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10 Steps to Building an Outstanding Recruiter-Candidate Relationship

Candidate Relationship Management (our second favourite CRM) shouldn't be described as a best practice, but instead, an absolute necessity.

Building relationships with candidates - and maintaining them - is becoming ever more important as the rise in remote working and evolving candidate expectations changes the recruitment landscape in 2021.

Hiring success is largely based on attracting talented candidates through a strong recruitment marketing strategy. By utilising essential recruiter-candidate relationship processes, you will not only improve your candidate interactions, but you'll be giving your business the ability to tap into highly qualified talent pools for future openings.

We have pooled our resources and asked our team what relationship qualities they found important in the recruitment process and what they would expect from a recruiter.

Consider these 10 steps as your indispensable pocket guide to building a strong recruiter-candidate relationship that lasts.

Here, then, are the best practices every recruitment consultant cannot go without.

1. Transparency

transparency is the foundation of candidate relationship management

This is the foundation upon which all successful recruiter-candidate relationships are built. Both parties need to be transparent about what they want as an end-result.

For example, a candidate needs to be transparent with what they’re looking for in their next role, the things they do in their current role and their (realistic) hopes for advancement. We emphasise realism here, because not all hopes are achievable.

Here, the onus is on the consultant to be equally transparent with the candidate. If the candidate’s skill set is ill-fitted to a role they want (or perhaps they do not have enough experience) then the consultant has to be honest - as difficult as that is.

Ghosting is defined as 'some party cutting off all communication' in the recruitment process, and it's something many recruitment agencies have been guilty of.

Don’t let this be you! Honesty is much more appreciated, rather than leaving the candidate in the dark.

Key takeaway: Transparency helps to set expectations and lays the foundation of successful recruiter-candidate relationships. 

2. Communication

communication is key for candidate relationship management

Without clear and coherent communication, many of the other sections here will be of no good. As with any business relationship, good communication is a must-have.

Consider the avenues of communication your consultants can go down, and look to catering for the candidate.

If you know the candidate prefers speaking on the phone to emailing, then a good consultant will make that happen. Similarly, consider their time limits and the potential ramifications an overheard conversation could have on their current job situation. With the shift to remote working, this is less of an obstacle, but still one that must be considered. 

Consider prefacing your conversations with "is now a good time to chat?" to avoid any awkward situations, and before undertaking any standardised interview processes, ask the candidate if they require any reasonable adjustments or accommodations (more on this later.)

Maybe, as a consideration, your consultants could ask the candidates how they want the process to take shape. It will endear you to the candidate, and from there a healthy, straightforward recruitment process can take place. 

Key takeaway: keep the lines of communication open, be respectful of their current commitments, and work with them within any limitations or restrictions. 

3. Trust

trust is critical for all candidate relationship management

Another vital ingredient of the candidate relationship management process is trust. Think about it: the recruiter has a direct hand in the candidate’s future, declaring to the world that they’re qualified to do the job they've applied for. 

We spend a third of our lives at work, and as such, much of our happiness and quality of life is affected by our job. Your candidate needs to be able to trust you inherently to help them make a big leap, and you need to trust them to make a great impression and help you build your portfolio.

This is no light claim, and the pressure on both parties can often be overwhelming. Remember, you're both investing time in the other, and time is the most valuable commodity.

Key takeaway: Trust fosters trust. Show your candidate you trust their judgement and actions, and show them that they can trust you to help them make their next career move. 

4. Openness


A good candidate-consultant relationship is predicated on the notion that both parties are open with each other. This goes for general business relationships as well as those in recruitment.

In the search process, the candidate has to demonstrate openness to criticism in order to improve their interviewing skills. It’s all part of the process.

On the other hand, the consultant has to accept when a certain role just isn’t right for the candidate. It creates a simple 'square peg/round hole' conundrum. It’s no good forcing the wrong opportunity as it may tarnish the relationship altogether.

Key takeaway: Openness is the willingness to accept any response other than the one you'd hoped for. 

5. Rapport


It’s incredibly beneficial, and healthy, for a consultant to build rapport with their candidate. It injects a bit of fun into the process, and it may be needed given that the candidate is looking for a new start! 

