10 Ways Recruiters Keep Failing Candidates

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Signs of a bad recruiter

Recruiters already know they have a lousy reputation. It's actually a big bummer. There are tons of amazing recruiters out there who truly love working with people, helping them advance their careers, and who take pride in their work--not the money.

With that said, the stereotype does come from somewhere. There's many signs of a bad recruiter, but here's a list of the top ways that recruiters continue to fuel the stigma that the talent biz is a bad one.

1. Spamming candidates

Persistence is a reliable communication tool if used correctly. There's nothing wrong with a follow-up email, call, or InMail, even if the recruiter hasn't spoken with the prospective candidate yet. But 3, 4, even 5 follow-ups? Talk about clingy. It's especially dangerous when recruiters make multiple follow-ups within a day of each other.

If a recruiter doesn't get a response after the second inquiry and the individual truly is to die for, put that name on the backburner for a similar role down the line.

2. Demanding to know current salary on the first call

Not only is it illegal in some states to ask candidates about their current comp, but it's inappropriate. Many candidates are money-driven, so I understand the importance of talking money upfront. However, the initial candidate-recruiter conversation is not the time, and can be an extremely clear sign of a bad recruiter.

The purpose of the first call is to discuss candidates' goals, passions, and what they might be looking for in their next role. If the candidate confirms an interest in the job and you need to know salary info, find a way to learn the range softly and legally. Once the conversation is nearly at a close, it's more acceptable (and legal!) to ask what the candidates' ideal range would be for her next career move. It's up to the recruiter to be transparent at that point.

3. Withholding critical details about the employer and/or the role

Candidates need full disclosure regarding every aspect of a role. Without it, they're unable to make an educated decision about whether to accept or decline an offer (or even a second or third interview). It's also just a time-waster.

Recruiters and employers are required by law to share compensation packages, job titles, the company's current and potential business condition, and privacy and protection policies, like social media and background checks. It's a big red flag when this type of information is knowingly omitted during the interview process.

4. Failing to issue genuine feedback

We hear this as a common reason why recruiters don't share feedback with candidates:

"I don't have enough time because I'm so busy with other reqs."

Yes, it's easier to send an automated email. But recruiting is a people business. Candidates deserve real feedback, not the classic "we decided to move forward with a candidate whose background is better suited for the role." That may be true, but why? What about their background wasn't a good fit? Without an explanation, candidates have no guidance for improvements.

5. Going silent

There could be many reasons why a recruiter doesn't reach back out to candidates, but the winning answers tend to be that they're busy, they filled the role, or they haven't heard back from the client.

We're all busy. Passive candidates are busy at work but still find the time to speak with recruiters. Active candidates have interviews elsewhere. Don't leave any candidate agonizing over the unknown and certainly don't make them feel like they have to reach back out.

6. Failure to prep candidates for an interview

Without context, a candidate can only prepare so much. Recruiters are the ones who know the employer the best. Naturally, the responsibility rests in their hands to properly prep the candidate. For starters, before the interview, candidates should be aware of:

  • What the interviewer values most in a candidate (creativity? problem-solving abilities? time-management?)
  • What types of questions to expect (personality or cognitive questions, a resume rundown, proudest projects)
  • How long the conversation will last
  • Any websites or resources that will help the candidate familiarize him/herself with the company and the role

7. Trying to pitch an irrelevant role

Both active and passive candidates don't want to waste time reading job requirements that they, in no way, can fulfill. There's always the hope that a candidate will want to change career paths. In that case, an unrelated job could appeal to someone, but it's a longshot. Recruiters should focus on the people who make sense for the job, not the people who could make sense.

This one of the more critical signs of a bad recruiter. Not to mention what an insult it is to candidates. They can tell that the recruiter took zero time to review their credentials. For an active job seeker, this can be especially frustrating and disheartening, as it could set the tone for all future encounters with recruiters.

8. Requesting a referral without any prior contact

A referral request should not be your opening or concluding line in a call, email, InMail, text message, etc. Candidates couldn't feel any less special than when a recruiter is already digging for an alternative. It's common practice to ask for a referral, but just like compensation, there's a time and a place. That time is when the candidate has confirmed he or she is not interested in the role. Not before. Not during. After.

9. Pushing for references too soon

When a recruiter tries to obtain references from the get-go, it's clear that he/she wants to take the quick and easy way out. As with any recruiting and hiring process, it takes time to find the right candidate. Once the candidate has been deemed a good fit, it's proper protocol to ask for references toward the end of the process. Never in the beginning.

10. Using too many tired clichés and jargon

A great recruiter will ditch jargon and clichés and speak like an average human. They avoid things like "innovative and advanced technologies" and "we only work with top talent." What are you even saying?! Get to the point.

Whether the cliché-loving recruiter sees this or not, it makes him/her sound snobby and superficial and is one of those "red-flag" signs of a bad recruiter. Remember: this is a people business. So be a person. In other words: just be yourself.
Sam Sandler
Sam Sandler
Sam is a copywriter and strategist at Qualigence International. She enjoys exercising, eating pizza, and long walks through her Netflix queue.

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