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Most recruiters are honest and upfront with job seekers. Largely caring and committed, recruiters often genuinely care about every candidate, even if they don’t necessarily always show it.
But many of the most common put-offs, while usually well-intentioned and largely innocuous, are as integrated into the recruiting process as applicant tracking systems and reference checks.
The good news? Avoiding these worst practices instantly translates into an improved candidate experience and an easy win for your employment brand.
Here are the five biggest job search lies recruiters tell candidates and what you should say instead:
1. “I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.”
What it might really mean: Your resume will sit in our database untouched until you apply for something else. If you’re not right for any of my open reqs, any memory of you ends the moment I hang up this phone.
Best practice: Tell candidates up front whether you feel there will be other possibilities for them down the line. Offer an explanation of your rationale. Provide suggestions for relevant training or experience to increase their chances of landing a future role.
2. “Salary depends on experience; there’s no real set amount.”
What it might really mean: I already have a figure with almost no margin for negotiation. So your expectations are really the sole determinant as to whether this conversation continues or if I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.
Best practice: An important element of every basic phone screen involves learning about a candidate’s motivations in seeking a new opportunity. Often, salary issues top this list.
While it’s not appropriate to require a candidate to disclose their current compensation or targeted salary during an exploratory screen, it’s crucial to address this directly if the candidate discloses an increase in pay as a primary driver or a non-negotiable.
If you’re screening for a specific position and know the range, tell the candidate whether the numbers match. Disclose even a slight variance; the candidate, not the recruiter, should determine whether or not there’s a willingness to negotiate for this job. Having this conversation up front can avoid complications later.
3. “You’ll hear from us either way.”
What it might really mean: We’ll send you a template rejection letter from a blind email address, if you’re lucky—which might leave you to wonder whether you’re still in contention.
Best practice: Most applicant tracking systems send an automatic confirmation via email to applicants; many of these same systems will also send an email to let candidates know when a requisition closes and they are no longer in contention. But adding your name or a personalized message can help make a little effort go a long way.
For candidates contacted for a phone screen, it’s best practice to let them know directly if they’re not selected. If they took the time to follow up and answer questions, common courtesy suggests you should do the same.
It’s okay to turn a job seeker down professionally; simply not bothering to inform a candidate is not.
4. “We’re interested, but we’re still looking at other candidates.”
What it might really mean: An offer’s been extended to someone else, and we’re really hoping they’ll accept so we don’t have to go to Plan B (you).
Best practice: Be upfront about where the search stands. If there are outstanding questions or concerns surrounding a candidate, let them know; there’s a good chance they’ll be able to provide information to inform a pending decision.
If the hiring manager is delaying making an offer for reasons that have nothing to do with the candidate, make sure they know exactly what those are and the timeframe.
If you don’t know this information, let the candidate know the next time you’ll speak with the hiring manager and follow up with both. Status quo is almost always better than no status at all.
5. “I was given your name by a mutual contact who asked to remain confidential…”
What it might really mean: I found your information online.
Best practice: This line remains incredibly common when engaging candidates for the first time.
While candidates show increased willingness to speak with someone based off a referral, it’s important to let a candidate know how you developed the information to contact them.
This ensures that active job seekers know what’s effective while passive candidates stay informed about the visibility of information. It also leads to more effective source-of-hire reports, which are generally misaligned due to candidate self-identification.
Of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about candidate experience—one thing that recruiters, and the people they hire, definitely agree on, even in the most divergent communication. Here’s hoping that we bridge the divide, get away from buzzwords and start talking straight to our candidates—and ourselves.
Matt Charney (@MattCharney) is the Director of Marketing for Talemetry, a leading provider of enterprise talent generation solutions. Matt began his career as a corporate recruiter for companies such as Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Company and is also the producer of TalentNet Radio, the original Twitter chat for recruiters.