Question of the day: How long is too long to follow up with a candidate post interview?

Follow up to today's RBC Daily:

I spoke with a recruiter who shared a unique situation. A long standing client that he's made multiple placements with in the past recently interviewed a candidate the recruiter presented. The feedback was positive, but no offer was made. The client wanted to look at a few more individuals. The recruiter continued to share other opportunities with the candidate and set up several more interviews. All along the recruiter consistently following up with the first client to gauge interest but did not receive any additional feedback. Fast forward three and half weeks and the first client finally circled around with an offer only to find out that the candidate had since moved on and accepted another position. The client was not pleased with this news, blamed the recruiter and indicated they would never work with him again.

Is there a right or wrong in this scenario?

Question of the day: How long is too long to follow up with a candidate post interview?

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For thousands of years the human race has struggled to overcome its own nature, as embodied by a question that runs in a continuous loop heard as a little voice in the back of one's head; "Do I go with what I've got now, or can I do better?" So many times the ego wins out and the quest continues. That path has led to failure so often that we now have a saying to remind us of the consequences. All risk-takers beware, because if "you snooze, you lose".


Besides, who would want to work for a company that keeps its cards so close to its vest and takes so long to make a decision? Apparently one that reacts poorly to having taken the wrong path by insulting a tried and true vendor.

Christopher I agree with pretty much everything you say except sometimes in my experience you have to be 'cruel to be kind' with some clients.  I had a stand up row with a client a few years back and basically told him I thought his recruitment policies and strategies stank and that I was not prepared to prejudice my good name in the market with candidates by further association with him unless he changed his attitude.  At the end of the day clients come to us because we can get them the candidates others can't and building and maintaining that reputation with candidates is a very important factror in that!   One of the nicest recommendations I have on my LI profile is from a candidate who simply says, "If Dyll calls, pay attention!"  That kind of clout with very busy and senior candidates is not worth prejudicing for any client in my view.  I thought it was time the client went out into the big wide world and worked with a few other recruiters to learn the value of what he had.  I knew he was struggling to find people of the right calibre thereafter because I kept in touch with the many candidates who I had placed with him and they told me as much!  Needless to say this same client called me about a year later and asked if I could 'help him find some more candidates' . . .  I know that sounds a bit arrogant of me but heh I got to work on my own terms and do a better job in the process for the client.

I think the most important thing you can do as a recruiter is to clarify expectations with both the client and the candidates for what a reasonable response time frame is.  I work in temporary physician staffing where we have the understanding that our clients are probably working with more than one agency and our candidates are probably looking at more than one assignment.  We implemented a 48 hour rule where after a candidate is presented the client has 48 hours to make a decision. In that time the physician will hold off on accepting any other offers.  Nothing is fool proof from avoiding a situation like the one listed above, but at least with the 48 hour rule clients have assurance that their candidates will not dissapear and they also have an understanding that if they don't act fast they could lose the candidate.

opps retained fee

Paul Lovallo said:

What is not known here are the following important facts; is it a contingency search, is there a contract in place and did the Recruiter place the candidate with another client or if the candidate was placed by another recruiter? 

Lets assume its a contingent search and the Recruiter in question was successful in placing the candidate with another client, in this case I would have to side with the Recruiter! He kept his original client in the loop and explained the candidate was actively interviewing which is the right thing to do.

It could have easily gone the other way where the original client never got around to an offer, the recruiter only submitted the candidate to the original client and that client hired another candidate, leaving the recruiter with a big goose egg!

If clients prefers exclusivity, they need to pony up and pay a "contingency fee"

Well... before the interview, the recruiter should have set expectations with both the client and the candidate about the interview process, and what to expect. The client should have known before the interview that he/she would have to make a yah/nah decision in a reasonable time-frame; that the candidate was in hot demand and would not be in the market long, presuming that they were actively interviewing.

If the client was told prior to the interview that they would have 48 hours afterwards to extend an offer or not, then the client is just a bonehead.  LOL. If those expectations were not set, prior, then it's the recruiters fault, I think.

Any delay, ANY delay is too long.  I used to tell candidates that as soon as they left the interview, they call me collect from the first telephone they passed.  I beat it into them that I needed to hear from them even before I heard from the client as I needed to be aware of any unusual and/or unplanned occurrences so I might be able to explain a concern that client might have had that was understandable, etc.

In most of the searches I conducted, my candidates were "recruited" candidates, that is, they weren't actively looking for a new position.  I even had clients who would not interview anyone, no matter how qualified, if they weren't currently employed, regardless of the reason.  I also made sure they understood that had a responsibility to keep me totally informed of what what going on regarding any other opportunities, changes in life or work, etc.  Didn't always work of course (See Recruiter Rule #2 - Never trust a candidate) but at least I usually had more information than if I didn't try to make the candidate understand how crucial it was that I be kept fully informed.

I sense that things have changed now that it appears that most candidates are always "looking" for a new job.

For us it is called retained or contingent.  If we've received a retainer I'll wait and not shop the candidate.  If the client engages with a contingent agreement with no container or retainer fee, I will shop the candidate until they are placed.  If our client is loyal we are loyal, if they want to hire 3 contingent providers we are not loyal.

How do you keep the candidate loyal? That seems tougher.

This is an easy one's the recruiters fault...PERIOD. It's all about managing expectations and accountability.

Assuming this is the contingency world, we work for free. I don't have the time to waste with clients who hem and haw. If I took a good rec and am managing the process and the candidate is closed the debrief goes something like this; "is there any compelling reason not to move forward with this candidate?" Anything other than No and an offer better not be met with; "We love them.  We just need to see more people to compare", or "Bob from accounting was on paternity leave and he comes back in 3 weeks and we'd like the candidate to meet him (unless Bob is the hiring manager and if he is, the recruiter should have known this)", etc...etc...

The best way to handle the situation is this. "Sally (candidate) wants the job, she's closed at X and I can accept on her behalf right now.  There is no compelling reason not to move forward.  I can guarantee Sally today, I can't tomorrow". Depending upon the clients response you need to decide to hold on or cut bait.  Contrary to popular belief, there are a million good rec's to work on.  Anyone who ever got into the business took business from another recruiter who had it.  Find more business.


Dear Client,

Bob interviewed with you over three weeks ago.  Not hearing anything definite in terms of an offer he has continued to interview.  He currently has offers on the table from two other companies.  His preference is join your firm but he needs to make a decision in the next two to three days.  Please let me know what you would like for me to tell him.  The time lapse has made him unsure as to your level of interest.  I have expressed from the time of interview that you had a high level of interest but he felt since you were interviewing other candidates he also needed to interview with other companies.  He more than understands your need to be sure that you find the best fit for your open position.  You are still at the top of his list.  If you are unsure about him i need to be candid with him so he will not lose the opportunity to take his second choice. 

Looks like it's your call at this point.  Please advise.

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