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5 Reasons why recruiters give you fake feedback!

Let's start today's discussion with a HUGE disclaimer! Receiving irrelevant, fake, or incomplete feedback from recruitment agencies can happen but is not always the case. Most of the recruiters out there do their job well, or at least try to do so. The purpose of attracting the attention in that matter is to help candidates improve their interactions and communication with their recruiting partners, not to discredit the recruitment industry whatsoever.

Now that we have put that out of the way, let's start.

Whether you have ever looked for a job or applied for a traineeship or to a prestigious University's program, you probably dealt with a recruiter or with someone acting as such. You followed the interview process, gave your references, and, at some stage, you were expecting feedback. In waiting for an answer you have been through hell; annoying your friends every single day with how stressed you were to get the final decision or to receive the so-called "most important email of your entire life". In some cases, unfortunately, feedback hit you hard, and the voice of your interlocutor on the other side of the line sounded like the church bells of your own funeral. Disappointing indeed. But that's not all. On top of the negative answer smashing your brain into a pumpkin soup, the reasons you have been given for being denied seem wrong, unfair, or, even worse, you don't get any! So why is that, and how can you overcome the initial disappointment and get something positive out of it?

First reason - They are scared!

Giving feedback is hard. For some people even harder. Whether you had to comment on your best friend’s last article on Linkedin, your wife's dinner, or your daughter's school dance performance, you know how difficult it may be to be totally honest, fair, and transparent. The same fears apply to recruiters when they have to play the grim reaper bringing the bad news. They will sometimes try to delay their feedback, pretending they haven’t received it yet; but, when comes the time, they have to face your expectations, your potential disappointment, and sometimes your anger. Yes, I know, you will tell me, "But that's their job!" and you won’t be totally wrong. Giving feedback is, supposedly, part of their day-to-day activity. Consequently, they should be good at it or, at least, used to it. But we can also look at it from a different angle: Providing feedback is just a small part of a recruiter's duty, amongst dozens of others. And, guess what? They may not be perfect at doing all of them. Therefore, all things considered, they sometimes come to the following conclusion: "you were over-qualified," or "your salary expectations were too high," finally sprinkled with the infamous,"they picked the other guy, sorry." To them it seems to be the right move. Obviously it is not. Receiving such feedback will not only bring disappointment, but also frustration and distrust, which often leads the relationship to an end.

Second reason - Their client gives them the "silent treatment..."

When you act as an intermediary, you may suffer from a lack of control. You rely on the capacity of your business partner to provide you with the right information at the right time, in order to get your job done properly. This happens all the time, and not only in the recruitment industry. The client may decide not to answer any of his emails or calls; therefore, our recruiter finds himself in a tough spot, not being able to provide his candidate with feedback and facing a dilemma. He is torn between the temptation of saying something to save his image and the solution of being transparent. When honesty is obviously the right move, it may raise reasonable questions from the candidates on the real nature of the relationship between the client and his recruiter. Is he even in charge of the role he sent my CV for? What sort of weak relationship can bring a client not to answer anymore? Am I really dealing with the right guy? Ouch. That hurts, and, in this case, the following expression makes total sense: "It takes years to build a reputation and a minute to ruin it". So when the recruiter is not always responsible for not receiving feedback, the quality of the relationship that he built with the client may ultimately have caused it. And here we go again: "I am sorry but..."

Third reason - The "straight forward" feedback type.

Let's pause a second. As I mentioned above, the recruiter's responsibility for not receiving any feedback can be engaged, directly or indirectly, based on the overall quality of his work. However, in some cases, he is not responsible whatsoever. The third party in this wonderful, triangular relationship may be the one we point our finger at! Yes, the client, the hiring manager, the talent acquisition officer, whomever he is and whatever we call him, he can be the bad guy in the equation. I was once given this feedback from a client: "Next." This is a bit extreme I have to admit, and most of the time the feedback will be more something like "Not strong enough," "Poor communication skills," or, one of my favourites, "Does not match our company culture". Now dear recruiter, take your phone and call your candidate...Good luck.

Fourth reason - They forgot it!

