September 1, 2014 1:12 pm

Clicking away relationships – what defines candidate ownership?

“Video killed the radio star…” will Social Media in turn kill your Recruiting star? With the continuing uptake of sites such as LinkedIn in an ever more connected market, is it still possible to manage a candidate’s career from “cradle to the grave” as we used to say?

Like many recruiters out there, I have at times been left scratching my head when navigating the often treacherous path that is representing candidates in the digital age. You may have invested a great deal of time and energy in presenting a candidate to a client, only to hear “But Lisa, I’m already connected to them – through LinkedIn”.

And they may indeed boast “exclusive” access to a brief online blurb and cheesy profile photo of said candidate… their relationship is as strong as that which they share with the majority of their other 500+ connections that they have never actually met!

Does this flippant ‘click to connect’ replace the real relationships that used to characterise a really great recruiter?

Traditionally, I’ve always developed long-term relationship with my candidates. My interaction with them involves more than just assisting them plot the best course for their career right now, and into the future. I provide advice, a sounding board, a sympathetic ear, the impartial feedback that they may need to hear and am the person that they talk to when they are ready for their next subsequent career move.  One candidate, who I still work with today – I have placed for the last 18 years (now I’m showing my age!) but even with her, the issue of representation and LinkedIn recently saw the value of my relationship disappear in a click.

I’ve been in recruitment now for close to 25 years, both here and in the UK. In that time I have come to know a lot of people and I’ve put a lot of effort into building that network.  However I am finding due to social media (particularly LinkedIn) candidate ownership lasts for one representation or placement, making it now near impossible to manage a candidate’s career from cradle to the grave!

Let’s start by taking a look at the process (from a very simplistic level), and how social media now stakes a claim in “owning” the candidate:

1. The candidate contacts their Recruiter about possible employment opportunities or vice versa.  We may have known them for 18 years (you’ll see this is a bit of a sore point for me!) or they could be new to us.

2. We then spend time connecting with the candidate, engaging with them, meeting them, screening them, formatting their CV, writing an executive summary on them, and then going about finding the right role for them.  In some cases we have active roles available, in other cases we discuss brands we will approach to see if they are hiring.

3. I don’t know about you, but for us most of the time we’re actually not working from a ‘filling open roles’ perspective anymore – the quality and shortage of skilled recruitment talent does not allow us to do that –  rather we are in many respects identifying the best talent and presenting them to a client when we activate someone who fits their selection criteria and business culture.  So, often this will start with a phone call to the client that may go a little like this:

“Hi Mr Client, I am currently working with an experienced candidate who might be of interest to you. She has given me permission to disclose her name to you so that you can review her background  – Julie Smith” At this stage in the conversation, 99% of the time you will hear the furious tapping on the keyboard as Mr Client races to view Julie’s LinkedIn profile. “As you can she Julie is a great office support/IT/Accounting recruiter blah blah blah” and Mr Client says “Julie looks great, but we aren’t hiring at the moment blah blah blah.” and the conversation to an extent ends.


4. But what has really happened here?! Good ol’ Mr Client has now looked at Julie on LinkedIn and one of two things has happened:  the client sends an invitation to Julie to connect on LinkedIn (she does look good as you have really done your job well in identifying her!) and now Julie is in their network of connections; or Julie sees the client looking at her on LinkedIn and feels very special so she connects!

5. Now… here comes the difficult part (cue scary music!). There is nothing to indicate our involvement in this innocent, fleeting click of a button.  In many cases, after time passes, the client or the candidate probably don’t even remember how they came to be connected in the first place. And so our candidate ownership is lost.

So, we find unless you get an immediate “hit” ie the person is interviewed straight away and thus the placement process starts, you can’t double dip! Even if you were to present the candidate 2 months later when the client is recruiting – that proverbial horse has already bolted and is most likely being enticed by a silver platter of carrots over at Mr Client’s office.

The solution? Unfortunately there is no silver bullet for this one! We as recruiters, cannot prevent Mr Client and Julie from making that click.

There are safeguards that you may wish to employ however

  • Withholding the name of the candidate when speaking with clients is one solution. The downfall to this is that many clients like to research candidates, and LinkedIn is the perfect platform for them to view the candidate, their employment history and view skills and endorsements, and often can lead to an immediate interview request without even sending the CV.


  • You can send their CV anyway once Mr Client has advised that he is not hiring in order to keep some record of the conversation introducing the candidate – but some clients may think this is a pretty cheeky move.


  • Accurate email records to both the client and candidate can help – even a simple “Hi Julie, just letting you know that I spoke to Mr Client about you and unfortunately he is not hiring at present. ” along with a “Hi Mr Client, thanks for speaking to me about Julie Smith today. It is a shame that you don’t have a space in your team for her at present, I will keep an eye on where she heads next in case she may be someone we can call upon for you in a future hiring exercise” may jog both the client and candidate’s memory and allow you to step back into the process at a later date.


  • Update your terms of business to ensure that “Representation” is clearly defined and provides you with some protection!


Ultimately, in the digitally savvy age of recruitment we will continue to see blurred lines when it comes to managing relationships and effectively – a candidate’s career. The best advice for all of us Recruiters is to be aware!

As a recruiter, have you been affected by social media in candidate ownership?

Have you found any solutions to these problems? What steps have you put in place to minimize the effects of social media impacting your candidate ownership?

We’d love to hear your thoughts about candidate ownership; how social media has affected what you do, and what you are doing to maximise your ability to provide the same level of service we were previously able to provide throughout the course of a candidate’s career.

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