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Incremental Truths – What Candidates Tell Recruiters

Passive candidates – the people every employer wants – the ones that are happy, productive, and not looking for a job – are often wary of recruiters.  They know that there is only a slim chance that the opportunity about which the recruiter is calling will be of interest to them.  They know that recruiters “Sell the Sizzle” – give them all the positive hype about the job.  And unfortunately, many of them have been burned by recruiters with questionable skills and/or questionable ethics.

Candidates often respond to this reflexive wariness by being very selective in what they say to the recruiter.  They play poker, and hold their cards close to the vest.  They release information in a protective way.  About their motivations, their compensation, their goals, possible competing opportunities, etc.

As they began to trust us more, they reveal more.  Sometimes this is different info, and it can take the recruiter by surprise.  Incremental truths work both in the positive and negative direction.  You might find out something that makes the candidate better or worse (from the perspective of the employer). The candidate we thought might NOT be a fit because their income is already over the range, suddenly reveals that he/she is making $20K LESS than we thought (they told us their whole package, not their base, when asked for base).  At the lower actual comp, which is new info to us, the candidate is now a better prospect (more likely to accept an offer).   The candidate who originally seemed very interested in our opportunity, suddenly accepts a different position we didn’t know about!  The candidate goes out of the picture.

Often the candidate’s story changes with each conversation, or with increasingly higher level screening.  For example, the first front-line recruiter to talk to the candidate might get one story, and then the partner in charge of the search might get new and different information later on.

Recruiters have to expect this.

What can we do about it?  First and foremost, be straightforward.  Make sure you tell the truth to your candidates.  Be a caring human being.  Let them know you take their candidacy seriously, and will respect their needs.  If you are a successful recruiter, you have good intuition.  Use it to size up the responses you are getting, and probe for hidden details and/or meanings.  Don’t be confrontational.  Be immediately accepting of new info, and thank the candidate for their candor.  Be different. Show the candidate you aren’t just the same as every other recruiter they’ve ever spoken to, and they might just treat you differently too.

I’m not calling all candidates liars – they are just protecting themselves.  But, partial truths, hidden truths and outright lies hurt everyone in the recruitment process.  The candidate loses credibility with the recruiter, now and for the future.  The recruiter and employer lose valuable time and waste effort.  It is on the recruiter to take the initiative in this.  Blame is a lose-lose proposition.  Do whatever it takes to create trust and rapport so that the candidate will be more inclined to tell you the full truth.