People and Projects

Having an honest relationship with your recruiter is beneficial for everyone.

I was fresh out of college when I landed a position at a staffing company that provided my first glimpse into the business world. I had two pairs of slacks that I would alternate every other day, I cleaned up my black dress shoes that I had worn for the previous five years as a server, went to a retail store and bought a box-set dress shirt with a super embarrassing matching tie and gelled my hair to make it look like I got it cut.

As I walked into the office with my battle attire on, I felt like I was ready to take on anything. A couple of months into my recruiting career, I had found a handful of people to fill open positions and was feeling pretty confident that I could make this a career. Then, I met an individual who we’ll call John Doe. John had been looking for his next opportunity and I knew I could uncover it for him.

After asking him what he was looking for, he told me he was currently making $20 per hour on second shift and wanted to move to first shift and make more money. I was excited and looked forward to building a relationship; John told me about the time he spent in the Navy, how his son was the center of his world, etc. A few days later, an opportunity came up that was perfect for him so I eagerly called him and explained the opening. I told him how this was a first shift opportunity that paid $25 per hour which was higher than expected. He was so thankful, he told me I had blown his expectations out of the water and that he appreciated all my hard work. We had a moment together that was special and exciting.

Fast forward to the following week when it was time for him to interview. I called him the day before and prepared him for the interview by asking him generic questions and coaching him on how to best respond. I felt good about how we left the preparation and wished him luck. About 30 minutes after his interview was supposed to begin I received a call from the client asking, “Where is John Doe?” I had no idea where he was, so I quickly called him and, of course, there was no answer, so I left a voicemail. About three hours later, John called me and said that he had been at the playground with his son earlier in the day and his son had fallen off the swing and broke his arm. Due to the severity of the injury, John had to take his son to the hospital and was just now able to return my call. I felt terrible because John Doe had been so excited about this new opportunity and had to miss his interview to take care of his son.

After getting the details of the story, I quickly called the client and explained what happened and to my surprise, all they said was, “Ok, we’ll give him another shot, tell him to be here at 2:00 pm tomorrow.” I thought to myself, “Wow, this client is heartless. They don’t even care that this guy’s son broke his arm and he had to go to the hospital?” I could not believe they didn’t even ask me if his son was alright.

About a half-hour after John Doe’s interview was supposed to start the next day; sure enough, I get a call from the client saying that he did not show up again. I go through the same routine, I leave a voicemail and he calls me back three hours later. This time he says, “Hey man, I’m sorry but my ex-wife showed up and we got into a huge fight. She blamed me for my son breaking his arm and she is threatening to press charges, and so the cops came and had to pull her away.” Again, he promised that if I could get him an interview for the next day, he would be there. I thought to myself, “Holy cow, this guy is having a rough go of it.” I quickly called the client and explained the situation. They said that maybe we just need to find someone else, but I told them that John is their guy, he got everything figured out and he will be there. They agreed to let him come in.

As the next day came, I was anxious. My head was spinning and each minute felt like an hour. A half-hour after the interview was scheduled to begin, my phone is quiet. I could feel my eyes burning a hole through my desk phone just staring at it, whispering to myself, “Don’t you dare ring, don’t you even think about ringing.” There was no call from the client so at this point, I am thinking no news is good news. Then, an hour after the scheduled interview time, I get a call from the client. I take a deep breath, collect myself and answer the phone. The client says, “Hi! We had a great interview with John Doe and we’d love to bring him on our team.” I quickly muted my phone and yelled “Let’s Go!” loud enough for my boss to overhear me along with the rest of the office. I felt a rush of relief, happiness and confidence all combined into one exciting feeling. I stuck my neck out for this guy who was having a rough go at it and it worked out. I called John Doe and shared the good news with him. I let him know that they wanted him to start in two weeks.

Two weeks later, Monday morning comes around and John Doe is ready to begin his new position. We had previously talked through how to properly put his notice in at his current employer, and ensured he had all of the tools he needed to be prepared for his first day. I walked into my office with my chin held high and my confidence level through the roof. At 7:30 am my phone rings, pretty early for someone to call me on a Monday morning. On the other end of the receiver was the client, she said that John Doe had not shown up for his first day. My stomach flipped inside out and my heart sunk.