Building rapport requires a level of empathy that often only comes with an evolved relationship. Once you've had a few interactions with a candidate, it's easier to understand their excitement or defeat and offer a professional level of support.

It also helps the relationship grow from something purely formal, or transactional into a fully-fledged candidate relationship. Achieving this particular section usually has a knock-on effect with the other elements we've listed throughout this blog. Having a solid relationship with a great candidate grants you direct access to them when other more suitable jobs come up; a relationship built with rapport can set you up for successful placements down the line.

If you build rapport, everything else will follow (and much quicker!).

Key takeaway: Practice emotional intelligence. Show empathy and support in the face of defeat, and celebrate victories.

6. Knowledge


Remember: as recruitment agencies, you are the ones with all the knowledge. You have insight into a number of industries (or, a particular one if you’re a specialist) and know the kinds of skills many businesses will be looking for.

That said, a fair amount of knowledge comes from the candidate, too. They know what they’re good at, the skills they have acquired, and the way in which they go about their work.

This kind of candidate intuition is invaluable to the recruiter, as it informs the kind of roles that would suit the candidate. The industry, too - some are better suited to some industries than others.

Key takeaway: Showcase your expertise, and let your candidate showcase theirs. The majority of your professional relationship is a show of knowledge - so make the most of it.

7. Time


Arguably the most important resource: time.

Time can mean managing deadlines with your candidate, making the job search more efficient, or spending time more wisely.

Time is worth its weight in gold for someone looking for a new role, and similarly, for you as the recruiter looking to fill that role. Candidates and consultants both need to give each other the time to realise a successful recruitment procedure.

In business transactions, the importance of time cannot be underestimated. For a recruiter, it’s vital. Time can be harnessed to a recruiter’s best potential to fully hone in on the best roles for candidates.

Key takeaway: Ask qualifying questions from the outset. Streamline your conversations, and don't waste time pursuing any dead ends.

8. Tailoring Your Approach


As we mentioned earlier in our communication section, consultants need to be tailoring their approach in accordance with the type of candidate they’re dealing with.

This means altering your approach to suit the candidate in question. If they have particular requirements as to when they can be contacted, for example - then take that into consideration.

A great example would be a candidate working remotely with small children at home. Arranging an interview with the board at 8 am is likely going to place them in a precarious situation, juggling school runs, traffic, and the nerves intrinsic to interviews. A candidate under that type of pressure is likely not going to come across as well as you (or they) had hoped.

Getting to know your candidate and having a clear understanding of who they are as people outside of their job will go a long way in not only the success of your relationship but filling the role itself.

Of course, this swings the other way. It’s a mutual understanding between two individuals.

Key takeaway: Pay attention to your candidate as a person outside of their role, and help them by tailoring your approach. 

9. Humanise


Make your candidates shine and be their advocate. Let them reach their full potential by showing you are rooting for them.

Give them as much information as possible. Help them prepare for their interview, email information such as hiring policies and interview processes, send them sample questions, and share business insights such as company culture. You may even want to share the (broad) reasons other candidates have not been successful in applying for the role, as a way for them to showcase their skills in a specific area.

You have the ability to set them up for success.

Remember, helping candidates to succeed will reinforce that strong recruiter-candidate relationship you’ve been building.

Key takeaway: Help your candidate land the role by offering them the tools and information they need to succeed. 

10. Balance


Finally, combine points 1 to 9 above.

Finding the right balance between implementing each relationship process can mean the difference between a positive and a negative recruiter-candidate relationship.

Don't overload the candidate with excess bundles of information, give them the necessities. Keep communication open such as follow-up emails, but don’t bombard their inbox in a spammy and irritating way.

Successful candidate nurture rests on engaging candidates in an efficient, effective way and keeping the relationship on the right track.

Key takeaway: Respect boundaries, and treat your candidate the way you'd want to be treated.


Being a great recruiter means more than just ticking the right boxes. It stems to a personal, deeper level between the recruiter and the candidate.

By ensuring the recruiter-candidate relationship you develop is built on these foundations, you will be well on your way to delivering candidates a great experience.

The quality of candidate relationships should never be taken for granted. They are the bread and butter of the recruitment world!

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The recruitment landscape is one of the few industries to benefit from Inbound Marketing in both candidate and client relationship management, placing it uniquely across both B2B and B2C.

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