A few nights ago, I met a very old (high school old) friend for dinner. Naturally, as often happens when women get together, the conversation turned to men and dating (hers, not mine. I’m happily ensconced in married life). She relayed a story about a guy she “met” on Match.com. Apparently, they had exchanged several messages back and forth, he then invited her to dinner, she accepted, he said he would pick the place, but then he disappeared. Some hand wringing ensued. She and I then spent twenty minutes (over)analyzing the perfect, non-crazy, non-desperate, non-prideful way for her to respond to his lack of follow through. (P.S. if you’re a 35+ single smart sensitive man in NYC looking for a serious relationship, I’ve got the perfect girl for you. Don’t worry, I only charge for recruiting, matchmaking I do for free).
Anyway, why am I telling you a dating story on a recruiting blog? Because what my friend said next is poignant. She said: “I don’t understand the flakiness. If he were meeting with a business prospect or a friend, would he also leave it hanging like that? I doubt it, but if so, why bother to begin with? ” At first I nodded along in agreement, but then I started thinking about all the hundreds of people I’ve interacted with in the past few years. And you know what, people are just as flaky in business and their professional lives as this gentleman (loosely) is in his dating life. I’m not attacking men here, women are just as guilty of this sort of behavior.
Now, unless you’ve been personally recruited by me you won’t know this, but I’m not a pushy hard-sell type of recruiter. I’m not naturally sales-y, and so my approach is usually something like “I’m working on a new opportunity with a great firm. It might be a perfect fit for you because blah blah blah. Interested? No. Ok. I’ll call you when I have something better.” The old school recruiters in the audience will judge me for this, (they'll say I'm not really "selling"), but I have found that with lawyers, in particular, soft sell works much better. So, with the knowledge that I don’t push people into things they don’t want, can you believe that candidates still flake on me ALL THE TIME? They promise to send a resume and don’t. They promise to submit transcripts and don’t. They say they want a new job, go through months of the interview process, get a great offer (their definition of “great”), and then don’t take it. It happens all the time. And not just to me; lest you think I'm not a very good recruiter. It happens to all my colleagues as well. Visit any decent recruiter forum and you'll hear lots of chatter about "the myth of candidate control."
I don’t have some insightful psychological explanation for why people act this way. It likely comes from the same recesses of gray matter as confrontation avoidance, but I don’t have a psych degree so I’m not going to speculate. The PSA here is honor your personal and professional commitments, however insignificant you think they might be. Don’t leave people hanging. It’s rude at best, and unprofessional at worst. If you’re not going to follow through for the sake of personal integrity, then you should, at least for the sake of your reputation. The world is getting smaller every day. With a quick google search, I can find out all sorts of things about you (things I sometimes wish I didn’t know, but that's a whole other blog post). I also have access to your network of colleagues and acquaintances. I’m also friends with the recruiting manager at the company you just applied to, and when she calls me to ask if I think you’ll be a good fit for them, what do you think I’m going to say? That’s not a threat; it’s reality. Please be mindful of the impressions you leave in your wake; you never know when someone you’ve disrespected will suddenly pop into your life again.
Angela Kopolovich is the Managing Director of Alegna International, a boutique attorney recruiting firm. A former practicing litigator with a large global law firm, Angela now specializes in placing attorneys with law firms and corporate legal departments, around the country and abroad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Recruiter_Law.
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