Big Fat Lies and the Recruiters Who Tell Them

By Ravi Devatha

A warning: these statements are often true and crucially important when communicating with candidates.  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.

The bad news is that many of the most common put offs, while usually well-intentioned and largely innocuous, are as integrated with the recruiting process as an applicant tracking systems or a reference check.

The good news?  Avoiding these “worst practices” instantly translates into observing best practices, an improved candidate experience and an easy win for your employment brand.

5 Biggest Job Search Lies Recruiters Tell Candidates 

1) When a recruiter says: “I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.”

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 them an explanation into your rationale. Provide suggestions for relevant training or experience to increase their chance of landing a future role.

2) When a recruiter says: “Salary depends on experience; there’s no real set amount.”

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.” (see above.)

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 as non-negotiable.

If you’re screening for a specific position and know the range, tell the candidate if the numbers match. Disclose an even 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) When a recruiter says: “You’ll hear from us either way.”

It might really mean: “We’ll send you a templated rejection letter from a blind e-mail address, if you’re lucky,” leaving the candidate to wonder if they’re still in contention.

Best Practice: Most applicant tracking systems send an automatic confirmation via e-mail 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.

Adding your name or a personalized message can help make a little effort go a long way.  It’s as easy as pressing “send.”

For candidates contacted for a phone screen, it’s a 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 OK to turn a job seeker down professionally; not informing a candidate about it is not.

4) When a recruiter says: We’re interested, but we’re still looking at other candidates.

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 some 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’s 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) When a recruiter says: “I was passed your name by a mutual contact who asked to remain confidential…”

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 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.