As a recruiting professional you tend to hear some pretty interesting (and stressful) things during your work. Not only do you have to deal with clients, partners, and candidates and the myriad of differing expectations they bring, but you also have to juggle multiple projects and obligations. With so many moving parts all heading in different directions you are guaranteed to have things go wrong – that’s just a fact of life as a recruiter. Unfortunately, you might not know about it until you get a phone call or email with bad news.

Here are five expressions that are every recruiter’s worst nightmare, as well as advice on how to deal with them.

Sometimes, right towards the end of the recruiting cycle, a client will suddenly tell you that they want to hire someone much more junior than what they had initially requested. More often than not the driver of this issue is cost. Salary expectations and employment costs become much more real once it comes time to actually offer someone a contract. This gets to be even more complicated if the company forgot to calculate what they have to pay you, the recruiter.

The best way to prevent this from happening is to push during initial conversations to get validation from the Finance department that the projected salary as well as your commission/fee have been budgeted. Hiring managers and HR professionals that coordinate with you might tell you that the budget is already there, but this does not mean that Finance has signed off. Make sure you get the actual okay.

Face it, bad hires happen. That said, most of them can be avoided. The key is to view yourself and your fellow recruiters not as intermediaries but as facilitators. The best recruiters out there don’t just search through CVs and quickly gauge candidates’ skills before passing them on to the hiring manager, instead they work really hard to actually tget to know candidates. This includes background checks as well as getting a good feel for personality and working style.

Yes, this is more work, but it also helps you be a direct contributor to improving quality of hire. Your extra efforts will  help you to filter out candidates who shouldn’t be placed as well as give more nuanced recommendations about the ones you submit for consideration. When internal and external clients know they can rely on you to deliver good candidates they are going to continuously seek out your services.

If you have a client who is not interested in any of the candidates you’ve put forward it either means that you’re not bringing them the right people or that you have failed to accurately gauge their expectations. In the case of not having a full talent pipeline, just be honest about it. Its better to tell a client you are still searching for qualified individuals (as well as explaining why they are hard to find) than to give them a list of people who aren’t eligible for the job. 

If the issue is expectations you need to make sure that things are properly clarified during your initial talks about the job. Most hiring managers have skills, experiences, and styles they want to see that go well beyond what is included in a job vacancy or job description. Don’t be afraid to ask things like, “How important is this skill?” or, “What other attributes are missing here?” After this meeting send the hiring manager a description of exactly what you will be looking for. Then, once you present candidates to them you can outline how much each one aligns with the expectations that were previously set.

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Some clients will tell this to you before you’ve started (and at least save you the effort), but others will wait until you’ve already put blood, sweat, and tears into recruiting some top candidates. The key to preventing this unpleasant conversation from happening is to first gauge how hard the job actually is to fill (sometimes job posting is in fact enough) and then explain how sourcing and recruiting can help get them more qualified candidates in a shorter period of time. It can also be helpful to translate this in terms of financial savings and productivity gains.

One of the worst things a recruiter can hear is that a candidate has decided to back out of a job offer AFTER signing to accept it. At this stage other candidates have usually been told they didn’t get the job, the client has started preparing for the new hire, and you’ve moved on to the next project. Having a candidate suddenly change his/her mind not only hits the reset button, it makes you look bad!

This type of surprise is still going to happen from time to time, but a good way to avoid it is to first ask the candidate about other jobs they’re in the running for and what they really want in a job. Then, after each interview check to see how they felt about it. The more you know about what a candidate is up to and how they feel about things the easier it will be for you to make sure they get an offer they want to hold on to.

Have your own terrible quotes and horror stories?

If you have your own terrible quotes and/or horror stories send them our way! We’re preparing some new content for later and we’d love to share true (but anonymous) experiences from the recruiting community. You can send everything to