Watch out, unhappy candidate about..

Bad Choice

“Watch out, there is an unhappy candidate about…”

A post appeared on LinkedIn yesterday from a very angry company CEO. He was angry at the fact that apparently the very same recruitment firm who had helped him hire for his team was now trying to headhunt the people they had helped to hire. Maybe he had a right to be angry, there are of course two sides to every story, so we will probably never even know.

However the discussion quickly deteriorated into the usual bloodletting that any recruitment discussion on LinkedIn descends into. Carnage ensued that would have made a Viking squirm. But one point that kept being raised was this:

“Why shouldn’t a recruiter contact the candidates they place to see if they are happy or not, what if the candidate isn’t happy, surely the recruiter has a duty to try and place them elsewhere?” Now on the first point, every recruiter should stay in touch with their placed candidates. If the candidate isn’t happy about something, and very often it may be something simple they will probably find it easier to confide in you. You can help resolve it impartially and sensitively if required, it should be part of your job to nurse candidates through the early days of their new job. Your candidates will appreciate it and so should your clients, providing the contact isn’t invasive of course. Popping around to take them to lunch every week probably isn’t appropriate.

On the second point, trying to justify extracting recently placed candidates from their client organisations because the candidate is unhappy, is nonsense. The reality of this is that they are trying to defend the fact that they have actually failed to identify the right candidates in the first place to ensure that their clients hired right the first time every time. In truth in many recruitment organisations back fills, free replacements and similar for hiring mistakes are a common occurrence which are even factored into monthly and quarterly forecasts. Surely this should be a rare event. For many recruiters it isn’t. Which means that the same applies for candidates and clients. A fundamental part of your job is to source candidates who actually want the job, who want to work for that company, in that location and in that environment. That is partly what your client is paying you for, to save them time screening and eliminating the ones who aren’t right, so they can focus their selection on the ones who are.

Is a recruiter ever to blame for a candidate finding themselves in the wrong job, the wrong culture working with the wrong organisation? Apparently not according to some very senior recruitment company owners and directors. Which underlines and boldly emphasises why so many recruiters get it wrong. But does anyone care, the fee is on the board and many recruiters are more than happy to sit back, cross their fingers and hope that the candidate is out of any rebate period before they find another job and leave.

Let’s consider for a moment the many things that many recruiters simply don’t do:

They have often never visited the candidate’s future place of work.

Yes, as bizarre as you may think this is, it is true. Many recruiters have never ever even visited the actual physical business premises of their clients. They have no idea what the location is like in terms of accessibility or appearance. What the general ambiance of the place is, how dark and grimy or how bright and airy the place is. Still why should they. Many will come back and state that someone else has visited it and told them all about it. Not good enough.

A great recruiter will be able to tell a prospective candidate about the quite dingy street they have to walk down that has a plethora of nightclubs and pubs and all the associated debris those establishments leave behind visible on a morning. The awesome Moroccan lunch spot at the end of the street and the gym every raves about around the corner. A great recruiter will know that there is a short cut if you go around the back of the tube station instead of through the shopping center.

They have very often never even met the actual Hiring Manager the role reports into.

You would be forgiven for assuming that all recruiters meet the person they are recruiting for. Wrong, in fact I would even hazard a guess that in the vast majority of cases they haven’t. So they don’t know who they are recruiting for, what makes them tick, what their sense of humour, general demeanour or actual style of communication is. All things you would have thought were essential to identify a good fit and hire the right person.

A great recruiter will know that the person the role reports into is fastidious about punctuality, is ex armed forces and has a low tolerance of sickness. They will be able to tell a prospective candidate that this manager has a reputation for identifying talent and developing people and is quietly considered as the next CEO or similar because of their drive and charisma.

A really good recruiter will be able to tell you current and former team members think of the Line Manager, how inspiration they are and the fact that despite the growl they are really a teddy bear at heart.

They have never met the team, they don’t even know who the team is.

Again, recruiters talk about an organisations culture and ethos. But the really important stuff for a potential new hire is what are the people I am going to work with like? What makes them work well together, are they sociable, are they driven, are they good fun work hard, play hard mentalists?

