As an executive recruiter, there are many reasons why I have remained in the business for over 17 years. I have enjoyed the variety and senior level contact that my job provides, the work I have done across Canada and internationally, and the satisfaction I have received from placing executives with clients who have progressed on to more senior roles. Despite all this, there is one aspect of my job that never gets easier – “turning down a candidate”. As a recruiter, I am disrupting people’s lives, “pitching” a new opportunity and creating a competition for individuals where otherwise they were content in their current role. What I have learned over my career is that it’s very important to treat every candidate with respect as it’s a very small community. The following are the practices I follow when I have to make the dreaded phone call:

Be Timely

At the executive level, a search can take anywhere from 2-3 months (or longer). As I work hard to build a strong short-list for my client to interview, there will be many active or passive candidates that I will make contact with that won’t proceed to either the first or subsequent interviews with my client. The worst thing I can do is not inform my candidates that they are not moving forward and just go quiet. If there is no update, it’s better to say so than not say anything for weeks on end. It’s better to keep candidates informed than leave them wondering.

Be Transparent and Open

If a candidate is not moving forward provide feedback…any feedback! Give them reasons why they are not moving forward as it will help them when they enter a competition for another opportunity. It may give them tips on what to work or improve on.

Be Respectful

Candidates invest a lot of time researching companies and preparing for an interview. Candidates are not being compensated for the time they are investing in the process, the least a recruiter can do is call the candidate and inform them that they are not moving forward. If the candidate has met with the client (possibly multiple times) and is not successful don’t email them, phone them!

Think Long-Term

People remember. An unsuccessful candidate can be a candidate in the future or possibly a client. If they haven’t had a positive experience with you, they are less likely to take your call again, consider you when they have a hiring need, or refer you to their network.  As a recruiter, you are your client’s ambassador in the market. How you treat candidates will not only reflect on your reputation but also on the reputation of your client.