Having the TOUGH Conversations

A little over a month ago I read a well written blog- Just Say No! Decoding The Ways Recruiters Say “Thanks, But No Thanks”. It is about the way recruiters, hiring managers and HR let candidates down and it basically says that for the most part we/they let silence do the talking.

This article has been stuck in my head since. Mostly because when I was reading it, I had flash backs to the times I was unemployed and going through the interview processes. I  ran into a lot of what the author ran into, had what I thought were great phone conversations or in-person interviews only to never hear a word from them again. It would make me so mad; all I wanted was word one way or the other. I can remember saying to myself plenty of times that “if I was ever in the position to be doing the hiring I would always give a call to those who interviewed and let them down and know why I passed!” However, while I have only been a recruiter a short time now, I have come to realize that now that I am on the other side and involved in the decision process for my roles and I have been already guilty of avoiding candidates, not responding to emails or giving them a call back after a phone screen or interview. I let the silence let them know that they were ruled out.

I know I am already avoiding it because I do not like being the bearer of bad news, but it is a very important part to the recruiting process and below are a couple reasons why I and everyone else in the business needs to making those not too fun calls to candidates.


For recruiters and those in HR, this is what we signed up for with this job. This is what we do for a living, we talk daily to people, looking for the best candidates for the positions we have available. As amazing as it would be, we are not finding the perfect candidate after talking to just one candidate. To find the best we usually have to talk to a handful if not hundreds of potential applicants depending on the role. So with that comes someone who showed interest and took the time to interview with us, and in return it is our responsibility to manage the hiring process and let the people know when they are out or moving on to the next step.

Secondly, for recruiters I feel this is part of the service we owe our clients. I know that we only get paid for placing people and not for turning people down. While companies use recruiters for a variety of reasons, one is that we deal with some front end stuff that they do not want to or have time to deal with. And it only makes us look better at what we do if we are managing the process properly and bringing a good reputation to both the client and ourselves.


A co-worker of mine recently placed a Quality Engineer after setting him up on three other interviews with three other companies in the past, none that worked out. So it took him sending this QE to four places to help him find a new job. Three times he was turned down for whatever reason and after each time my co-worker made the tough call to let him know that they passed on him. But, my co-worker knew the candidate was a good guy and had the experience that would make him a great fit somewhere. So he kept working with him and contacting him about new openings and built that relationship and trust with the candidate. If my co-worker had just basically cut off contact with the candidate after the first interview didn’t work out, how likely would the candidate have been receptive to listening to the 2nd opportunity or 3rd or 4th? He created a level of trust that he cared about the candidate and wanted to see him find a new job and wanted to be the person to help him to do it.

For me personally, I remember all the different companies that I interviewed with and didn’t get back to me to let me know I was out and those who made the call to let me know. It could be considered petty, but I don’t see myself ever applying for an opening with them again or recommending that my friends do also. On the other side, it stung but I definitely had respect for those that called me and let me know and would say nothing but great things about the my dealings with them going forward.


This one is very similar to the one above about building relationships. It is important to let a candidate know why he is out so he can use any feedback to be better for the next opportunity. Many times a person will be ruled out because for whatever reason besides that they do not have the correct experience needed. Or maybe they have the experience and did not explain it properly in the interview. The big thing is to be able to go back to the candidate and let them know why they were ruled out and see if there is something they can done differently in the future. I have a similar story to the one above, with my co-worker. I used to sell season and group tickets for a NASCAR/NHRA track and it was closed about two years ago. I was trying to stay in sports at the time and was working with a recruiter to help me find my next job. He set up me with a couple of different interviews, with a couple of sport teams. Each time one of the organizations passed on me, he made the call to let me know I was out and gave me feedback as to why they passed and then worked with me to find out what I have could have done differently. He had spoken with me quite a bit, saw my sales numbers, spoke with my references and knew I could do the job; it was just on me to work on how I sold myself and my experience during the interview. In the long run it worked out and he was able to help find me a new job.


There is no way around it; taking the time out to make the call or send an email to let a candidate know that he is no longer in the running for the open position is just the right thing to do. It doesn’t leave them wondering anymore and could possible help in the long run. When it comes down to it most people out there try to avoid the tough conversations because they don’t want to hurt someone. But that avoidance is only a short term solution, it doesn’t change anything long term and that should be the goal. This goes for us recruiters talking to potential candidates or just when dealing with friends and family. While there will be some tough things said and maybe people will be hurt, more often than not it will be for the best in the long run. If it is a telling your teenage sister she might be wearing too much makeup (come on Cathleen, how is that popular?) or telling your roommate he needs to pick up his slack when it comes to cleaning (I am getting better at it!). It is always better to be upfront and honest and it will pay off in the long run.

Well it looks like I have some phone calls to make…





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