The need to prevaricate a little happens to both corporate and agency recruiters. Maybe you’re a corporate recruiter and your company has decreased benefit plans each year for the past five years. Or your management thinks screaming is a refreshing jolt to creativity. On the agency side, you might have dealt with bad employers that are good clients. Sometimes the worst employers have high turnover rates. These type of environments make for good fees, but very poor companies for the candidates that you place.
In each case, recruiters are asked to put the company’s best foot forward. “What’s the company culture like?” the unsuspecting candidate asks. “Oh,” you say, getting up to close the door before someone starts screaming, “Just terrific. Open. Creative. We encourage everyone to bring their own individuality to the table.”
Maybe you’re even worse and use your evil-people-skills to your advantage. Maybe you read people and tell them what they want to hear. You notice the lack of a wedding ring and start talking about the company social hours and say how close the staff is (you know at least five names there). You notice a deep paleness and toned forearms and play up the cool company computer room (in a broom closet). You notice a Little League coaching on their resume and play up that corporate sports team (that hasn’t gotten together in five years). It can get to be worse than lying – more like manipulation.
It’s makes you feel kind of dirty, right? But how is a recruiter supposed to stay honest when you’re charged with making placements? Your job, much like a car salesman, is to sell the candidate and sell the hiring manager – bring the right people together and then let fate decide the rest. The only trait the recruiter is judged on is the transaction and perhaps the first few months of performance. Have you placed a great candidate who progressed far in the company and then had your company acknowledge you as the source of that greatness? Attributed that employee’s chunk of revenue or production back to you? It’s much more likely that recruiters are judged on short-term efforts - all which promote the transaction – getting placements done no matter how.
In every aspect of your personal and professional life, you want to be honest. In recruiting, you want to be honest and straight-forward with your candidates, clients, and hiring managers. But as discussed, recruiting often forces us into a tricky situation with candidates. Do we go ahead an represent our company or our client company as a terrific employer with no problems? Of course, the answer isn’t easy. But here are some tips so that you can be a great recruiter and sleep well at night.
- Demand Respect. Whether you are working for a client or for an internal hiring manager, it’s difficult to have hard conversations about work environment problems. Whether they are belligerent, make their employees work too long, use colorful language, or don’t treat people equally, certain hiring managers can really poison a company. It’s universally hard to approach these hiring managers with a direct conversation. Furthermore, it may not seem like a recruiter’s place to talk to the manager. But if the recruiter doesn’t talk to the hiring manager about the issue, often no one does and the problem never gets resolved. A recruiter’s job is to make placements, but it is also to improve the entire hiring process. Speak up and have that difficult conversation with the hiring manager – you have to demand respect to be a great recruiter, and this means steering the hiring process. It’s up to you to craft perception and the recruiting lifecycle. Generally speaking, if you demand respect from your hiring managers and have open conversations, you can fix some of the problems instead of masking them. Then, you can be honest with the candidates.
- Dive Deep. It’s up to you to dive deeply into a candidate’s background. You might think that if a particular hiring manager works their team long hours, it’s sufficient for you to ask your candidate if they mind working long hours. But it’s not – what a candidate tells you is always about 10% of the truth. You need to explore their underlying motivations and dig into their past experiences with hiring managers and their priorities for changing jobs. A much better approach to understanding a candidate’s real motivations and understandings is to have a conversation about specific past jobs. Ask open ended questions about their experience and determine if the long hours are going to be a problem. If you feel like it will be a problem, you can then have a frank conversation about the expectations of the job.
- Get a Second Opinion. Employees are very much like witnesses to a car accident – everyone sees something different. When you hear something negative about a particular department, company, or hiring manager, remember that there are probably ten other individuals with ten different opinions. Before you feel “bad” about representing a company or department to a candidate, remember that one opinion does not a bad company or hiring manager make. If you think you have uncovered a real problem, it pays to talk to a few people and determine the real scope of the employment issue.
Overall, the way to be an honest recruiter is to be an empowered recruiter. The root cause of recruiters lying about their company and jobs is their inability to do anything about it. Remember, that as a recruiter you have the power to change hiring practices and mentor hiring managers. It is up to you to resolve any problems that you see with the job requirements that you are recruiting on – even if these issues are post-hire problems.
If after exploring the issue with multiple parties and trying to resolve the issue with your hiring manager, the problem is unsolvable, it may be time to move on to other job requirements. If you are a corporate recruiter, it is in your power to pick hiring managers to work with and to raise issues with senior management. If you are an agency recruiter, you can easily pick new clients – and good clients (or at least clients willing to work on resolutions) will make you more money in the long run.
It’s up to you to not only be an honest recruiter, but to find your power and not be put in those situations in the first place. When it comes down to it, recruiting is really all about honesty. Great recruiters are in a sense more than honest – they facilitate deeply personalized communication. To progress in recruiting, you need to be strong enough to be at the center of that communication and hold your own.