Recruiter's Dilemma: Truth or Diplomacy?


In a culture where talk is cheap, its easy to forget that words have consequences.

A case in point: After two rounds of interviews, Helens client told her they planned to make an offer to Shelby, one of Helens candidates. Upon learning the good news, Helen immediately fired off an instant message. Dear Shelby, she wrote. The company is working up an offer. Hope to have it finalized soon.

It is not what you say it is how you say it. So many times I have seen a recruiter not understanding how they caused this war.

One week later, Shelby wrote back, Dear Helen: I've been waiting a week and still no job offer. Quite frankly, Im not sure I want to work for a company that cant keep its promises.

With this, Helen began to panic. She called her client and left a voice mail: This is Helen. Im afraid were going to lose this candidate if we dont act right away. Please call me ASAP.

Five minutes later, she received an email from her client. Sorry I missed your call, wrote the client. But if your candidate is that impatient, she might not be the right person for the job.

Diplomatic Immunity
See how things can spiral out of control when news travels fast and expectations run rampant? Instead of cultivating a placement, Helen found herself fighting a battle on two fronts, in a war of her own creation.

To the candidate, she might have said, The company was very impressed with your background, and from what theyve told me, were moving in the right direction. I dont have a specific time line for a decision; but as soon as I hear something, I'll let you know you right away.

And to the employer, Helen might have asked, What sort of progress are we making with respect to Shelbys offer? I spoke with her recently, and shes still extremely excited about the job.

Could Helen be accused of withholding information? Probably. But from a strategic standpoint, it makes more sense to dial down expectations than fuel an emotional fire with too much information. Being privy to confidential chatter doesnt mean having to share it.

For example, the next time a candidate asks you for the salary range of an open position, keep it close to the vest. Dont blurt out, The range is $80,000 to $90,000, even if that's the case. After all, your client's personnel budget is nobodys business, certainly not the candidates. And besides, if the candidate is currently earning $75,000 and knows that $90,000 is on the table, then offering anything less will probably be a disappointment.

Instead, you should say, It appears from my notes that your salary needs fall nicely within their range, and leave it at that. Then, if the company offers $80,000 and the candidate accepts, everyones happy. Great concrete specific advice never draw lines in the sand on salary from either the client or applicant.

There are a thousand temptations to say too mucheven in good faiththat might cause unintentional damage. Way back in elementary school, I asked a classmate if she was going to a party I'd been invited to. No big deal, except that she hadnt been asked. When the realization set in that shed been overlooked, she was heartbroken and I felt like a cad. But the experience taught me that good manners have everything to do with a persons feelings and nothing to do with elbows on the table. Basic rule in any sales situation, goes double in recruiting. Never ask a question that your are not sure of the answer.

Whenever I'm faced with the possibility that my words might sting, I think back to an old saying thats kept my recruiting businessand my marriagestrong for many years: Its better to be loved than to be right.

Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule. But in general, the trick to getting along with the people who matter most is to know exactly when to keep your mouth shut.

By Bill Radin
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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