The Myth of Candidate Control

Recently I have seen a well known recruiter posting for a webinar about candidate control and I have seen feedback from several companies mentioning how some agencies were poor at candidate control.

The idea that a recruiter can control a candidate is an illusion.  Those that practice the techniques of candidate control are doomed to have it blow up on them on a regular basis.  It may often seem like it is working because the goals of the recruiter and the candidate are similar.  But a recruiter can never truly control the choices of a candidate.

(For those that may not be familiar with the agency recruiting process…) What is candidate control?  Candidate control is part of what agency recruiters were taught about controlling the entire staffing process.  Everything was planned and controlled.  Everything had to happen in a certain order and in certain ways.  The recruiter had to be on top of everything and know what was going on, and what was going to happen next.  This generally meant treating candidates like numbers and included techniques that would turn the stomach of a stereotypical user car salesman.

I once (fortunately briefly) worked for an agency that taught and practiced these techniques.  They did not always work.  I specifically remember a recruiter slamming down the phone and going into a rant calling the candidate a “jerk” and “idiot” for not taking the job that had been offered to him. Basically the candidate did not want to quit a full time position (that he liked) to work on a hot contract that would cause him to lose benefits, get a small increase in pay, and hopefully get more projects in this “hot” area. I thought it was a bad deal for the candidate and that the recruiter was the bad guy.  But this never occurred to the recruiter who was losing a deal with a markup that was way past gouging; about 200% if I remember correctly.  It also never occurred to him that he might have saved the deal by offering the candidate a wage that accounted for the risk, taking a small cut out of his own commission.

The problem with this methodology was that people were treated as objects without their own thoughts and opinions.  Often it worked, but on a regular basis there would be a candidate that would not be controlled, that had their own differing opinion.  The technique worked well enough for some recruiters to make a lot of money, even though their candidates often did not like them and felt they were pushy and arrogant.

I just do not think that anyone can use recruiting techniques that ignore respect and decency without it backfiring on occasion, and causing (deserved) long term damage to their reputation.

The good news is that most of the agency recruiters I know do not treat people like numbers and do try their best to treat candidates well.   The two Rochester companies that I know that actively practiced candidate control are no longer in business locally.  (Maybe the law of karma?)  The bad new is that nationally known recruiters are still teaching this.

My own answer to this problem is to go farther in the other direction.  I am one of few recruiters that actually takes the time to ask my candidates about their goals.  The first phone interview can go up to an hour.  And getting to know my clients very well is part of the process including working on site on occasion.

This process is extremely helpful to me, my clients and my candidates.  It is an approach based on knowledge and trust rather than manipulation and control.

Instead of trying to force a job on a candidate I should know from their goals and from my time with the company if the candidate and the position fit together.  When presenting a verbal offer to a candidate instead of saying “When can you start?”  I can ask “Does this position fit your goals?”  And if I have done my work properly, I will know the answer before I ask the question.

The retention rate for my direct placements is 93% after two years.  That is more than double the best numbers I have seen published anywhere else.  My volume of placements is lower than many other recruiters and I may not make as much money.  But that is a great advantage to running my own company.  I can choose to work my own way and can take the time to treat people well.  I will continue to try to lead the way and some day candidate control practices will be a myth not a reality.

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