Blindsides – How to Avoid Candidate Back-outs that Surprise Recruiters and HR

One of my favorite things about the show Survivor are the ‘blindsides’.   Several tribe members offer up a fake strategy that everyone buys into and then, secretly, they vote off someone that never sees it coming.   And, yes – I still watch Survivor, despite a co-worker saying last Fall:  “that’s cool, my parents love that show!”

Anyway, blindsides are exciting, surprising and make for great television, right??   When it comes to hiring and recruiting, they are probably the most frustrating thing you can experience – and it’s happened to all of us (don’t pretend it hasn’t!!!).

Here’s why you’re getting blindsided as a recruiter (or Survivor contestant):

  1. You want it to happen more than the candidate does (aka, you’re desperate).

Candidates can feel your excitement and when they do, kiss trust goodbye (and therefore open communication).   Your excitement is about YOU, YOUR commission,    YOUR placement.   This is THEIR job, THEIR life, THEIR future.

Despite what you’ve been taught or trained:  You CANNOT make someone take a job.   I know a lot of firms out there teach how to sell the features and benefits of their client and  how to “close”.   What’s going to happen is they are going to answer your “closing questions” with the answer you want to hear so they don’t have to get into a debate with you.   You are creating a situation where they have to choose between telling a lie or getting ‘closed’ (which NO ONE wants).  Instead of trying to convince them to say yes       (which won’t work), try to UNCOVER their opinion.

I go the other way – call out the 2 or 3 things that would most likely cause this NOT to happen and discuss.   Say this every time:  “I just want you to know it’s OK if you end up saying no to an offer.  I will not be upset. This is your career and I don’t want you to   feel pressure from me to take this – I’m OK if we walk.”   That’s the only way you’ll   build a trusting relationship where the truth comes out.

  1. You don’t have back up candidates.

You would be less desperate if you had the top choice and a solid back up.   It’s hard not to feel desperate if you only have this one option and it HAS to happen in order to get the placement.   Design your strategy around finding multiple candidates and not giving up after finding that first good one you run across.

  1. You’re too ‘comfortable’ (read: lazy/assumptive) and care too much about salary.

Landing great hires is hard, really hard.  Solid candidates in all skill sets have options.  Pay is very important to candidates – trust me, I get it.  But, I don’t see recruiters engaging often enough about how the actual job fits.   How does this job compare to what you do now? – ask this.

I had to talk to a candidate in the absence of a recruiter in our office and it’s the first    thing I asked.  The candidate said it was less spend than he deals with now and ‘kind of’    a step back.   BUT HE STILL wanted to get the offer…??   I ended up encouraging him to   withdraw.  That’s why you have to take control and never get comfortable.

Otherwise, you’re going to end up wasting everyone’s time and get blindsided.

Making TRUE Connections

As recruiters, we are tasked with finding the right people for existing job openings. This usually involves some serious searching for a variety of factors from location, to pay, to skillset, to culture. Add on the fact that hiring companies want several candidates to pick from, and our time spent with each person in the search only gets shorter.

In order to do this well, we have to talk to a great number of candidates. In order to do that, we have to spend time searching, as well as trying to get them on the phone. When we finally get them on the phone, we are so pressed for time, that it’s easy to rush through learning what we need to help decide on them and move on to the next call, and as a result, we don’t fully invest and develop a relationship with the candidates.  This usually results in miscommunications and mistrust for both sides.

I purpose that as recruiters, we open up and show some vulnerability to our candidates so they can understand and trust us. This is obviously a two-way street, and if a candidate doesn’t open up at all it’s going to be difficult to trust them. We should try to take the time to get comfortable and put everyone at ease and on the same page. It’s tough to do that on an initial 10 minute call and a few minute follow up calls.

The job of recruiting is essentially professional networking. Using the network to connect people together to help each other out. I think the best networkers know the value in deeper relationships, and value maintaining them.

There’s responsibility on both sides, and the recruiter can take the lead as the networking professional and reach out. The candidate should also take some ownership of the relationship and do what they can to stay on the radar of the recruiter. I recently learned the hard way that just like in personal relationships, you have to show restraint in how often you reach out to someone. Too much communication can become overbearing, from either side of the table.

At the end of the day, nothing should be forced. The conversation just go naturally from the value that both people bring to the table, but that can only come when both parties are comfortable and trusting. Take the time in those initial conversations to develop something real, and then maintain the connection beyond that first talk.

If your relationship feels too transactional, it probably is, so take the time to learn something personal and let them know that you are a human being. Again, both sides stand to benefit from the value the other brings.  Start to build true connections.

2 Minute Life Hack for Interviews

Last night I watched a Ted Talk on the effect non-verbal communication has on yourself, and others. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has done experiments showing how doing high or low power poses for 2 minutes affected not only our testosterone levels, but also our cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone associated with how we react to stress.

