Skip to content

The Candidate-Friendly Recruiter

  • by

Not long after I launched my solo recruiting practice, I had a short-lived client engagement. I can clearly recall the moment we both knew it wouldn’t be an effective partnership. My client said to me exasperatedly, “Well, look, I know you’re employee-friendly, but…”

Though several years have passed, I reflect frequently on that conversation. Twenty years into my HR career, based on everything that is known in my profession, all I can say is, “Why wouldn’t an employer want to be employee-friendly?” So much research and literature on this topic affirms that the foundation of a successful business is selecting, retaining, and motivating employees effectively. This is especially true for non-profit organizations, but also true in for-profit businesses.

Despite this, business culture has reinforced a sense of power imbalance within the recruitment process. Despite ongoing record unemployment (setting aside the COVID blip) and tight labor markets, some hiring managers have an ingrained sense that “we’re choosing a new employee” – thinking any job-seeker would automatically be delighted to accept a job offer. They may be picturing Sally Field’s famous Oscar speech:

You like me! You really like me!

Recruiters can facilitate balance in the process. Candidates are more empowered than they’ve been conditioned to think.

So with that – keeping in mind that a recruiter’s first responsibility is to the hiring team, as I’ve mentioned before – I invite my fellow recruiters to consider what “employee-friendly” or “candidate-friendly” looks like in our work.

What are the practices of a candidate-friendly recruiter?

Language matters. Consider what a recruitment actually is: a process with the goal of matching a hiring team’s open jobs with aligned job seekers. There are phrases I often hear in my work that run counter to that understanding, such as:
• “send me candidates”: I will sometimes hear this from hiring managers. Recruiters are not a manufacturer or delivery service of ideal candidates.
• “placement” This is very old-school terminology. Back in the day, an employer would call up an employment agency asking for someone to start that morning. In the 21st century, this phrase should be retired.

I encourage recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates to carefully select words and phrases that accurately reflect how we do things.

Recruiting is a three-way conversation between the hiring team, the candidate, and the recruiter. The recruiter needs to be attentive to when we’re the primary communicator vs. when to create space for the hiring team and candidate to communicate directly (after all, they may eventually be working together).

Low-hanging fruit for a candidate-friendly recruiter is to notify applicants when they have not been selected for an interview. It’s time consuming when I have 200 applications in my inbox, but organizations that have automation can send “regrets” with just a few clicks of the mouse. This frees up the candidate to stop thinking about this role and continue applying for other opportunities. My aim is to do this at every step in the interview process.

Once candidates enter the interview process, I do have to follow the lead of my client. There are cases in which the hiring team doesn’t think of each interview stage as a “yes/no” gate, but instead invites a few candidates to move forward to the next step while keeping the other candidates on hold. The clearest communication I can provide to those candidates is to let them know that the hiring team hasn’t made a decision yet. My understanding from candidates is that this approach is preferable to hearing nothing at all.

Related to communication is transparency. The most important and easiest aspect of this is to provide visibility into the interview process steps. For example: “The process for successful candidates will include a phone interview, Zoom interview, then in-person final-round.” If it will be a long process with more than three interview stages, it’s helpful to explain why the organization sees that as valuable.

Sometimes the process steps aren’t clear, so the recruiter should be as transparent as possible about that while being diplomatic about the client. If the hiring team is not able to formulate a clear interview process, candidates can take that information into account when considering joining the organization.

It’s important to distinguish between process transparency and decision transparency. Decisions are understandably confidential between the hiring team and the recruiter. When delivering news to a candidate about a decision (usually unfavorable), I prioritize feedback that may be useful to them in their next steps.

A candidate-friendly recruiter can help job seekers keep things in perspective. A recruitment is a very relative process. What I mean is that the process is designed to compare candidates to each other, with the result of hiring the candidate that most favorably meets the hiring team’s criteria. Candidates who aren’t selected are still great employees! Sometimes they need to be reminded, “it’s not you, it’s the process.”

Another way I try to encourage job seekers and address the power imbalance is simply to remind candidates, “You’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you.” Candidates do have a choice to accept or decline a job offer. As recruiters, our incentive is to successfully close the search – but a candidate-friendly recruiter takes satisfaction in knowing it was a good fit for everyone involved.

DM me if you have any other tips or observations about what it takes to be a candidate-friendly recruiter!

Leave a Reply