You Can’t Remember Every Candidate’s Story

I’ll never forget him. The network engineer who waited until one minute before an onsite interview was supposed to start to send me an email saying he had been in a car wreck and needed to reschedule. And this was the third time he had needed to reschedule. Hmmm.

Or the desktop support analyst who didn’t know the answer to one of the questions during a phone interview and hung up. The business analyst who used partygrrrrrrl@—– for the email address on her resume. The technical writer who was characterized as an emotional basket case by a hiring manager who worked with her at a previous company was especially memorable. Then there was the interwoven developer who needed a cash advance on his first paycheck — sob story — and subsequently never showed up for work or paid back the money. I’ll definitely never forget that one!

The reality is that no one should overestimate their own ability to remember all of their candidates and everything they do or is told to you about them from a hiring manager.

I vividly recall the name of the network engineer I mentioned above, even after four years, but I don’t remember the names of the others. There are (sadly) plenty of candidates I have worked with who I don’t want to ever waste my time working with again. Right after something bad happens with one of my candidates, it seems like it will be seared in my brain forever. What happens in actual practice though is that names and details fade from memory over time.

Recruiters come and go at companies, especially at companies that use contract recruiters, so odds are pretty good that anyone you find for your company will be found by other recruiters hired at your company looking for the same profile. What a waste of everyone’s time if a recruiter just starting out at your company comes across a candidate who has already been rejected but there is no record of any of the details in the ATS. Don’t expect the candidate to tell you the reason and don’t expect that you will remember either.

One of the most useful features of an ATS is the ability to make notes in a candidate record. So do yourself and all the rest of us a favor and start making specific notes in your ATS about why candidates have been rejected. Other information you find out about your candidates, such as salary requirements, location preferences, motivation to change jobs, etc. should also be documented in the ATS. Knowing up front those sorts of details can also save you and/or the next recruiter who comes across your candidate a lot of time.

Article Continues Below

Recruiters spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince hiring managers how important it is for them to tell us why they are or are not interested in candidates. So why don’t recruiters consider hiring manager feedback important enough to actually retain all that information? If it is important enough for recruiters to practically beg hiring managers for feedback, shouldn’t we be keeping track of what they tell us? Do you really ever want to go back to a hiring manager and ask them why they previously rejected a candidate because you think the candidate might work for a different position? In that scenario, the hiring manager would probably wonder why HR was so sloppy about record keeping and possibly even be a little miffed they had bothered to give feedback in the first place.

There is also always the possibility that you will take a vacation or be out sick or win the lottery (!) and someone else will need to contact one of your candidates in your absence. They should not have to start from scratch with your candidate. Everything you know about your candidate should be in the ATS. Even if you never forget a single detail about anyone, the rest of your recruiting team can’t read your mind and should be able to have access to a candidate’s complete history with your company.


image from Shutterstock

Charlene Long is a corporate recruiter with RPO and agency experience who specializes in IT and engineering positions. She lives in Dallas, Texas, and has over 20 years of technical recruiting experience. Previously she was an analytical chemist for environmental labs in Florida and Texas and then for Texas Instruments in Dallas for four years.


5 Comments on “You Can’t Remember Every Candidate’s Story

  1. Hiring manager feedback is important, the reason it’s often not documented is because it’s often not given. Or generic and useless because their real objection was illegal or risked a lawsuit at the very least.

    What would help on this is if ATS systems were designed to elicit this information from recruiters rather than relying on them to remember adding it while working in office environments which are usually ridiculously hectic and moving so fast from A to B to C to D, with no break. And this is, again, a problem caused at least in part by Sales! people dominating the industry. If your priority is the fee, the candidate who isn’t getting it for you loses importance, as does every activity related to them. If you’re surrounded by people who insist on ‘multi tasking’ in the extreme, despite the near complete absence of evidence that more than 2% of the population can actually do so without seriously sacrificing performance and quality, because it’s part of their Sales! culture to at least look busy busy busy!, then you’re going to see balls like this dropped way more often.

    If you inject a dose of a bit more sobriety into the mix, this gets done. But, not so long as recruiting is Sales!

    1. I think the fact that there is no feedback should be documented. That information will help the recruiter remember that a particular hiring manager did not give feedback instead of trying to remember IF feedback was given and what was said.

      1. I agree. But, in the end, most recruiters don’t act on that information anyway. The agency I’m at right now have turned out to be real bottom feeders. More times than I can count at this point, after weeks and even months of no feedback, or even response from a client, I’ll write them off, only to have a Sales! person, who knows the situation, walk up to me with yet another order from the same client as if they’re doing me a favor. And while this place seems extreme, that’s really no different in kind than any other agency I’ve seen. One of the Sales! people calls the client, gets them to say all the right things, and then pushes them back into circulation only to waste more recruiting time. It’s a numbers game for them, do it enough times and eventually something lands. And since Sales! people run the industry the general tendency is to only QA recruiters, not the Sales! people and the ‘reqs’ they bring in. It’s, “Why didn’t this order get filled,” and almost never, “Why were we bothering to work on this order in the first place, given this client’s history?”

        I’ve been looking for a blog post I read recently, a guy compared and contrasted ATS systems with CRMs, and really the ATS systems are way behind the curve. An ATS system that automates follow up and is action oriented in that regard, and which can prompt the recruiter when to follow up with this or that client, or this or that candidate, or to prompt to enter feedback based on when an interview was scheduled and likely ended, would be golden in my eyes. Most recruiters I know would love such a thing so they could stop doing what amounts to admin and secretarial work of tracking people and times and appointments.

        Corps value their customers which is why CRMs are fairly advanced. They don’t value their employees or candidates, which is why ATSs are still in the stone age.

        1. It sounds like you are at the wrong company and/or possibly do not have an environment with the autonomy to foster change. If you keep accepting no feedback and sub-par job orders from sub-par clients, that is all you will continue to receive. If your clients aren’t giving you detailed feedback, chances are the relationship is not strong enough (or your sales people aren’t properly trained). It sounds like you have a good grasp on the ideal way for things to flow; just not with the right company. The sales people should never be “above” or “better than” the recruiters.

          1. “If you keep accepting no feedback and sub-par job orders from sub-par clients, that is all you will continue to receive.”

            That’s something I’ve tried to explain to all the Sales! people here, but it’s like explaining quantum physics to a cocker spaniel. And the general problem with this industry is those are the types of people in charge at almost every agency. Very, very few agencies I’ve seen have bothered to temper their sales people with a healthy dose of ops training to be able to spot poor clients with poor ROI. Rather, they are dominated by Sales people who are dead certain there’s some magic button or series of ‘contacts’ they can make at a company that will let them ‘get in’ there, and then all will be right with the world, all the time and money wasted ‘getting in’ will be magically wiped off the ledger, and hires will flow like soft serve ice cream from the nozzle.

            I appreciate not every agency is run this way, but most I’ve seen are, which leads to huge problems. Our industry doesn’t have such massive turnover and such a poor reputation because it’s dominated by well run firms. With the prices people are willing to pay for candidates, it’s a draw for fly-by-night and pump and dump operations, which incidentally also have reduced incentives to keep positions filled.

            Fill a position with someone who stays, then unless there’s more turnover or a new spot opens due to growth, that client is off the table. But if people stay past the guarantee period just long enough that the client is a bit leery of asking for a free replacement, and maybe just wants a discount on the next person, well that’s what keeps business flowing.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *