How to Overcome These 3 Negative Perceptions Candidates Have About Recruiters

August 27, 2015

Not all candidates like us. Some are frustrated with recruiters because their applications get rejected, others are angry because they never hear back. As recruiters (and humans), we accept that – it’s part of the job.

However, maybe it doesn’t need to be something that’s a given. How can we change negative opinions into positive ones?

It was this question that drove me to survey people who are currently looking for employment. My goal was to gather raw material and feedback that will help us all become better at what we do on a daily basis. Though some comments hurt a little, the reality is they are accurate in their own right and can get us to reflect on how we do our jobs.

Here are some survey comments from applicants that can provide us with areas to improve on:

1. Question: “What do you think a recruiter does all day?”

Answer: “They are a gatekeeper and won’t let me get in the door.”

In essence this is true, however, I’m assuming the candidate who wrote this comment was applying to jobs they aren’t qualified for they can’t get through a recruiter. Our job is to funnel through applicants and only allow the absolute best to rise to the top to allow contact with the well-protected hiring manager or team.

But at the same time, these candidates may be buyers of your company’s products, a fan of your services, or a huge advocate for your business. So, you don’t want to make them feel like you’re a gatekeeper to something they support. What’s the solution? Easy: communication.

Try sending the candidate a message along these lines: “Your resume has been received and reviewed by the hiring manager. After careful consideration, we’ve decided to pursue candidates who’ve meet all of the qualifications for the positon. We appreciate your time and interest in X company and wish you nothing but success.”

That response shows the candidate that they got through the “gatekeeper” and were turned down by the hiring manager. I’m not proposing we allow our candidates to email our hiring managers directly and bog down their inbox (We would all lose our jobs.) I’m suggesting our communication evolve from candidates thinking the recruiter has all the “power” and that we don’t want people to get past us to we are a partner who wants to find the best talent for the company as well as set the candidate up for success.

2. Question: “What do you think a recruiter does all day?”

Answer: “They make a lot of promises and deliver very little. They stereotype you into a role that you have long outgrown and keep you from moving up and making more money.”

Ouch, that one hurt. Making false promises isn’t ever acceptable and it shouldn’t be hard to tell the truth and provide honest expectations. In my previous article, I go into more detail about how you can connect with candidates and following up is a key component.

Sometimes things don’t go smoothly. The important thing is communicating what’s going on to the candidate. For example, I once extended 2 offers to Senior Software Engineers in one day. They were both extremely excited. A couple hours later, I found out I had needed to get the approval from the CTO in Scotland before moving forward. You can imagine my stomach dropped. The offers were already extended. I quickly realized that all I could do was tell candidates the truth – that there was still once more person to go through. I dreaded the conversations but I muscled up and called them both. I explained everything and apologized for the whole ordeal. They were both very understanding and even emailed me that evening to ensure that I wasn’t losing sleep over it and they respected me for being honest.

We all have hiring managers who usually take at least 3 days of hunting down to receive feedback. So tell the candidate it will take 7 business days - under promise and over deliver.

If you’re working on an opening that you know may be cancelled or shut down, let the candidate know you’re exploring the market. Explain that you would like to open the line of communication and have them speak to some people, but you aren’t sure, at the moment, if the role will be filled immediately.

As for stereotyping someone into one role when they may offer other skills, that’s 100% our and we need to open our minds and think outside the box. We all evolve and outgrow our jobs in time. My motto is, “Allow a Star to Shine.” So if someone is wanting to move into another department or team, it’s our job to be supportive and allow them to shine.

3. Question: “What is one of your biggest frustrations when working with a recruiter?”

Answer: “They’re all different, I come across some good ones, sometimes, but most of the time not. They all need recruiter etiquette training.”

When I read this, I became defensive for a moment and thought, “Maybe they need applicant etiquette training!” I quickly snapped out of it and took a look in the mirror. Have any of you had someone close to you looking for a job? Have any of those people come to you all excited about an interview they felt went great? Finally, have any of those people then come back to you a week later very upset and down on themselves. The recruiter told them they would hear back with an answer in a couple days, but they haven’t heard anything. I’m sure you felt bad, were upset, consoled them, and provided your professional opinion.

So treat applications like you would treat a friend. Follow up with them, thank them for their time, and show sincere appreciation for them taking the time to interview with your company. When you say you will call, call. When you say they will hear from you, reach out. When you say you will be in the office and to stop by, be there.

We interview people for a living and we have candidates in and out of our offices all day. It’s easy to become desensitized to the amount of stress and build up these candidates go through to meet with our companies. Knowing this, pay them a compliment. Notice new shoes, nice haircuts, and new suits. Acknowledge their nerves and make an effort to make them feel comfortable. You have no idea what is going on in their personal life or the road they took to get to the meeting with you. Take a step back, be human, and connect with each and every candidate.

Everyone who knows me personally, knows I always leave a conversation on a positive note. This article wasn’t meant to make you feel bad about your profession. My goal is to give the candidates a voice so we can all be better at what we do. There were actually MORE positive comments about recruiters than negative.

Here’s a few positive comments to bring a smile to your face:

“Recruiters changes lives for the better.”

“Most HR managers whittle their applicant field by matching keywords, which means qualified applicants can slip through the cracks because they never make it off the figurative pile of resumes. This gives a company a good shot at getting someone who can do a job in the present, but probably not position it for the future. A good recruiter is able to see past line items, put together a complete picture of an individual, and match them to a situation in which both clients -- talent and company -- can win in a way that positions each for dynamic growth.”

“Recruiters seeks out qualified talent and encourage them to apply.”

“Recruiters connect potential candidates with hiring managers, educate hiring managers as to the talent in the marketplace, assists the candidates during the recruiting process, and act as their advocate.”

“Recruiters are on the lookout for talent to fill a company's requested needs or potential future needs.”

“A recruiter is the face of the company. They are the ones responsible for setting the tone for how the candidate experience will be and a good indicator of how the culture is within the organization.”


Alysse Metzler is a Recruitment Executive/HRBP at FanDuel, Inc. and the author of “The Recruiting Snitch, Recruiting Secrets to Help Land Your Dream Job."

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*Image by Daniel Lee

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