In a culture where talk is cheap, it’s easy to forget that words have consequences.
A case in point: After two rounds of interviews, Helen’s client told her they planned to make an offer to Shelby, one of Helen’s candidates. Upon learning the good news, Helen immediately fired off an instant message. “Dear Shelby,” she wrote. “The company is working up an offer. Hope to have it finalized soon.”
One week later, Shelby wrote back, “Dear Helen: I've been waiting a week and still no job offer. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I want to work for a company that can’t keep its promises.”
With this, Helen began to panic. She called her client and left a voice mail: “This is Helen. I’m afraid we’re going to lose this candidate if we don’t act right away. Please call me ASAP.”
Five minutes later, she received an email from her client. “Sorry I missed your call,” wrote the client. “But if your candidate is that impatient, she might not be the right person for the job.”
See how things can spiral out of control when news travels fast and expectations run rampant? Instead of cultivating a placement, Helen found herself fighting a battle on two fronts, in a war of her own creation.
To the candidate, she might have said, “The company was very impressed with your background, and from what they’ve told me, we’re moving in the right direction. I don’t have a specific time line for a decision; but as soon as I hear something, I’ll let you know you right away.”
And to the employer, Helen might have asked, “What sort of progress are we making with respect to Shelby’s offer? I spoke with her recently, and she’s still extremely excited about the job.”
Could Helen be accused of withholding information? Probably. But from a strategic standpoint, it makes more sense to dial down expectations than fuel an emotional fire with too much information. Being privy to confidential chatter doesn’t mean having to share it.
For example, the next time a candidate asks you for the salary range of an open position, keep it close to the vest. Don’t blurt out, “The range is $80,000 to $90,000,” even if that's the case. After all, your client's personnel budget is nobody’s business, certainly not the candidate’s. And besides, if the candidate is currently earning $75,000 and knows that $90,000 is on the table, then offering anything less will probably be a disappointment.
Instead, you should say, “It appears from my notes that your salary needs fall nicely within their range,” and leave it at that. Then, if the company offers $80,000 and the candidate accepts, everyone’s happy.
There are a thousand temptations to say too much—even in good faith—that might cause unintentional damage. Way back in elementary school, I asked a classmate if she was going to a party I'd been invited to. No big deal, except that she hadn’t been asked. When the realization set in that she’d been overlooked, she was heartbroken and I felt like a cad. But the experience taught me that good manners have everything to do with a person’s feelings and nothing to do with elbows on the table.
Whenever I'm faced with the possibility that my words might sting, I think back to an old saying that’s kept my recruiting business—and my marriage—strong for many years: “It’s better to be loved than to be right.”
Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule. But in general, the trick to getting along with the people who matter most is to know exactly when to keep your mouth shut.
- Bill Radin
Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and Splits.org. The Radin Report is published monthly.