When Recruiting Goes Wrong

By Alex Schecter 

I love being a Recruiter. I love working with different people in different companies, learning what they do, why they do it and what they need in new team members to be able to do it better. I love working with different people searching for something new, whether it’s something that fills a void, or something allows them to align their work with their changing priorities. When things go right, someone gets the chance to join a new team, do new work, with newer or different technologies. Their new team gets stronger, and is excited to have a new team member on board.

However, when things don’t go right, I’m left realizing exactly how much impact we have on people’s lives, and how much responsibility we need to take in that. I know that over the years, there are plenty of people that I’m sure would say that I haven’t been the greatest of recruiters, but I have always taken my responsibility as a recruiter very seriously. I realize the impact that I may have on someone’s life when I reach out to them to discuss a new opportunity.

I started out wanting to write something more objective about things we as recruiters need to do to treat people properly. Instead, I thought it might be better to share a story that happened to me recently, and express how seriously we need to take that responsibility when things do go wrong.

I was recently working with someone that had applied to a posting. They were actively looking for something new, so I hadn’t reached out to “recruit” them, but still, I decided to get in touch with them and talk through a couple of opportunities. We met for a coffee and talked about what they wanted in something new, what needed to be different in a new opportunity, what they liked and disliked about their current employer and for an hour or more, we talked through all the things that they wanted to take their career forward. We agreed to work together, and I submitted them to a couple of clients for consideration. After a few interviews with a few companies, the paperwork came through, an acceptance was given and a start date agreed upon. The candidate could give their notice and go on holiday out of the country, knowing that they were coming back to an exciting new challenge!

Then the unthinkable happened.

Due to finances and a restructuring, the company had to rescind the offer. The candidate had quit their job, was out of country and now had no new job to come home to. My heart sank for them. I met with the company four different times and was on the phone with them countless others to try and find a way to make the situation work. While trying to find a solution, I also had to deal with the stress about how to break the news to the candidate, how they were going to feel, how they would deal with the information and what they would do. I researched similar situations from a legal stand point as well as a mental health stand point. I looked for ways to counsel the company in to doing the right thing, and when it couldn’t be done, I counselled them as best I could for them to do as much as possible for the candidate. For a week, I felt like a complete wreck. In the end, there was nothing that could be done, and the offer was cancelled. It was official: the candidate was definitely out of a job.

I was the one to let the candidate know. I stressed about when to tell them, how to tell them since they were out of country, not to mention dealing with the time difference, and wondering what time of the day would be best to deliver the news. Overthinking it all surely didn’t help, but I couldn’t seem to help it. I had a hand in the situation and needed to make sure that the candidate’s feelings were looked after as much as anything else.

I delivered the news. The response was exactly as I expected: pure devastation. When the candidate came back to town, we met for a coffee to talk things through. I met the candidate and their partner again for a coffee, and we talked for an hour or more about their current situation. I had never been in this situation before, so I couldn’t fully understand what they were going through, but I could be someone for them to talk to, yell at, cry to, be upset with, all of it. And they did. They were upset with the company and less so with me, but all the same, they needed someone to talk it through with. Given the situation, I had a responsibility to be that person. I owed it to them both to listen, empathize and reassure. Ultimately, they needed that communication to be able to put the experience behind them and move forward.

I continue to work with both candidate and client to find a resolution that they can both settle on. I continue to put in hours upon hours to make sure that the candidate and their family are not left in such a dire situation.

Recruiters are often negatively talked about, and you can find countless examples on LinkedIn and other platforms of people bashing recruiters. We have been made to feel like nothing more than a number; a bunch of key words on a resume, all in an effort for us to send our invoice, collect our fee, and just as quickly forget and move on. I guess in the end, this serves as a message. To those that think we’re all “ambulance chasers”, there are those of us recruiters that realize we deal with people, their families and their emotions when we engage. We take our role seriously and our responsibility even more so.

To those Recruiters that do focus more on the individual transaction and less on the people we deal with, this serves as a reminder. We work with people. Our job is to upset their lives with the promise of something better. If we don’t take that responsibility seriously, then the only thing we really do is meddle with their lives and their happiness.

When we reach out to a candidate, whether they’ve applied directly or whether we’ve searched for them, we need to understand that this relationship isn’t just “I’m going to place you into a job and collect a fee”. This job is so much more. It can be absolutely rewarding when it all goes right, but when it goes wrong is when the good recruiters separate themselves from the rest: they care.

To read more articles like this, check out our blogs page.