Avoiding these worst practices instantly translates into an improved candidate experience and an easy win for your employment brand.

This post is part of Brazen’s new section for recruiters. Every Tuesday, we offer a post with ideas, advice and lessons learned, written for recruiters by recruiters. If you’re a recruiter looking for more posts like this one, check out the Recruiting category on our navigation bar above. And if you’re a recruiter who wants to write for us, here are our guidelines.

Most recruiters are honest and upfront with job seekers. Largely caring and committed, recruiters often genuinely care about every candidate, even if they don’t necessarily always show it.

But many of the most common put-offs, while usually well-intentioned and largely innocuous, are as integrated into the recruiting process as applicant tracking systems and reference checks.

The good news? Avoiding these worst practices instantly translates into an improved candidate experience and an easy win for your employment brand.

Here are the five biggest job search lies recruiters tell candidates and what you should say instead:

1. “I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.”

What it might really mean: Your resume will sit in our database untouched until you apply for something else. If you’re not right for any of my open reqs, any memory of you ends the moment I hang up this phone.

Best practice: Tell candidates up front whether you feel there will be other possibilities for them down the line. Offer an explanation of your rationale. Provide suggestions for relevant training or experience to increase their chances of landing a future role.

2. “Salary depends on experience; there’s no real set amount.”

What it might really mean: I already have a figure with almost no margin for negotiation. So your expectations are really the sole determinant as to whether this conversation continues or if I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.

Best practice: An important element of every basic phone screen involves learning about a candidate’s motivations in seeking a new opportunity. Often, salary issues top this list.

While it’s not appropriate to require a candidate to disclose their current compensation or targeted salary during an exploratory screen, it’s crucial to address this directly if the candidate discloses an increase in pay as a primary driver or a non-negotiable.

If you’re screening for a specific position and know the range, tell the candidate whether the numbers match. Disclose even a slight variance; the candidate, not the recruiter, should determine whether or not there’s a willingness to negotiate for this job. Having this conversation up front can avoid complications later.

3. “You’ll hear from us either way.”

What it might really mean: We’ll send you a template rejection letter from a blind email address, if you’re lucky—which might leave you to wonder whether you’re still in contention.

Best practice: Most applicant tracking systems send an automatic confirmation via email to applicants; many of these same systems will also send an email to let candidates know when a requisition closes and they are no longer in contention. But adding your name or a personalized message can help make a little effort go a long way.

For candidates contacted for a phone screen, it’s best practice to let them know directly if they’re not selected. If they took the time to follow up and answer questions, common courtesy suggests you should do the same.

It’s okay to turn a job seeker down professionally; simply not bothering to inform a candidate is not.

4. “We’re interested, but we’re still looking at other candidates.”

What it might really mean: An offer’s been extended to someone else, and we’re really hoping they’ll accept so we don’t have to go to Plan B (you).

Best practice: Be upfront about where the search stands. If there are outstanding questions or concerns surrounding a candidate, let them know; there’s a good chance they’ll be able to provide information to inform a pending decision.

If the hiring manager is delaying making an offer for reasons that have nothing to do with the candidate, make sure they know exactly what those are and the timeframe.

If you don’t know this information, let the candidate know the next time you’ll speak with the hiring manager and follow up with both. Status quo is almost always better than no status at all.

5. “I was given your name by a mutual contact who asked to remain confidential…”

What it might really mean: I found your information online.

Best practice: This line remains incredibly common when engaging candidates for the first time.

While candidates show increased willingness to speak with someone based off a referral, it’s important to let a candidate know how you developed the information to contact them.

This ensures that active job seekers know what’s effective while passive candidates stay informed about the visibility of information. It also leads to more effective source-of-hire reports, which are generally misaligned due to candidate self-identification.

Of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about candidate experience—one thing that recruiters, and the people they hire, definitely agree on, even in the most divergent communication. Here’s hoping that we bridge the divide, get away from buzzwords and start talking straight to our candidates—and ourselves.

