More Tips for Delivering Bad News as a Search Consultant

Okay, nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news. We can all agree on that. However, it is an inevitable fact of life, and that includes in the world of employment and the recruiting and staffing industry.

In other words, if you’re a professional recruiter or executive search consultant, then you will be forced to deliver bad news at some point. And let’s not fool ourselves here. This is not a “one-time occurrence.” You will be delivering bad news multiple times throughout your career, both to candidates and also to your placement check-paying clients. (Perish the thought.)

After all, it’s never easy to tell a candidate that they’ve been eliminated from consideration for a job they really wanted or to inform a client that their job offer was rejected by their top choice. To help us explore this topic more fully, we’re going to once again rely upon the wisdom of recruiting and staffing trainer Barb Bruno of Good as Gold Training and Development.

According to Bruno, a great example of what NOT to do was provided by Weight Watchers a few years ago, when the company fired a group of employees during a Zoom call. Mind you, this was before the COVID-19 pandemic. So Weight Watchers could not even use the pandemic as an excuse, not that it would have really been that much of a valid excuse.

“Employees being interviewed were devastated that after years of service, they did not even get the courtesy of an individual conversation,” said Bruno. “At the end of the call, they were told their services were no longer needed and the call then abruptly ended.”

By way of illustration, that is not the way to deliver bad news as a recruiter or search consultant, although you had probably guessed that already. But how do you effectively deliver bad news?

5 more tips for delivering bad news

Well, we’ve already covered this topic to a certain degree in the blog post, “5 Tips to Help You Break Bad News to Recruiting Clients.” But with the help of Barb Bruno, we’re back with five more tips for delivering bad news as a recruiter or search consultant:

#1—Do not engage in “small talk.”

Don’t ask how the person is doing or ask other questions that are just going to delay the inevitable. Let’s face it: all the candidate cares about is if they got the job and all the client cares about is whether or not the candidate accepted their offer of employment. So dispense with the “small talk.”

#2—Use the right language to set the tone.

According to Bruno, you should begin the conversation with a word like “unfortunately.” This sets the stage and the tone of the conversation to come.

“This lets your candidate or hiring authority instantly know that they are not getting the good news they anticipated and prepares them for the rest of your conversation,” said Bruno.

#3—Be encouraging.

This tip is more handy on the candidate side than on the client side, since a candidate is likely more emotionally invested in an offer of employment.

“Take time to encourage your candidate and provide feedback and resources that will help them in their job search,” said Bruno. “Always treat them with respect and kindness because you do not know how desperate their situation might be.”

#4—Be assuring.

This tip applies to both candidates and clients, but might be more applicable to the client side of the equation. After all, they still have an open position to fill and they still expect YOU to help them fill it.

“Assure your hiring authorities that filling their job is one of your priorities and you will present other talent,” said Bruno. “Hopefully, you have strong back-up candidates who could be considered, which is why I always suggest you backfill candidates who are eliminated from the interview process.”

Bruno also suggests having two or three candidates in the final interview process, if possible. This will prevent you from having to “start from scratch” if an offer is rejected. You can simply move to another one of your candidates already in the process.

#5—Deliver the news over the phone.

Do NOT pull a “Weight Watchers”! And sure, most everybody is using Zoom these days due to the pandemic, but a phone call is still more personal. “If a candidate has trusted you to help them find employment and interviewed with your client, the least you can do is have a conversation with them when they are not hired,” said Bruno.

This is also in the interest of maintaining a great relationship with your client. You certainly do not want to brand yourself in the wrong way. Clients that like you give you job orders. Clients that don’t like you do not give you job orders.

“Treat people the way they deserve to be treated, especially when you’re delivering bad news,” said Bruno. “They will remember how you made them feel and will continue to give you the opportunity to represent them.”

Because who said that delivering bad news always has to have an unhappy ending?

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