Fluffing Your Candidate

When I was 18, I stopped by a search firm on John Street in NYC.  I was greeted by a friendly, smiling recruiter.  She sat me down and we talked for a little bit before she told me about an opening at an actuarial firm.  I must have looked a little nervous, so she told me not to worry, just to go in there and give them a big smile.  Then she added that one of the earlier candidates who had interviewed for the position had a terrible smile with missing teeth; she shuddered as she mentioned this detail.  I left the agency, walked over to the actuarial firm, interviewed for the position, and got the job!

Years later, I thought about this incident and realized what this recruiter had been doing when she mentioned the ghastly candidate.  There most likely had been no previous candidate with missing teeth to shudder about.  This recruiter had invented this appalling candidate or character to instill confidence in me; she had fluffed her candidate.  And yes, it had seemingly worked. But had it really and if so, should fluffing be considered a best practice or an unprofessional/unethical one?

Although fluffing is a widely accepted practice in recruiting, some individuals might frown upon it, saying it is insincere or unnecessary.    But isn’t it a recruiter’s job to prepare candidates for interviews?  They need to tell the candidate about the position: job description; requirements; performance expectations; location; salary range; and dress code.  Yes, some recruiters do go further, giving extra information about the position, perhaps even advising candidates on what to say or wear.  Some recruiters take candidates to lunch or tell a creative tale to plump up a candidate’s ego.

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If the recruiter I met years ago had not told me that story about the horrific candidate, would I have gotten the job anyway?  Perhaps, I would have.  However, going for the interview would have been a lot more stressful and worrisome.  So maybe fluffing your candidate is like fluffing your pillow.  It just makes everything better…

As a senior HR consultant, Robin Gillman has worked with many successful clients, including IBM, Xerox, AT&T, Mary Kay, Levi Strauss, Equifax, and CSC. Seeing human resources as an increasingly important area, she has helped many businesses save millions and increase quality in their workforces. She began her career in performance management. Later, she focused on recruiting, working as a sourcing specialist, IT recruiter, recruiting manager, and senior HR consultant. She holds an Executive M.B.A. from TWU and a B.S. degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Management from Mercy College.

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2 Comments on “Fluffing Your Candidate

  1. Fluffing. Hmmmm. I don’t know. As I think about this – is the question whether we should or should not? Or is this about telling the truth at all times to your candidate?

    If whether or not to fluff is the question – the answer is simple: you have to. It is your obligation to all parties involved. Period.

    Is the question really “can you be creative to help your candidate gain a mental edge for this interview” then I say go ahead. Really – if you’ve been at this long enough to have a dozen send outs under your belt – there really is no reason to stretch the truth. You’ll already have enough real history to speak from your own experience.

    As to whether you got the job or not because your recruiter told you to smile….? I highly doubt it. You are who you are. You would have smiled anyway.

  2. Maybe it’s the market I work…but I have just over 22 years now and only have heard the term associated with a completely different industry….er…profession 🙂

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