Matt Charney (@MattCharney) is the Director of Marketing for Talemetry, a leading provider of enterprise talent generation solutions. Matt began his career as a corporate recruiter for companies such as Warner Bros. and the Walt Disney Company and is also the producer of TalentNet Radio, the original Twitter chat for recruiters.


  1. Rj Räďħě

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  2. Adrienne Sheares MA

    I loved this article. My little sister is jumping in the job market for the first time and was quickly disheartened by job recruiters lack of response after directly telling her they’d follow up. Unfortunately, I know a lot of companies who will have several rounds with a candidate to then not even give folks the courtesy of alerting them they went in another direction. This article broke down the fluff and gave great content.

  3. Karen Mattonen

    there definitely is a difference between a True blue Headhunter who specialize.. versus a Recruiter.. As a headhunter, because I specialize, have a database of Contacts that I keep up with on a continual basis, and they with me, regarding positions.. Don’t use the same pool (the internet) to find “names” – that all the slap jocks are using..
    A true blue headhunter loves to network, as they recognize the value of keeping relationships –
    A true blue headhunter also knows how to Negotiate Salary, and we will help motivate the client with regards to the salary based upon what You the candidate Brings to the table.. yes, salary is commemorative with experience – I would never consider taking a salary that was set in stone.. what a waste of time to the candidate as well as not a very flexible client.. why would we want that?
    When we say we are interested in you, it means Yes, we are interested in you.. Still, cause we actually are taking time to promote your resume (we are specialists for goodness sake_ to other clients.. and to help you with your search.. Of course there are other candidates in the process.. Ever know a company who will only look at or consider one candidate?
    there is a lot of skuttlebut about what recruiters do, and don’t do all day.. No, we may not call you back but instead send an email.. unless you really fit the qualifications of the nitch I work in.. Why? well, because we have clients and candidates.. But, at least you will get feedback. If you call, and keep up to date, you can guarantee a better chance of getting a call back.

  4. Karen Mattonen

    Candidates do have rights.. and there should be an expectation of trust both sides.. here is what you should expect Candidate rights in the Recruiting and Hiring Process http://www.hirecentrix.com/candidate-rights-in-the-recruiting-and-hiring-process.html

  5. Trần Thị Thảo

    This line remains incredibly common when engaging candidates for the first time.

  6. Aimee Fahey

    Recruiters need to stop making excuses about not following up with candidates – an auto reply, while not always ideal, is at least basic politeness, and if you say you’re too busy, you need to learn to be more organized. I’ve had as many as 50 reqs going and set up processes so that every candidate gets a response – and in a reasonable amount of time – not 3 months after a decision has been made. And if you don’t know how to use your ATS to leverage candidate communications, there are bigger problems. If you’re a small organization and don’t have an ATS, get one! Jobscore and HIring Thing offer great free and low cost ATS’s that will help automate and therefore organize your systems, allowing you to give all applicants quick turnaround. Recruiters have to focus on customer service – both internally and externally. Sometimes it’s forgotten that candidates are our customers – or know someone who can be. Check out your company on Glassdoor – you’ll see that the hiring experience can make or break how many are applying in the first place.

    Note – I *always* talk salary ranges in the first conversation – I’m never going to waste a hiring manager’s time (or a candidate’s) by not getting that basic information during the initial phone interview. I don’t ask for a “minimum”, rather I ask for a range and encourage them to let me know if that changes during the process. Then I let the hiring manager and the candidate negotiate specifics at the time of offer. I’ve seen way too many hiring managers shy away from that and then spend 10 hours with a candidate only to find out they want double the amount that’s in their budget.

    BTW re: the commenter talking about “headhunters”, that term is very antiquated and usually inaccurate. Ultimately, unless a candidate is paying you, all of us are Recruiters – we are there to fill positions for our clients, and a good recruiter has a strong matchmaking sensibility, meaning we have strong candidate pools (corporate, agency, or retained search) no matter what and know that strong relationships, both internally and externally, are key to our success.

  7. aditya

    article was really good 🙂

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