Building relationships and working with IT recruiters is one of the best strategies to find contract opportunities and keep a steady stream of work. Like any relationship, situations can go badly and solving problems effectively is important to maintaining a strong connection.
Many things can go astray in the contractor/recruiter relationship and you might feel the blame lies with the recruiter. After all, nearly every contractor has a story about a recruiter who did them wrong. Maybe they failed to include you on an opportunity that would have been a shoe-in for you. Perhaps they miscommunicated information about an interview and made you look like a fool. Or they might have completely abandoned you after the job started, leaving you scrounging to figure out how to get paid and solve certain problems on your own.
If you’ve met plenty of recruiters in your career, then you know who you should cut loose from your future job searches and who’s worth keeping around for a second chance. You want to work out your problems with that recruiter who has had a good track record, always has awesome opportunities and is part of a trustworthy staffing agency. However, you also can’t let them off the hook for their sloppiness that has affected your business. So, it’s time to have a direct conversation and provide (sometimes difficult) feedback, ensuring a strong path forward.
Preparing for a Difficult Conversation with a Recruiter
Your goal is to make sure the conversation goes as smoothly and constructively as possible. Here are a few items to think about before you pick up the phone (yes, the phone… don’t even think about sending an angry message through text or email):
- Change your mindset. Instead of preparing for a difficult conversation or a call to complain, think of it as providing feedback or solving a problem.
- Plan, but don’t script it out. Have an idea of what you’d like to say, but don’t expect it to go word-for-word as you’d like. The recruiter doesn’t know the lines you’ve prepared for them.
- Have your facts straight. Know the exact timeline of events, who did what (or didn’t), and what specific outcomes resulted of these actions. This must go beyond emotion.
- Consider their perspective. Think about the recruiter’s situation and why they may have acted as they did. Are they going to be surprised by your phone call?
- Understand your own emotions, motivations and shortcomings. Take a step back before calling your recruiter on their mistakes. Think carefully about why you’re upset, as well as if there is anywhere you could have done better.
During the Conversation
Here are tips to keep in mind during the discussion (no, it’s not a rant where you say your piece and hang up, this is a two-way dialogue)
- Be confident and assertive. The recruiter needs to know that you are dissatisfied and there is a problem to be resolved.
- Practice active listening. Listen to their response to ensure the message you’re trying to deliver is properly received. Remember to speak slowly enough to allow the recruiter to ask questions and participate in the conversation.
- Practice emotional intelligence. Being aware of both your emotions and the recruiter’s emotions throughout the discussion will help you guide the conversation effectively.
- Keep the conversation constructive. Stay positive and avoid getting dragged into an endless debate of who’s right or wrong.
- Watch your language. Choose your words wisely to avoid words that are confrontational and will make the recruiter defensive. Speaking slowly and following your plan is a good way to do this.
- Give something back. You need to hold the recruiter accountable for where they slipped up, but you can also offer responsibility for your own shortcomings, as well as suggestions for next steps in moving forward.
- Be respectful. Above all, you’re dealing with a human being. Even if the end of this conversation is going to result in you severing ties with this recruiter, there is never a reason to be rude and harsh in your conversation. Always be the bigger person.
Discussing a recruiter’s mistakes is only one example of difficult conversations you have in your professional life. You might also need to tell a client why their project is going badly, tell a colleague that their work is poor, communicate change out to a team… the list goes on. All of the tips listed above are transferrable to your unique situation. How will you improve your difficult communications in the future?