The feeling that came over me was similar to being up by two points in the basketball championship game when the opposing team hits a half-court three-pointer at the buzzer to win the game. The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “What do you mean?” She said, “Well, he was supposed to be here this morning and he’s not, can you tell me where he is?” I quickly apologized and said I would call him. Of course, yet again, there was no answer. I had not spoken to him for two weeks. I couldn’t help but worry about him. I thought to myself, “What happened now? Did his ex-wife come back? Is his son ok?”

After the second week of not hearing from him, I called him from my cell knowing he would not recognize my number, and sure enough, he answered. I said, “John Doe, is everything ok? Where have you been?” He calmly replied, “What are you talking about, I’m fine and who is this?” I said, “This is Kelly who got you the job at XYZ company!”

What happened next changed me, and not for the better, it made me a completely different person. John Doe laughed and said, “Oh yeah, I forgot to call you back, how are you man?” I found another job so I don’t need your help anymore, and by the way, I don’t have a son.” I was speechless.

Why would someone do this? I went from feeling like I was on top of the world back to an inexperienced college grad. The emotions that ran through me were angry, frustrated and sad all at once. How could someone do this to someone who only tried to help them? I trusted this person, I thought I was doing the right thing and all of it was a lie. How could I trust anyone now? Now, every conversation I have moving forward, I have to do with caution until they prove that I can trust them.

If you are in the recruiting, talent acquisition or hiring industry, you have a similar story or something equally as frustrating that has shaped who you are today. Just reflecting on this story has me riled up and it happened over ten years ago.

The reason I share this story is to demonstrate how honesty from both parties could have avoided turmoil. The client I had been working with blamed me for not knowing my candidate well enough. I wasted on paperwork with both the client and candidate, countless phone calls ensuring everything was all set and worrying about whether or not John Doe was doing alright.
So, what can we take away from this?

First, I will start by stating that initiating trust with your candidates is the responsibility of the recruiter. As a recruiter, you have to take pride in what you do and make sure your reputation proceeds you. Getting to know someone for who they are, and not based purely on pay, shift, location, etc is essential. Albeit, this is pretty basic information, but I promise you will have to remind yourself many times over your career.

Secondly, I put a lot of responsibility on the candidate, once trust has been established, to be open and honest about their needs and wants. Moving on from there it is very important to establish transparency and work together as a team. If a candidate is not opening up with me about what they want, it will be hard for me to negotiate with the company on the candidate’s behalf. For example, going back to John Doe, if he had let me know that he was interviewing at other places I could have used that to his advantage. I may have been able to leverage the demand, and maybe even increase his offer. It would have allowed me to speed up timelines instead of playing the waiting game.

The candidate and recruiter should be a team. As a recruiter, I want to get the candidate everything they want. Sometimes I can do so, and sometimes I am not, but I am always committed to trying my best. I ask the hard questions because I want to know what makes the individuals I work with get out of bed in the morning. What motivates them to do a good job? Why are they looking for a change? Etc. The only way to truly accomplish this is by having an open and honest relationship where trust is the foundation.

From a candidate perspective, I will tell you that some recruiters are better than others. It is your job to get to know and make sure you have confidence in the recruiter. If you know someone who had a good experience ask for the contact info and then introduce yourself. I promise a recruiter will be more than happy to hear from you. Some questions may make you feel uncomfortable, but if you’re working with a good recruiter it will only benefit you, to be honest about where your head is at.

One question that often makes people feel uncomfortable is what they desire for wages. It’s important to be honest about current and potential wages because if I am a good recruiter, I will know what the market is for individuals with your skillset and help you understand what you’re able to demand. Whether you are above or below that threshold, it is my job to tell you. If you disagree, I will not be offended if our relationship doesn’t move forward, but at least we will know that on the front end instead of wasting time.

There’s nothing more rewarding to me than finding a candidate for the perfect placement. It takes time getting to know a person but the reward is worth the effort. I write this because I want to encourage people to have a relationship with a recruiter that is beneficial for both parties. It can be done without someone feeling like they won or lost. You are on the same team.