Providing honest feedback to recruiters

Photo by Patrick GenselWhen recruiting for a team I find it’s hugely important to provide honest feedback to the recruiters who are selecting the candidates for you. Recruitment consultants don’t have a great reputation in our tech industry (do they in any?) but there is as wide a spectrum of good and bad recruiters as there is of good and bad hiring managers. And whether you like working with them or not, you want to get the best out of them, and you want to them to prioritise your needs over the needs of any other companies they might currently be working with.

So when I say No to a recruiter’s candidate I try to explain exactly why in a short emailed paragraph—maybe no more than a couple of sentences, but definitely something that’s specific to the person they put forward. There are two reasons for this.

First, most obviously, is the direct benefit of the recruiter themselves. It should help them better understand what does and does not make the grade.  This means they can improve their search. It also ensures they don’t feel they’re just throwing candidates into a void—they’re reassured there is serious consideration behind my thinking, which I’d like to think again helps elevate me among their other competing priorities. And this also allows them to give constructive feedback to the candidate, which in turn fosters a better relationship between them and the candidates. And that’s good because I want my recruiters to attract candidates easily.

But the second benefit is to me. It forces me to be clear about what I’m actually looking for. It forces me to make my needs explicit, to set down criteria which I previously omitted from the job spec or introductory conversation… probably because I wasn’t even aware of them. Seeing a candidate who isn’t quite the right fit forces me to confront and question my assumptions, and write down my adjusted requirements. The act of writing it down makes those renewed requirements stark, and on occasion I’ve looked at those words on a screen and thought “I can’t let that go out in email; that sounds terrible”. Those are the times when I have to confront my own unjustifiable prejudices or assumptions about what a particular kind of person should be like, and I have to change accordingly.

In other words, being honest with other people keeps me honest in myself. You will understand why this is difficult… but important.

Photo by Patrick Gensel