How to Kill Your Recruiting Career in 3 Easy Steps

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Apr 14, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Are you a new recruiter, just getting started in the business? Or maybe you’re a seasoned recruiter who wants to ensure your career continues to flourish? Well, you’re in luck!  Here’s a short list of ways to kill that career of yours, and it’s not even that hard to do!


  1. String Your Candidates Along. It’s 5:00 on Friday. The hiring manager you expected to hear from with an offer to your leading candidate is nowhere to be found. Earlier in the week, you told the candidate you’d definitely get back to her on Friday. But since you haven’t heard from the hiring manager and, frankly, it’s been a brutal week carrying way too many reqs, you figure maybe you can just call the candidate on Monday instead. The candidate, on the other hand, may literally be waiting by the phone for your call. Maybe she told her husband all about the offer she expected to get. And now it’s after business hours and she hasn’t heard from you – so what does she tell her husband? “I probably didn’t get the job.” When candidates don’t hear from you, they tend to make up their own stories. And that’s a problem.Only you have the inside scoop. Sometimes that scoop is a non-update and you may not deem it worth your time or attention to share it. But instead of leaving your candidate hanging, why not be honest and transparent instead? Try something like this: “I know I promised you an update today, but unfortunately due to schedule conflicts, I haven’t been able to connect with the hiring manager. If I do hear something later today, I will certainly call you. Otherwise, let’s plan to connect early next week instead.”
  2. Avoid Difficult Conversations with Hiring Managers. Nobody likes being the bearer of bad news. That seems doubly true, in my experience, for recruiters. I think a lot of us got into this industry because we genuinely like people and want to please them. Recruiting sometimes feels like an entire industry of people-pleasers, which is all wonderful and stuff … UNTIL. Until that one candidate you were banking on closing on a really hard req goes silent. Or your tried-and-true sourcing strategy just doesn’t work for a particular position. Or until (insert your own drama here). The point is, if you put off sharing the bad news with a hiring manager until you have a chaser of good news to go with it, you may be waiting too long – and that’s not good.Your hiring manager needs to be informed, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. But don’t just go to them with a problem; provide a potential solution (or solutions) to the problem. I am not going to lie and say these conversations will be all unicorns and rainbows, but we owe it to ourselves (and them) to be honest and upfront and share the details. I have been pleasantly surprised at times with how very understanding hiring managers can be. Sometimes we recruiters are harder on ourselves than just about everyone else – even our toughest customers.
  3. Keep Your Boss in the Dark. Like hiring managers, bosses can be tough, too. So tough that you may find yourself putting off sharing updates with him or her, especially the not-so-great updates, lest he/she bombard you with more questions. A very wise boss once said to me, “Don’t let me be surprised; I don’t like surprises.” The very last thing you need in your life is a boss that gets bad news about you and your work from someone else, whether that someone else is a colleague, a hiring manager or your cousin’s best friend, it’s irrelevant.Own your story: If something is not going well, provide a brief, yet candid, update and explain what you plan to do about it. If you have a decent boss and want to score some points, ask him/her for some suggestions or feedback on your plan. But don’t make it their problem; continue to own the issue, the story, and the solution. Your brand depends on it.


If any of the above “career killers” hit a little too close to home, you’re not alone. I’ve seen a lot of otherwise-fabulous recruiters get caught in the web of wanting to share the only good news.  Who can blame them?  But unlike a fine wine, bad news doesn’t improve with age. No matter where you are in your career, you need to own your narrative.


What do I mean by that? I’m so glad you asked! We all need to ensure that we don’t just communicate the good updates – because that’s the easy part, right? We have to get really good at communicating the bad news and the somewhere in-between news while also developing and presenting possible solutions. Master this; don’t go into hiding and believe me when I tell you, it will be a differentiator for you.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.