Q&A With Veteran Career Counselor Robin Ryan, Breaking Down Recruiters’ Biggest Mistakes

By Monday, April 10, 2017Blog

Robin Ryan author“After much thought, I’ve decided now is not the best time to leave my current position.”

Nothing is more soul crushing for a recruiter than getting a decline email from the dream candidate with tons of experience. More often than not, recruiters and hiring managers are left wondering what happened. Everything was going so well! Did they get a better offer? Was it the job description?

Robin Ryan has a pretty good idea of what might have caused the about-face. She’s a career counselor who’s helped professionals land dream jobs for over 25 years, having helped hundreds of job seekers nail their next career move. Not to mention, she’s also made over 2,000 TV appearances—including Dr. Phil and Oprah—and literally wrote the book on nailing the “60-second sell” in a job interview (among five other books on the topic). When it comes to understanding the job seeker, she’s an expert.

That means she knows exactly what candidates want in today’s market, as well as what turns them off. She’s had several clients ultimately decline a great offer throughout the years and knows exactly why they did it. We tapped her brain to glean the following nuggets of advice in her own words. Though some might seem obvious at first glance, Ryan assures us: you’d be surprised how many companies still get it wrong.

Emphasize company attributes depending on the person’s age and experience.

“Millennials are really looking to be part of a team. They want to be coached. They’re capable, but they need you to outline the steps. They are used to being coached along the way and they like that. Their preferred environment is much more collaborative and that’s where they do well.

Gen-X’ers, on the other hand, want to be individual contributors and an opportunity to move up. A lot of them are getting impatient because they want to move up faster.

And then you’ve got Baby Boomers. They’re worried about age discrimination and employers not wanting them now they’re over 50 years old. So, they’re loyal and they want job security.”

Don’t ask dumb questions.

“There was a point recently where especially tech companies were asking the most bizarre questions like, “What part of the salad would you be?” or “What kind of animal would you be?” And I mean … who cares?! These are unrelated to the work. And then, almost as a reaction to that, the pendulum swung the other way. Recruiters started focusing on what’s called behavioral technology or situational questions, such as “Tell me about a time that you did X or give me an example of Y” and then asking for specific work examples.

Today, employers are moving toward a middle ground between the two extremes. They mix in “traditional” interview questions with some behavioral questions and it truly gives them a better picture of the person.

Move faster and give candidates feedback, even if it’s not what they want to hear.

“One of the biggest things that frustrates job hunters are companies that want four, five, or even six interviews before making up their mind. If you can’t decide after two or three times meeting the person, then there’s something wrong with the hiring process. One Fortune 500 company in Seattle—that will remain nameless—is known for taking four to five months before responding to people who applied to a job posting. By then, the person has found another job and is working elsewhere. Being more timely, responsive, and effective can go a long way.

The other thing job hunters hate most is not getting any information. They want to at least be told, “Yes, we got your application.” And if they interview, it’s common courtesy to send a simple email to say, “We’ll keep you in mind if something else becomes available, but we did go with different person for the job.” Consider basic communication etiquette and the fact that you might want that candidate for a different job later on. Taking that extra step makes a big difference, because many job seekers get furious when they never hear back and that ultimately falls on the hiring manager. If you’ve interviewed someone two or three times, then they at least deserve the courtesy of a thank you.”

Be honest about the job during the hiring process.  

“Most people walk away from a job in the first year. You either fire them or they leave. That means you did a bad job recruiting them and, most importantly, setting expectations for what the real duties of the job were going to be. Be really clear about what you expect them to do. The worst situation is when it’s a new job and the employer tried to make it sound like it’s better than it is. You can put the job in the best possible light, but don’t lie.

Also, don’t promise something you’re not going to deliver on. If you say you’re going to offer training, then give it to them right away. If you say they’re going to have a certain kind of software or resources to work with, have it when they start. The number one thing for avoiding a quick exit is just being honest about the job during the hiring process.

One client recently complained, “They told me they were going to send me to sales training and I needed it because I was making a career change. I was so excited when they offered me the job. But when we were negotiating salary as a final step, I asked about the training again and [the hiring manager] goes ‘Oh well we’ll probably wait six months or a year before we do that.’” This manager was clearly already overloaded so that meant my client was not going to get any training for a year. She turned the job down at that point.”

Get rid of the elephant in the room. If you have a range for salary, share it.

“Instead of grilling the job applicant to get past salaries out of them, turn it around and say, “This program manager job is going to pay between $75k and $85k. Are you within that range?” It’s a yes or no question. If the candidate says, “No I’m way over that.” Then say, “Fine thank you for your time, we appreciate it and if we find something that comes up that’s at a higher level, we’ll call you.” Nobody wants their time wasted. There’s nothing worse than going through three interviews to find out the job you thought was going to pay $90k pays $60k.

I know this sounds radical, but so many employers demand to know the candidate’s current salary, yet they themselves are not willing to say, “Well, here’s our the budget.” If you know what you’re planning to spend, then be upfront and you’ll find better qualified applicants faster who are more likely to take the job. Sure, there are certain companies who can afford to say, “We’ll pay whatever it takes to get the person to take the job,” like the Apples and Googles of the world, but when it comes to the average employer, they’ve already got a range in mind.”

Finally, don’t ignore what people are saying about you.

“A candidate’s decision comes down to what they hear from other people. If you have a bad culture, it’s going to spread. Other people are going to talk about it, it’s going to be on Glassdoor. So, paying attention to the kind of culture you have to offer is important. It’s simple—if you treat your current employees badly, don’t expect new ones to want to come and work for you.”  

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