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Why Recruiters Have Terrible Follow-Up…and what to do about it

By August 19, 2010One Comment

One of the biggest gripes against recruiters that clients and candidates have is about our lack of follow up, saying we will do something and not doing it, our lack of communication.  There are many, many candidates out there, in particular, who harbour very low opinions of recruitment consultants for failing to acknowledge their application for a job, failing to tell them they are unsuccessful, or worst of all failing to provide feedback after they have gone to the time, trouble and expense of attending an interview with a client.

Why is this?

Well with some I believe it is procrastination – putting things like that off for a fear of failure or inability to cope with the mounting workload.  For others it might be a fear of conflict and not having the heart to give someone the bad news (I can assure you candidates always hear about the good news – very quickly!)  But for many recruiters it is simply a complete lack of organizational skill.  They are outgoing, driven, motivated sales people that just don’t have the “admin gene” in their make up, and often this is allowed to slide by managers, particularly when the recruiter is posting big numbers, because it is the sales skills that are universally most coveted in recruitment consultants.

I have worked in a number of different recruitment environments and in that time encountered a huge variance in the levels of competency in different recruiters.  I have witnessed some truly terrible recruitment practices – even once a recruiter who simply deleted applications from candidates based upon their name.  Unsurprisingly he is no longer recruiting, but probably never should have been allowed near a recruitment desk in the first place.  But I have also encountered some decent enough recruiters, who genuinely have the best interests of the clients and candidates at heart, but who are simply incapable of planning, prioritizing and organizing their desks and their business to the n-th degree that is so essential to running a truly successful recruitment desk.

The recruitment industry is packed full of well-meaning recruiters who end up giving us all a bad name because they cannot be organized enough to follow up and do what they say they are going to do.

I’m not trying to be one of those recruitment trainers here – but I recruit for the recruitment industry – and I want to see us all raise our game as an industry and improve the way we are perceived in the wider business community – because that can only benefit us all.

So here goes.  Follow up has never been a problem for me and I make absolutely sure I always follow up with all clients and candidates – it is a matter of pride for me – not to mention a point of difference to my competition.  There are a small number of reasons that I am able to operate in this way and always follow up:

1.         In my first recruitment job our CRM system was Adapt and I mastered the use of the excellent To-Do List function which basically ran my desk for me – telling me what to do and when.  By ensuring I always logged every action into Adapt it always reminded me when something needed following up (a CV sent to a client, a client/candidate interview occurrence, a 30-day check with a placed candidate).  Using this function quickly taught me about the process of recruiting and even prioritized different tasks for me (I still remember the order of importance: 1 for Offers, 2 for Interview feedback, 3 for CV send outs and 4 for monthly check up calls).  I know this is a popular system, and one Momentum have recently implemented in New Zealand, but I would imagine all recruitment CRM systems would have something similar – use it.

2.         I am a clean desk Nazi.  You know the type.  There aren’t many of them in recruitment companies but I’m one of those rare ones that only likes to have the bare essentials on my desk to recruit with.  For me that means a phone, a computer, a note pad and a pen.  OK I’ll admit to the family photo too, and an occasional cuppa, but that’s it.  Anything else on the desk means it needs actioning before the end of the day – which could be a CV for a candidate to call, or some client visit notes to put into the system.  If my desk is cluttered then my brain is cluttered and I find myself spinning in circles – but this way everything is actioned before I leave at the end of the day and guess what – no-one complains about lack of follow up.

3.         Which leads me onto the third tactic I employ and that is that my e-mail inbox is treated like a virtual, electronic extension of my desk in the real world.  Most of the time it contains no more than 10 e-mails, which will very rarely be more than 2 days old.  If it goes longer than a page and I can’t see the bottom then I get anxious!  OK I know I must have OCD issues going on like crazy here but believe me, it helps hugely with the follow up.  Candidates I want to reject with a standard reject template are put in a “Reject” folder and I will typically send off a load all in one go.  Important messages from clients or candidates are put in other folders, if they don’t require a response, and so on and so forth.  But as long as my inbox is clear then my thinking is clear and I find I can get a whole lot more done.

This last point is of real interest to me.  I have worked with recruiters who stare with genuine astonishment at my empty inbox.  I have had colleagues with literally thousands of e-mails in their inbox, many waiting to be actioned, and many of such little importance they could have been deleted long ago.  Is it little wonder that we always get accused of poor communication and follow up when one of our most important lines of communication is choked full of crap?  I would be tempted to perform an electronic “Heimlich Manoeuvre” on the offending objects causing the choking – and bulk delete the lot of them.

Anyway, this blog post has ended up being far more sanctimonious than I originally intended, but hopefully there is something there that might spur some of you into sorting out your desks and inboxes and getting on top of communicating effectively and efficiently with clients and candidates from now on.

I saw a good video on the BBC website last week about managing your e-mail inbox so there might be some useful info to help there.  Greg Savage also makes a very valid point in his popular blog The Savage Truth that the best thing to do with e-mail is to not do it – pick up the phone instead – it is far more effective!

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.

One Comment

  • Another excellent post, Jonathan. Really well articulated points about the importance of follow-up and how to do it. I too was a clean desk Nazi (you couldn’t be anything else working for Greg Savage), an empty email box fanatic and also an avid database user.

    None of these things are hard to do but it’s got to be part of the organisational culture otherwise it’s long odds that someone will just decide to be great at being organised. Especially if they don’t have previous experience of working in a fast paced environment.