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Blog/Executive Search, How It Works

A Recruiter Must Not Lie to Candidates

A recent post by Matt Charney titled “The 5 Biggest Lies Recruiters Tell Candidates” is about common put offs that a recruiter might use to evade a candidate’s questions or status in the hiring process. Mr. Charney points out that not all recruiters lie to their candidates and it is well written with good advice on how to avoid lying to candidates. His article got me thinking about each one of his points, which led to this post highlighting how Clark Executive Search works with candidates. Below are the 5 common recruiter lies according to Matt Charney and how Clark Executive Search handles each situation:

1. “When a recruiter says:  “I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.” Charney says what this really means is: “Your resume will sit in our database untouched until you apply for something else. If you’re not right for any of my open reqs, any memory of you ends the moment I hang up this phone.

However this does not happen at Clark Executive Search because we don’t stuff a person into a database and forget them. If a search comes our way and someone in our database matches the specs, they will come to light in a search of the database and they will be contacted. And we explain to them the probability of our contacting them in clear concise terms. For example, we will say: “We are a small firm and only work on a few select searches a year. Although we focus on PhD and MD candidates for high-level positions in R&D, we don’t concentrate further in this area.  We could have a search for a genetics scientist today and a VP of Clinical Development next month. Therefore the likelihood of our getting a search in your area in the next few weeks, or months even, are slim. But if we do hear of something that matches your background, we will contact you. We know this not what you want to hear, but it is all we can do” I find candidates accept this answer well because it is TRUE. If someone is an especially strong candidate, I emphasize that they check in from time to time to “remind” us that they are out there. I never mind a call or email from someone checking in and giving me an update on their careers.


 2. “When a recruiter says: “Salary depends on experience; there’s no real set amount.” Charney says it might really mean: “I already have a figure with almost no margin for negotiation. So your expectations are really the sole determinant as to whether this conversation continues or if I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.”

Compensation is a sensitive issue in recruiting. If you tell a candidate the salary range of the position and that person makes substantially less, they will expect the higher number, if they get an offer. But companies often only give a 10-20% raise of the candidate’s present compensation and this amount still might be below the original range mentioned by the recruiter. Conversely, if the person makes considerably more than the given range they could be immediately put off and end the conversation even though there are many times when a company will increase the compensation for a senior high quality candidate. So we at Clark Executive Search are careful about giving a salary range at the very beginning of a conversation. And we don’t like a candidate to talk about compensation right off the bat anyway. There is a proper time for salary talk, but first a candidate should have given his or her reasons for wanting to leave a position ( see post about making a career change ) Sometimes when I call someone for just for leads ( because I think they are too senior for the position) they will surprise me and say they are interested. I will then ask what their compensation is. If it is extremely higher than the range of my position, I will immediately tell the person so no one’s time is wasted. Experience and common sense are what works best for the compensation hot potato.


3. “When a recruiter says: “You’ll hear from us either way.” Charney says it might really mean: “We’ll send you a template rejection letter from a blind e-mail address, if you’re lucky,” leaving the candidate to wonder if they’re still in contention.”

We at Clark Executive Search cannot think of anything more wrong than not replying to candidates about their status in the interview process. When we say we will get back to them regardless of the outcome, we mean it. We take pride in keeping our candidates informed throughout the recruitment process. Sometimes it is painful for me to have to tell someone they did not get the job. But I always put myself in the candidate’s shoes and ask myself, “Would I want to be left in a black hole with no idea of the end result of my interview?” Of course not. I tell my candidates if you don’t hear anything from me in a week or two, it isn’t because I forgot you, it is because my client is busy interviewing other candidates or the hiring managers are on vacation etc. And then I tell them that no matter what they will hear from us one-way or other.


4. “When a recruiter says: We’re interested, but we’re still looking at other candidates.” Charney says it might really mean: “An offer’s been extended to someone else, and we’re really hoping they’ll accept so we don’t have to go to Plan B: you.”

What’s wrong with looking at other candidates? I don’t consider this a lie at all. As a recruiter it is my job to supply a selection of candidates to the client for comparison’s sake. And there is always the possibility that their number one choice will not be interested and so another candidate has to fill the void. Backup candidates are a necessary part in the recruiting process and are not a bad thing. Backup candidates often become the number one candidate. So you never know what will happen. I always tell my candidates, especially those that I find at the beginning of a search, it is my duty to keep looking and send other candidate choices to my client. My candidates are all extremely bright scientists or doctors and they understand the hiring process. In fact the majority have had to hire someone themselves and have asked their recruiter for at least 3-5 candidates. But truth be told, there are times when a client is actually making an offer to someone else and I have to stall the other candidate waiting in the wings. This is all part of the game and can’t be gotten around. But I will usually say something like,”Well, Mr. Candidate, my client has narrowed it down to you and another guy and right now he is having his second round of interviews. After that is over they will pick a winner.” I try to keep my candidates as informed as is reasonable given some pretty tight situations.


5. “When a recruiter says: “I was passed your name by a mutual contact who asked to remain confidential…” Charney says it might really mean: “I found your information online.”

Again, what is wrong with this statement? It is not a lie in my book. I recruit the old fashioned way: I actually network and call people for leads. I have a reputation for discretion and everyone knows they can give me a lead and I will keep them confidential as a source. It is Clark Executive Search standard practice to never give away the source of our candidates. When someone asks, “how did you get my name?” I am always honest and tell them I can’t reveal that information and why. I also will be honest and tell them if I got their name from a search of the Internet or while researching some scientific publication rather than from a direct source. The people like the fact that I keep track (in my database) of how I source my candidates and that I know how to find them in a number of ways.