed surprise. Another recruiter – and this is a more common experience – asked me if I had any experience in X and Y area of skills and responsibilities. My CV clearly highlights achievements in those areas about which they are asking. Imagine what I thought of the recruiters?)

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

It is disrespectful and reinforces the impression that, again, you are only playing a numbers game and don’t care about them. If you’re always so busy you can never respond in a reasonable amount of time – 24 hours from the time of their reply back to you – then be upfront about this and to let them know in your first communication with them. To keep your candidate updated is to show thoughtfulness on your part and the proper attention. It also avoids any feelings of frustration or doubt on the candidate’s part.

8) If the candidate gets the job, follow up with them after a month to ask how they find it:

Make a note in your calendar or database and set a reminder for yourself. Be sure to do it. A month is enough time for an employee to get their bearings in a new job and to form at least a strong, initial opinion about it. 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 make from placing them.

That way you build a long-term relationship, not just a one-off placement. By doing so, you are investing in their future interests and long-term career, as well as your 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.

(End Note: This post was originally published in slightly different form in Spring 2014 on The Undercover Recruiter, the no.1 recruitment and career blog in the UK & Europe.)

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