This is a funny one, but, believe me, it happens. Let's have a look at a totally made-up but realistic example:

"Monday morning, between a coffee and catching up with your colleagues, you receive a call wherein a client gives you feedback on last Friday afternoon interview with your second-best candidate for a Logistic Manager role. Your attention is not at its peak,and, since you were trying to finish the croissant your assistant brought to celebrate the third anniversary of her beloved granddaughter, you do not take notes. Relying on your very good memory (your mother always told you had one), you will transcribe the notes later. The moment you hang up, your cell-phone rings, and the number on your screen is that of your son’s school. He just threw up on one of his friends, and you need to pick him up promptly to bring him to the doctor. What a Monday morning...On Wednesday your client calls, he loved your favourite candidate and wants to make him an offer. You jump from your chair and ruin your shirt with coffee one hour before a meeting with the CEO of a prospect you have been chasing for months. Thursday afternoon, impatient to receive some news from his Friday interview, your second-best candidate calls. You focus, trying to remember...nothing...You finally answer, "I am sorry, they picked the other guy..."

Fifth reason - They need something from you.

Should I? Really? I am not sure about this one, but...okay, let's do this. But please keep quiet and don't tell anyone...Recruiters, or at least some of them, can try to gently manipulate their communication or the information they share when they need something from you. I said it! Horror and tremor! And I can hear you from here, "How dare they? I knew they were evil creatures!" Okay, slow down and relax. First of all, once again, most of the recruiters I know or have worked with are honest and work in their clients’ and candidates’ best interests. Secondly, let's be honest for a moment, in every working environment where you are facing internal or external clients or stakeholders, will have to make sure to get what you or your company needs to succeed. Don't shake your head, you know it, and you have probably done it at least once in your life. There is no difference for recruiters. Let's take an example from the candidate perspective.

Friday afternoon, you walk out from a two hour long interview with the Head of Logistics and the Head of HR for a fast-growing start-up. The interview went well, and you are already thinking of how you will tell your current boss that you are leaving. When you get back to your car, your phone rings. Your recruiter want to get your impression of the interview. After a pleasant conversation where you share your positive feelings, you hit the road and go home to enjoy a well-deserved family weekend. On Monday your phone rings, your heart pulse increases, and you pick it up. Your recruiter gives you the feedback. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t exactly what you were expecting. According to her, the interview went well, but they are still willing to meet another candidate to make sure they make the right decision. The final call will be made on Friday. In the conversation, your recruiter asks you if you would be kind enough to send the contact details of your HR Director, as she has seen an add on Linkedin from your company trying to recruit a new Digital Manager. Willing to keep your recruiter on your side, you happily send her the details. On Friday, you get the news: you did not get the job. Your whole weekend will feel like a Sunday night before going back to school. But hey, that's life, you will get the next one.

So what's wrong here? Apparently nothing, right? You have heard a story like this a million times. The tiny nuance is that our sneaky little recruiter gave less than 100% accurate feedback to Mr Optimistic. On Monday, the candidate’s chances of getting the job were closer to 20% than 50%. Big lie? Heavy manipulation? Or just a slightly different way to present the reality of a situation? I’ll let you have your own opinion.


After more than 12 years in the recruitment and consulting industry, I have seen and experienced a lot. Have I ever slightly reshaped feedback? Of course. But, did I always try to work in the overall best interest of my clients and candidates? I can comfortably answer yes. But this is not about me. The purpose of addressing that matter is to demonstrate how much better being trustworthy, honest, and open is for everyone. Client, candidate, and recruiter; we all win, in the end, by sharing the information in the most transparent and accurate way. Should we sometimes choose our words carefully? Obviously yes. But, what I have learned and experienced is crystal clear to me. The more you share and the more honest you are, the stronger and better the relationship you are trying to build will be. So, dear candidates, remember to always ask for transparency from your recruiter. Even if it is not exactly what you expect to hear, it's going to help you in the long run. And what about you, my dear recruiter? Don't you agree? In our ongoing fight against the machines that will drastically change our industry, shouldn't we wear our most beautiful, human values: transparency, honesty, and open-mindedness? I have always believed that our job is only worth it if we believe that it is. Make your choice and choose your weapons, but, be aware, "it takes years to build a reputation..." and the rest of the sentence belongs to you!

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