As a Corporate Recruiter my job is to make sure that I assist in finding the best candidate for our open positions, simple right? It really, truly is – simple that is. But that doesn’t mean that little ol’ me isn’t going to do my absolute best to make it complicated. No doubt I pride myself on understanding my hiring manager’s needs, asking tough questions and pushing them just a bit harder than they would probably like, but the simple fact is that sometimes they are going to see candidates that they are going to take a pass on. In fact, some managers NEED to see a longer list of candidates to choose from than I would like.

What this means for me is that after I’ve invested myself in a candidate, qualified them well and presented them to my hiring manager, I really and truly care about the outcome. Not because it looks good against my numbers to have a position filled quickly, or because it shows off my marvelous sourcing and pipelining skills, but because I feel a great deal of sympathy for my candidates. I know when they talk to me it’s a big decision to consider a new position. It’s my job to get them excited. To help them to understand the facets of the decision to consider joining us. And, unfortunately, sometimes it’s my job to knock over the house of cards after I’ve carefully set it up.

I suppose I could take a page out of Simon Cowell’s book (sorry for the Idol reference!) and just be blunt, “it’s a no”. Even with a direct approach, which I discovered very early on is the only way, it’s difficult not to feel for candidates when I make that call. I imagine this is something that isn’t going to change for me, that I'm never going to get used to it, and in fact I really hope it doesn’t. I really just makes me human, right?

In any case, if I had to choose a part of my job that was my least favorite, making the “we’re passing” call would have to be it.

I wonder how the candidates perceive this…? Am I helping or hurting in my carefully executed delivery of bad news? Has anyone ever asked them?

Views: 75

Comment by Janice Laing on January 20, 2009 at 8:02pm
Hi Becky, I agree with you......having to tell candidates that the client is not interested is the least enjoyable part of the recruiting process. I don't think I'll ever be good at it!
Comment by Dan Nuroo on January 20, 2009 at 8:41pm
Hey Becky, like the post. I agree. I think the big question is, is it a final "no" or just a "No for now", both are awkward, but I know which one I prefer. However is the skills just don't match up as well as i'd hoped when putting through, then that is different too. Honesty in this situation whilst uncomfortable is a learning experience for them.

Candidates are human, they understand the world we live in. I think the worst thing I've had to do (apart from firing people) is a few years ago, when the techo bubble burst, I had to tell 2 graduates, the Friday before the Monday they were meant to start, that there was no longer a job there for them... now that hurt, these guys had turned down other jobs for my opportunity, and surprisingly enough.. they weren't happy. Whilst tough to remember, the fact is that it normally isn't your call (unless it is). In this case I was the messenger, as it still is now days in this internal function.

But the fact that you make the "we're passing" call as opposed to just sending a letter, proves that you care and you are invested in the process, which is a great (and occaisionally) thing.. I promise
Comment by Becky Metcalf on January 20, 2009 at 9:23pm
Thanks Dan and Janice! I appreciate the comments, it's a tough topic. Dan, that's a great example and goes to the heart of what I'm feeling on the subject. Sometimes I feel like I should be able to put aside the feelings that go along with a no, but then I remember that I'm a person, just like the candidate I am delivering the news to - hard as it is, I sure hope that I never get numb to it.
Comment by Dan Nuroo on January 20, 2009 at 10:29pm
I think I missed a word in my response.. oops... the missing word is frustrating... I'll let you all figure out where it goes... :)
Comment by Gino Conti on January 21, 2009 at 3:49pm
Becky -

In response to both your post and the comment that follows, if you've got any sort of soft spot in you, it's pretty unlikely you'll ever get numb to telling people they didn't get the job you got them all excited for. I feel the sting of this dilemma every time I have to tell somebody no. It truly pains me to deliver said news for a few reasons. First and foremost, I absolutely love making people happy, and giving this kind of news surely will not accomplish that goal. Second, I do everything I can to describe why each candidate I work with is interviewing for his or her dream job. I don't sell them a bill of goods, but want them to be ecstatic about the opportunity and know that they want the job. Last but not least, I like to try and have a positive impact on a person every time I communicate or interact with them, and this becomes very hard when the purpose of the call is to give a decline notice.

So what to do?

I go into these calls (always a phone call, never an email) keeping in mind that this is a human being I'm going to be talking to. I remind myself how excited I got them for the job and I'm about to pull the rug out from under them. . Once the candidate picks up the phone I do my very best not to dance around the subject. The goal is to be tactful, kind, and caring, while at the same time assuming the person on the receiving end is a mature enough person to understand there was the possibility for this to happen.

Once I deliver the bad news I do still try to end on a positive note. If the answer was "no for this, but we like him/her for something else," I run the other option past the candidate. If the answer is "we don't have anything else, but would recommend him/her" I offer to pass the candidate's credentials and recommendations to trusted colleagues of mine who may have other opportunities to present.

Unfortunately the situation doesn't always allow for me to save the day at the end, but as long as I can do my best to keep the human portion of the job in mind it doesn't seem so hard to be the bearer of bad news now and again.



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