When subjects did 2 minutes of high power poses, it raised their testosterone and lowered their cortisol.  This essentially wires the brain to be assertive but also to keep a cool head under pressure.  When subjects did low power poses for two minutes, they decreased their testosterone, and increased their cortisol. This essentially wires the brain to be timid and lose its cool under pressure.  In other words, these are the people who don’t handle stress well.

Now imagine walking into an interview. Have you been on your phone sitting all closed up while in low power poses in the waiting room? You might be the best interviewer on the planet, but you are setting your brain up to show the less desirable side of you.

Amy Cuddy actually ran an experiment testing this where they had subjects do these low or high power poses and then go through a stressful job interview. The interviewers were trained to give no nonverbal feedback whatsoever. This is supposed to be more stressful than getting heckled. The idea here was to try to test the stress level and see what happens to the cortisol levels in the body.

What’s really interesting is that at the end of the study, regardless of qualifications and what was said during the interview, the double blind reviewers who didn’t even know what was being tested, determined that the subjects that did high power poses were desirable to hire and the low power poses were passed on.

Now Amy Cuddy didn’t stop there, she wanted to see how large this thing scaled. She initially felt unworthy of a lot of the success she was having in her young career and was afraid to do things like public speaking. She felt timid and stressed out and as if she didn’t belong.  She was initially wary of this idea of “wiring your brain” differently to go into a situation. She felt it was fake or just not genuine, and didn’t want to get somewhere in life only to realize she faked the whole journey and maybe the end result isn’t really what she wanted. Instead, Amy says she was able to “fake it until [she] became it.” So now she doesn’t have to fake being dominant and level headed. Doing all those 2 minute high power poses actually changed the hormone levels so she no longer has to fake it.

Now I know that one study doesn’t prove anything but I think it would be foolish to ignore the results. I highly recommend watching the quick talk and making your own judgment. If all it takes is 2 minutes and some private space, this is an affordable life hack that everyone can use.

Watch Here: Amy Cuddy Ted Talk

Candidates: Reach out and refer

There are jobs to be had! After having the pleasure of working with so many candidates and on so many job openings, I have come to the conclusion that the value of recruiting is not as well-known as it should be. Perhaps this is an industry specific issue, but it can’t hurt to have a recruiter in your network working aggressively with your resume, regardless of what field you’re in. How can we make the value of recruiting known?

One way is by becoming the industry standard for hiring. In the manufacturing and engineering industry, this already is the case. If job seekers become used to the idea that the main way into a company is through a recruiter, then I have a suspicion that recruiter’s phones would be ringing off the hook. That part falls on the backs of the recruiters to set the tone for the industry. We have to do our job, and do it well so that when candidates get sent by recruiters, there is a CLEAR difference between people responding to job postings. In this case, having healthy competition is good, as it is setting the precedent that recruiting is too important and time consuming for an HR representative to spend their time on.

On the flip side, candidates have to do their part to reach out and refer. Recruiters are constantly looking for new was to find and contact candidates. When candidates reach out with a genuine and honest approach to marketing themselves to companies, good things happen. As recruiters, we will do our best to tell you as much as we can about a position to see if it makes sense. I often try not to sell the people I talk to on a position. I don’t want to throw someone in a position where 6-9 months later, they are regretting the acceptance of a position because they felt they were misled or did not understand the position. If the conversation does wind down to the understanding that this particular opening may not make the most sense for this particular person, then the candidate should do their best to refer someone who they think would succeed in this role. Your friends and coworkers will be grateful and flattered by your referral, even if they are not looking, or are uninterested in the role. The fact that you thought of them as a good person to fill a role will forever resonate in their memory.

It is important to remember that most recruiters only make money when they place a candidate in a position. If a firm develops a reputation for placing candidates that don’t fit well, their clients will most likely not come back for repeat business, and that firm will feel it. Most recruiters know the value in having a client repeat their business and will do their best to send the right candidates for the right job. Take comfort in the fact that recruiters want to send you to the positions where they think you will have the most success.

If you’re a candidate, remember that if a recruiter is holding off on you for a current opening it does not mean that they won’t send you for another position that opens up next week. Some job requisitions open and close in a matter of weeks, and it’s all about having your information already in front of the recruiter when that requisition opens.  This is why it’s important to reach out to a recruiter sooner rather than later. The same goes for any friends and coworkers, if you want them to thrive in a job that’s a good fit, their information needs to be in front of the recruiter before the job opportunity is.

At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you comfortable, but I think you’ll be hard pressed to come up with reasons not to have your information in front of a recruiter. Reach out to one of us today!


Have you used a recruiting service in the past to help market yourself to potential employers? What other advice would you give to job seekers about using recruiters? Most importantly–what have you got to lose!?