Written by: Adam Lloyd

There are eye-opening moments in our careers, where we get a first glimpse of what’s to come down the road. We are faced with tough decisions and essentially define ourselves by our actions that follow.   I will never forget in my early career, a scenario that did not go as planned. What appeared to be doomsday initially, was actually an opportunity to make lemonade.

As an executive recruiter, I was representing and leading a search for a large private equity firm. After courting a top executive candidate, persistence paid off.  This individual became the #1 prospect on our short list. What neither of us saw coming was a drastic update, call it a 180 in the process. I was informed that a last minute decision was made by the hiring committee to proceed with an offer to candidate #2 on our list. Now what? This individual had trusted me, was anticipating good news and had been mentally preparing to make a career move. This was one of those defining moments.

I had the conversation and with my client’s consent, shared advice and honest feedback. That let-down discussion took place, and like any, was not a fun one. I would have many more, none easier. So why would anyone WANT to be a bearer of bad news? Because this critical conversation can be a differentiating one and has positive consequences. There is purpose.

Here’s why you need to be having these conversations:

It’s MORALLY correct. Be a consultant and a professional. As recruiters, we have insight that can impact the future path of others. Let’s put it to good use.

DIFFERENTIATE yourself. Yes, actually letting candidates down can add dimension to you as a recruiter because a large number of candidates get silence when they are no longer being considered. You will stand out.

BRANDING & REPUTATION. Earn yourself, your organization and the clients you represent a positive image. It’s an advertising opportunity. You want to be referred positively.

Future TALENT needs. You may need to revisit these individuals in the future. Don’t burn bridges, part with good memories of the experience of working with you.

Future CLIENT. In my personal example, the candidate I let down became a client of mine in the future.

So, when I say I enjoy sharing negative feedback it is not due to inhumanity or lack of empathy. I am providing closure, future guidance and my advice. The idea that having this conversation can actually differentiate recruiters should be the shocker. The majority of executive search and corporate HR professionals that I know, give our industry a great name. However, somewhere along the way a perception has been created that recruiters do not follow-up with feedback and highly valuable information. Unfortunately, if this perception is true, an opportunity is being missed. We all know talent pools are small, word of mouth spreads like wildfire and candidates don’t buy products and services from companies that they have a poor interview experience with. This is both a moral issue and a branding issue.

The tough discussion I had with that candidate that had expectations of a new career role, later would come back to revisit me. I ran into the candidate at a conference almost a year later and she told me “you know, you were nicer to me when I didn’t get the job than when you thought I would be hired.” Today we work together in a different capacity, she is my client.