Accountability in Recruiting (a DIY Guide for Candidates)

December 12th, 2013 1 comment

Recruiting can be an ugly process. It can be rife with dishonesty, passive/aggressive behavior, and self-absorbed attitudes from all parties. Not that it’s always this way, but I think most IT professionals and technical recruiters have plenty of stories they can and do tell about individuals acting in unprofessional ways. Sometimes candidates attempt to mislead recruiters and/or prospective employers, and sometimes it is the other way around. Recruiters will overstate an opportunity and candidates will exaggerate a skill set. Salary ranges are fudged, individuals fail to respond to requests in a timely fashion, and so on. And of course, there is the ubiquitous problem of “going dark”, ending the process by simply not responding to the other party’s attempts at communication.


It’s easy to preach about this kind of thing in a blog, but trying to change behavior on a large scale isn’t really the most practical tactic. Instead, I think that the best way for individuals to handle these problems, whether recruiters or candidates, is to employ techniques that incorporate accountability into the recruiting process.


When I say accountability, what I really mean is doing what you say that you are going to do, and holding the other party accountable for their promises as well. This means different things for candidates than recruiters, but the core idea is pretty much the same.


If you are an IT professional working with a recruiter, incorporating accountability into the process can take several forms. I have some suggestions below, but keep in mind that this sort of thing usually boils down to using your best judgment in particular situations.


  • Give the recruiter tasks, such as:
    • Ask for more information about a job, and see if they follow through. Here you would want to ask them to dig deeper than what was covered in the initial conversation. Force them to go back to the client/hiring manager and answer a legitimate question (don’t just make this busy work). A good conversation with a recruiter often leads to more questions about a job. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing if a recruiter doesn’t know every detail, but it is often a bad sign if they do not follow through and answer questions you have.
    • Ask them to follow up by a particular time, regardless of whether they have feedback or what the feedback is. Good recruiters have solid organizational skills, and usually have an applicant tracking system that allows them to set follow up reminders, just like a CRM. Be specific in your request. Tell them that you have a goal/timeline for your job search, and that you need to have some kind of update by a certain time. Understand that recruiters cannot control when their clients or hiring managers provide feedback, but they should at least make an attempt to maintain regular communication.
    • Make a mental note of how quickly the recruiter gets back to you. This has to be put in context of course since many recruiters are genuinely busy people, but generally you shouldn’t have to wait more than a day or so for an initial response to an emailed question or a voicemail.
  • Information about the job shouldn’t change too much. There should be some allowance here since things can be fluid in recruiting; but a major change in a role’s responsibilities or salary range should be a red flag.
  • Does the recruiter set expectations for the interviewing process, without being solicited to do so? A good recruiter should give you some kind of heads up on how quickly feedback will be provided, how the interview process is structured, and what to expect in interviews. They will not always have precise information because client processes tend to vary, but he or she should at least make an effort to give you a sense of what to expect. If a recruiter does not, ask for the information. Of course if they don’t deliver, this can be another red flag.
  • Remember that accountability works both ways. A good recruiter will routinely make attempts at incorporating accountability from their end as well. He or she will more than likely ask and/or expect you to be timely in your communication, and complete any tasks/paper work in a timely fashion as well. If you fail to maintain accountability on your end, you may notice a change in the recruiter’s behavior.


The takeaway is that we should get into the habit of incorporating accountability into the process, and go with our guts. There are no hard and fast rules about what is typical in recruiting and what a genuinely good or bad sign is. Requirements change, budgets disappear, and so on. But if you learn to think and interact in terms of accountability and your gut is telling you something is wrong, then you should seriously consider removing yourself from consideration.

That last point may seem a little harsh, but everyone’s time is important, and so is finding a good match between personnel and jobs. If the initial part of that process isn’t executed professionally, then that does not bode well for the rest of it.