When I recruit I provide prospective candidates with a biography of the key people they are going to be involved with in their day to day job. I tell them the nuances of these people. I can tell them that Bill is a product guy, he has a short attention span and likes clear facts and figures. I can tell them that Steve is gregarious, the class clown who loves Aston Villa (you would need a sense of humour) but is incredibly passionate and works every hour of the day including Saturday. A candidate needs to know these things.

The list goes on and on. The shameful thing about much of this is that weak recruiters blame their clients. They come out with stuff like:

“I asked if I could visit but they wouldn’t let me.”

“I asked to meet the Manager the role reports into but they were too busy”

“I tried to get some insight into the culture or the organisation but HR said they’d covered this hundreds of times with agencies and we should have all that stuff.”

Grow some please. It’s called objection handling and if you can’t overcome those objections then either find clients you can work with professionally or get the hell out of recruitment and do everyone a favour.

The truth is that in most cases this is weak recruiters, recruiting poorly for companies who really don’t give a shit whether you find them the truly best candidates or not. This is roulette recruitment, it’s about numbers not quality. For the recruiter it’s about getting that fee on the board, nailing that commission target, for their crappy clients it’s about getting someone, anyone’s backside in that seat. Let’s be honest. In this scenario you are all a marriage made in heaven. The recruiter for being willing to work in such a way, the client for wanting this kind of service and the candidate for accepting any of it.


You should actually truly interview your candidates, test your candidates and give them the warts and all perspective of the opportunity. If you do all of this throughout your selection process then you should only ever have candidates with eyes wide open full of bushy tailed eagerness even being submitted for a vacancy.

More importantly you should challenge your candidates. If you have even the slightest reservation about the location of a job, cultural or personality fit, the real hours as opposed to the contracted hours, the remuneration, then challenge them. When you have finished interviewing them and briefing them ask the question “Based upon everything I’ve told you so far, hypothetically is there any reason why you wouldn’t accept this job today?” If there is they will tell you, discuss it resolve it. Never submit a candidate until they give you an emphatic “No Mr Fantastic Recruiter, there is absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t appear naked on prime time TV to get this job today.” Or similar.

A great recruiter understands their client organisation. They have done the DNA analysis to ascertain what fits, who is successful and why. They live and breathe their client’s culture and even participate in it in some way. Placing an unsuitable candidate into that organisation is what keeps recruiters awake at night. For me the idea is the Boogey Man in my closet.


You encourage the churn and burn, expect low standards and you’ll get low standards, pay poor fees and you’ll get what you pay for. Don’t be angry when the same recruiters come back and extract the same poor unhappy candidate and place them somewhere else. Many of them have to do this 2 or 3 times to actually accumulate a fee for their work that makes it all seem worthwhile. If you give your recruiter nothing, they won’t feel like they owe you anything, including loyalty.

Give them time, challenge them, test them, open the door for them and if you like what you see pay them a decent price for a decent job and don’t try and demean their attempts to exceed your expectation. Most recruiters are actually immensely committed and driven and have a genuine desire to move heaven and earth to please you. But you have to give them the opportunity, give them the time and the tools to get to understand you and work with you.


Stand up for yourself. Take some responsibility and look beyond the link the recruiter sends you to an About Us page and the job spec. Start asking questions, keep asking questions. Test your recruiters, ask then what the office décor is like, how many people work on a floor, what the canteen looks like, where is the nearest car park, how much does it cost. How many kids has the line manager got, what are the average hours the team really works, do they like football or ballet… Ask the recruiter what kind of people are successful in this business and what kind are not. If they can’t tell you walk away, find a recruiter who can.

Never ever allow a recruiter to submit your CV for a job if they won’t tell you who the hiring company is. If they say it’s highly confidential than ask to sign a Non-disclosure Agreement between you and the hiring company. If they won’t tell you where your personal details are going, walk away.

The Reality

There will always be exceptions, it doesn’t matter how diligent, professional and tirelessly committed and honest you are as a recruiter. Things happen, candidates lie, clients lie, and organisations can change quickly. But if you do find yourself in what should be a rare situation when you have put the wrong candidate into the wrong job don’t ignore it hoping it will go away and fix itself. Don’t look nervously towards your figures and your commission and tremble. Get a grip of it, understand the situation and move towards damage limitation with a keen focus on making things as right as possible for your client and candidate first and you and your organisation second.



All Donations (comments) appreciated if constructive

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