How to Break Bad News to Recruiting Clients

Whether you’re dealing with a small recruiting budget, candidates who rescind job acceptance, or lack of candidates to pull from, problems in recruitment come up. Although breaking bad news to clients might be uncomfortable, it is necessary. Learn how to break bad news to salvage client relationships, build trust, and maintain your reputation.

5 Tips for delivering bad news

When communicating bad news to clients, try the following tips.

1. Keep consistent dialogue going

For each job order you receive, communication is key. You need to be available not just to talk with the candidates you’re recruiting, but also with your clients. Let your clients know any problems you’re coming across in the process. Always keep your clients in the loop.

Failing to keep a consistent dialogue going can lead to confusion and misinformation. If clients don’t hear from you at all during the process and you suddenly approach them with bad news, they could become distrustful.

Having consistent dialogue can make it easier to tell clients bad news. And if you put off communicating bad news to clients, things will only get worse. Be upfront as soon as something goes wrong. Your client doesn’t want to hear that something is wrong from a candidate—they expect to hear it from you.

2. Be honest and empathetic

Honesty is an important characteristic of recruiters. You need to learn how to be honest with clients and candidates without burning bridges.

Don’t sugarcoat things. If you need to start the recruiting process from scratch because the candidate rejected the job offer, tell your client. Or if you are running behind schedule because you bit off more than you can chew, be honest.

You can improve your honesty by putting yourself in your client’s shoes. Wouldn’t you want to know the whole truth if there was a problem?

3. Don’t rattle off excuses

Sometimes, everything falls out of place. Although it could be a string of crazy coincidences, your client probably doesn’t care. When breaking bad news, don’t use it as an opportunity to save face. Instead, get right to the point.

You might explain what caused the problem to show how you are prepared to handle it in the future. But, you shouldn’t give excuses for the sake of making yourself look better. Address the reasons for the problems quickly and move on to the solution.

Don’t pass the blame onto someone else, either. Clients could view you as unprofessional if you start pointing fingers.

4. Have a solution ready

As soon as you are faced with a setback, you should start coming up with solutions to offer your client. When delivering bad news, describe the possible solutions.

Be sure to discuss the possible roadblocks of each solution. Give new deadlines, if applicable. And, be sure to set new goals and help your client establish new expectations. Put everything in writing.

Let’s say you aren’t able to deliver on everything your client wants because it is not in the budget. You could provide two solutions to your client: 1) Ask for a bigger budget so the client can get every service they want, or 2) Show your client what you can do within the budget and ask them to eliminate services they can do without.

5. Follow up with clients afterward

After breaking bad news to a client, don’t disappear. Touch base with them and let them know what you’re doing to rectify the situation. Let your client know what’s happening with the recruiting process and how you were able to get it back on track.

For example, there might not have been enough candidates for you to source from, extending the sourcing process timeframe. Your solutions were to recruit passive candidates and look in a neighboring locality. If you had success with enacting these solutions, tell your client. Or, tell your client you are going to pursue another solution if you are still having trouble sourcing candidates.

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