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  How to Set Expectations with Your Candidates

We've all heard of the perfect candidate flaking out at the 11th hour. Reasons can vary from the infamous counteroffer, a surprise month-long vacation, or the candidate accepting another offer you never knew they had.

Like it or not, any time you are blindsided by your candidate, you've lost control of the recruiting process. This negatively impacts your client, your organization, and it directly reflects on you as a recruiter.

You can't afford to lose control when credibility is the currency to all recruiting transactions.

We will never be able to completely eliminate these types of situations; however, the goal of a best-in-class recruiter is to minimize them as much as possible by maintaining candidate control. This control refers to the partnership and relationship that the recruiter drives. The recruiter should always remain in the driver's seat, making the candidate the passenger. Control does not mean forcefully restricting what the candidate can and can't do. Remember, you want to build the relationship.

To help maintain control of the recruiting process, the recruiter should set the tone of the relationship from the very first conversation with the candidate. This includes verbally setting clear expectations as to what each party needs to bring to the table.

At times, this practice can be challenging for new recruiters who may question its value, but the first conversation is the foundation upon which your candidate relationship will be built. The right conversation will positively affect all future conversations and will help ensure a positive final outcome in the recruiting process.

Setting expectations is not just for the recruiter's benefit. The recruiter should clearly communicate the purpose of the conversation to the candidate so both parties understand what is required to ensure success.

During the initial conversation the recruiter should always:

Provide full disclosure of the job requirements, duties, and full responsibilities of the position. At this time, the recruiter should also nail down the expected compensation and benefits. Do not end the conversation without clear expectations about what the candidate needs to make and what you can offer.
Be available to answer the candidate's questions in an open and transparent manner.
Keep in close contact with the candidate through the qualification, interview and offer processes.
Let the candidate know where they stand in the hiring process and provide constructive feedback when necessary.

On the flip side, the candidate should always:

Provide you with full disclosure of their job search status. This will include, if possible, the companies or agencies that they have submitted their resumes to, the companies they are actively engaged with and the status of each of those engagements.
Provide you with a well-written resume, examples of their work when applicable and being available to answer in-depth questions about their background.
Keep you well-informed of any changes in their availability to interview or anything that would prevent them from starting a new role, including vacations that may conflict with your company's or client's schedule.
This is not a one-way or a one-time process. This should be the standard for each and every initial candidate conversation.

As a recruiter, ask your candidate: "Has anything changed in your search status?" on a recurring basis. I've seen more "back outs" in my career due to the recruiter not having a 360-degree view of the candidate, their motivations, and all opportunities they are exploring.

The goal of the first conversation is for the candidate to leave with a clear understanding that you're a professional, an expert in your industry, and a partner in the process. Also, that an open and honest line of communication is a critical component to the recruiting process.

You'll find one of two things when you discuss these mutually beneficial expectations with your candidate:

The candidate is amenable with the expectations set and it is clear based on their active participation with you during the conversation that they are engaged and committed to the role and interested in partnering with you throughout the process.
Or, your candidate will not be completely engaged with the process even after you talk through their objections and have presented the benefits associated with each of the aforementioned expectations. For example, the candidate may not be open to sharing their past salary history or their desired rate with you, they may not be open to keeping you informed on their search status, or unwilling to confirm changes with you in a timely manner. These are the candidates you potentially will want to pass on. I say potentially as I've been in this business long enough to know that the recruiting process requires us to be flexible (especially when working with top-notch candidates). Make this decision with one caveat: a candidate who is unwilling to conform to simple parameters will be more likely to throw you for a loop at some point in your recruiting process.
Know what category your candidate fits into and resolve any red flags before proceeding.
After the initial conversation, touch base with your active candidates often. Determine whether anything has changed in their status and uncover and resolve any additional concerns.

Reconfirm their ongoing commitment to the opportunity. Many of us have learned the hard way that things change quickly, at time daily! Reconnecting with candidates often will minimize being caught off guard.

You must drive the recruiting process; the recruiting process should not drive you. To keep your candidates as partners in the process, do your part to proactively and routinely reach out, engage, and set mutually beneficial expectations with them. By driving the process, you will stay in control, help your candidates land an amazing job, and achieve record placement results.

DaCare is the leading bi-lingual executive search firm in China. Ranked top 10 in China by People's Daily.