Recruiters, Do Your Candidates Actually Trust You?

By Maren Hogan

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Recruiters are always stuck between a rock and a hard place; we have job seekers who think their sole job is to provide them with positions as soon as they're looking, contrasted with client needs if you're a TPR, in addition to the needs of your in-house hiring managers and execs. Recruiters don't always know how to please each of their vastly different audiences, and who can blame them? 

This kind of bifurcation of attention and trust can become clear to the candidate right off the bat if not managed properly. Candidates looking for a job need to feel trust in their recruiter, who they (rightly) see as a career advisor of sorts. While it’s true that’s not the entire job description (or even a tenth of it), you still need candidates to trust you and feel comfortable with the direction of their career (with you at the helm).

Why bother? Most people need a job after all, and you’re likely offering one. Well, the obvious reasons to engender trust with your candidates is for better candidate experience, retention numbers, employee referrals and to boost your overall employer brand, of which you are the primary ambassador. Here’s how to build candidate trust:

Don’t Grill Them

If your entire conversation is peppered with questions designed to trip up candidates and takes place in a fluorescent room in an uncomfortable plastic chair…well, you see the issue. Instead of the standard interrogatory interview, try adopting a more conversational approach. Take your candidates to a comfortable location and let them lead some parts of the conversation. You’ll get all the information you need and then some! This type of interview doesn’t have to take all day either. You already have the hard information on their resume or application, why waste time with questions like:

“So I see here you worked at Acme Corp from 2012 to 2014, correct?” How on earth does that help you learn more about the candidate? Answer: it doesn’t. It makes you a glorified box checker rather than a trusted partner.

Speaking of Dumb Questions…

When going on a first date, most people know to ask open-ended questions. Rather than, “Do you like this restaurant?” (to which the answer is almost certainly ‘yes’ or ‘no’) they might ask, “What do you like about this restaurant?” or “What made you choose this place?” In doing so, they learn more about the person sitting across from them. Perhaps she chose the location because she loves the movie When Harry Met Sally and digs diners; maybe he selected the cafe because it reminds him of a work trip to Paris he took last year.

While I am not suggesting you date your candidates, the principles of building trust and camaraderie are the same. Ask them about how they like to work or to describe the best boss they ever had. Instead of puzzles and questions designed to confuse, try asking questions that entice them to tell you more about who they are, not just what they can do. Make the questions about them to increase trust (again much like that first date). What does work-life balance mean to them? What new skills are they hoping to gain in this role? Where do they see themselves in the next year, three years?

Be Brutally Honest

I say this so often, it should be a bumper sticker. But the reason I say it is because it’s TRUE! If you’re not being honest about your career foibles and successes, it may be very hard for your candidates to be as open as you’d like regarding theirs. The same goes for the company story. If your company has weird stuff (and it does) or a unique value proposition, then be honest about that. Not only does this give you and the company for which you are hiring, credibility. More than 67% of employers believe retention rates would be higher if candidates had a clearer picture of what to expect about working at the company before taking the job.

How do you do this? Well, storytelling is a great way to give your candidate a glimpse into what it’s like to work for your company. In essence, turn the “Tell me about a time…” questions around and answer them yourself!

Answer Before They Ask

Honestly, most of the FAQs candidates have should be on your website. You need to ensure the candidate knows what to expect and when to expect it. Job seekers are usually applying for more than one role and keeping them on an endless loop of waiting for feedback will NOT lead them to trust you. In fact, one of the top obstacles to increasing headcount is lengthy hiring practices (according to 27% of recruiters).

Instead, lay out for them how the process typically goes. If you know the hiring manager for the job is going to a conference right after the second interview, maybe intimate that the process may take a week or two longer. If you’re aware this particular team leader makes quick decisions when she sees someone she feels is a fit, tell the candidate they could hear back in as little as 5 business days. Only you know your company well enough to do this. Other things to point out before the candidate has to ask:

  • Why is the position open?
  • How many people are on the team?
  • How often will you check in?
  • Should they expect a call or an email?
  • How many interviews typically take place before an offer is made?
  • What are some questions they can expect from the hiring manager(s)?

Pick Up the Phone

I’ve been in this space for a long time and the one thing that confounds me is how few recruiters follow up quickly and consistently. It’s the free-est, easiest thing in the world you can do to differentiate yourself from the pack, and hardly anyone does it.

Lack of follow-up is also the largest complaint from candidates. It could be that many recruiters are worried about delivering bad news. To counteract this issue and to make candidates more comfortable, ask for feedback about your own performance, the interviews that take place and their experience. Then, set aside time blocks in your own week to give feedback.

Candidates deserve to know whether or not they aced or bombed the interview, or how the hiring team felt about their resume. Even letting a candidate know they weren’t ultimately the final choice for the job in a timely manner and giving them solid feedback can build a relationship that may be beneficial for you and the candidate in the future. In fact, talent is 4x more likely to consider a company’s future opportunities if they are offered constructive feedback.

Yes, recruiters do have more than one master to please, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create a process that helps candidates. After all, it’s our job to make it work. Trust with your candidates is the bedrock to that. What you’ll gain in additional referrals, better candidate experience, increased retention and more are worth the investment.

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