Keeping Candidates Warm: Do the Cons outweigh the Pros?

My CareerXroads business partner, Mark Mehler, got this short and well-written email this morning from a candidate who was just stumped and a bit frustrated by what is still a typical and traditional recruiting practice.

I'll let you read it, then describe the results and a point or two.

Good Morning Mark,

I was chatting with (Mark’s oldest daughter) last night.  While catching up, she thought you'd enjoy the following story. 

I applied for a Senior  position at XXX, NYC headquarters.  HR contacted me for an in person interview.  Interview one went well enough to get a second interview up the ladder to the VP.  That phone interview went very well (better in my opinion than the first) prompting another interview in person.  The third interview was a few weeks later with the VP and Group VP in NYC.  That interview went as well as the second.  In that interview, they expressed that this was the last round of interviews and that a decision would be made. 

During the process, I made sure to do all the normal email follow ups with HR and each member of the interviews.  They always yielded a response from HR. 

That said, since this final interview, HR is completely MIA.  There was an initial response the day after the final interview saying they would have a decision made soon and would contact me.  It has now been 6 weeks with 3 followups from me and no response. 

 In the end, the courting phase lasted about a 6 weeks with 3 full length interviews, travel to meet the team/ decision makers and then silence. 

More odd than anything else was how smooth and transparent the correspondence was during the whole process until the end.  In coordinating all the interviews, we passed 30+ emails and a couple of phone calls back and forth. 

I can take hint, but it really says something about XXX and how not to deal with the interview candidates.  It could be a dozen things- the position is stalled, they went with a different candidate, the HR person is less than desirable or, something else, but in the end it's a little irksome to go through the whole process and then get the silent treatment. 

In all honesty, I'd love to work for the company. I continued to follow up to keep a good relationship with XXX in case another position that fit my skill better came up.

Hope you can use it in some educational way and you're staying cool in this heat.

Turns out, in this case, we knew the company, a Fortune 50 firm. One email and an hour later the candidate was called by the recruiter who explained that the job was filled by another candidate.

We know the 'silence' was to keep him warm...for six weeks! 'No response' was considered better than telling a lie....or telling the truth- "we're waiting for a better candidate to commit."...for 6 weeks!

The recruiter hadn't planned on 6 weeks. 1 day just became six weeks. We all know how that works. #slipperyslope

Some initial thoughts:

1. Employers' poor practices will be seen for what they are..wanting...and everyone will know.

2. Better to disappoint someone [qualified...even unqualified] who cares to work for you in the short term than anger someone who may be soon working at your biggest competitor for the long haul. And forget it if he or she is also a customer.

3. How do you really 'know' if your recruiters are avoiding returning a call to  a silver medalist for even a single day? If they do it for a single day, what prevents them from doing it 2 days, 3 days...?

4. How do you really 'know' that your recruiters aren't rusing your silver medalists to keep them warm while waiting for that selected candidate to make up his/her mind?

In the above instance however, one additional caveat. Silver medalists have all met with and interviewed with the hiring manager. Research, which I would be happy to share, demonstrates conclusively that the recruiting 'influence' shifts from the recruiter to the hiring manager during this last phase and, with silver medalists a best practice is that the [trained] hiring manager be the one to manage both the good and the bad news personally, followed up by the recruiter for future possibilities, referrals, etc.

Advice to employers:, If you've not the guts to train for full transparency and are not willing to hold your team accountable with solid metrics, you should be outsourcing your jobs to a firm or a recruiter with those capabilities...and measuring the way you treat the candidate in either instance.

Views: 6021

Comment by Amber on July 24, 2013 at 2:56pm

Too true, too often. Good post, Gerry. As a third party recruiter, I try to be upfront and timely with my candidates and clients. BUT, it is very frustrating when a client (or candidate) feels the need to keep everyone in the dark. I would much rather let a candidate know they're being kept "warm". It doesn't take much to convey this in a respectful, tactful manner. Example, client looking for a regional sales manager is in the process of evaluating (not for the first time) exactly where they are going to place their next facility. "Hello, candidate. At this time the company is still making the final analysis and decision on where they will place the facility. I don't expect that they will have a final decision for the regional sales manager position until that decision is made. You still are someone they are interested in looking at for the role, but it may be several weeks before they move forward in the process. I'd like to keep in touch, fill you in on any updates from the company and also be updated of any changes on your end." 

If a client is keeping a candidate "warm" simply because they think "next one might be better", then I feel that should be relayed and let the chips fall where they may. ( I would obviously tell the candidate in a much nicer way!)


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