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The Art of Navigating Difficult Conversations in Recruitment

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The role of a hiring manager can often feel like that of a guide, leading candidates through the uncharted wilderness of the hiring process. Along the journey, one may encounter various challenges and obstacles, from competing offers and changing leadership requirements to unmet expectations. However, with the right preparation, tools, and mindset, a skilled hiring manager can successfully navigate the difficult conversations in recruitment and deliver a positive candidate experience.

In this article, we shall delve into five potentially challenging conversations that hiring managers may face with candidates and explore proven strategies for handling them with finesse and professionalism.

1. The Art of the Pre-Close: Preparing for the Conversation

The pre-closing technique, in which a hiring manager expresses interest in a candidate early in the process to increase the likelihood of offer acceptance, can be a risky endeavour. To navigate this path successfully, one must first plan a route that takes into account the candidate's priorities and anticipates potential obstacles. This involves conducting thorough research on the candidate, understanding their preferences and motivations, and tailoring the approach accordingly.

It is never too early to start planning, as the more context one has, the easier it will be to guide the candidate towards success. Alternate routes, such as moving the candidate quickly through the process while keeping them informed and involved, can also be worth exploring. Good communication is key, and being honest with the candidate about the process, even if the path is not always direct, can help build trust and keep them engaged.

2. Aligning on Compensation: Setting Expectations

In today's market, candidates are better equipped than ever to understand their worth and demand appropriate compensation. As a hiring manager, it is essential to come prepared with a clear understanding of the salary range for the role and to gauge the candidate's expectations early on in the process.

To navigate this conversation successfully, one must first study the current compensation landscape, analysing salary data for the position and understanding the internal salary structure of the company. It is also important to consider factors such as cost of living variations for candidates from different regions, as well as additional benefits and perks that may be expected.

Checking in with candidates about their salary expectations as early as possible can help identify any potential misalignments and provide an opportunity to consult with the leadership on adjustments or supplementary offerings. Transparency is crucial, and if the company is unable to meet the candidate's expectations, it is best to have an honest conversation about the reasons why.

3. Negotiating an Offer: Navigating Unexpected Requests

Even with careful preparation and alignment on compensation, candidates may still present unexpected requests or hesitations when it comes time to extend an offer. To navigate these roadblocks successfully, it is important to understand the candidate's motivations and thought process.

Asking deeper questions, such as whether something has changed since previous discussions or what specific aspects of the package are not working for them, can provide valuable insight and open the door for finding mutually agreeable solutions. Referencing previous conversations and job descriptions can also provide support for the structure of the compensation package.

Consulting with professional recruiters or the leadership on common requests and how to handle them can also help prepare for potential negotiations. Ultimately, transparency and honesty, even if certain requests cannot be met, are key to maintaining trust and successfully onboarding your chosen candidate.

4. Representing Candidates and the Company: Balancing Both Sides

In some cases, a hiring manager may find themselves in the position of advocating for a candidate who has been rejected by other members of the interview panel. Navigating this situation requires careful evaluation of the reasons for rejection and potential biases that may be at play.

Leveraging recruitment tools such as interview intelligence platforms or applicant tracking systems can help provide a more holistic view of the candidate's performance and qualifications. If there are clear indications that the rejection may be unjustified or biased, it is important to raise these concerns with the interview panel and seek further elaboration on their decision.

Offering constructive feedback to difficult interviewers and emphasising the limited window of time available before a candidate may pursue other opportunities can also help push back on a rejection when appropriate. However, it is equally important to know when to respect the panel's decision and move forward.

5. Revoking an Offer: Course-Correcting with Grace

Perhaps one of the most challenging situations a hiring manager may face is having to revoke a job offer that has already been extended to a candidate. While this outcome is never ideal, handling it with professionalism, empathy, and clear communication can help minimise negative impacts.

When communicating the news to the candidate, it is important to be transparent about the reasons for the revocation while maintaining a positive tone. Offering alternative options, such as consideration for future roles or a positive recommendation, can help soften the blow and maintain a good relationship with the candidate.

Seeking support from legal and HR teams in drafting a formal revocation notice can also provide clear documentation and cover any necessary bases. Balancing professionalism with empathy, expecting the unexpected in terms of candidate reactions, and treating them with dignity regardless of the outcome are all key to navigating this difficult conversation.


Navigating the hiring process can often feel like an adventure into uncharted territory, with unexpected challenges and obstacles at every turn. However, by preparing thoroughly, leveraging the right tools and resources, and maintaining a mindset of professionalism, empathy, and transparency, hiring managers can successfully guide candidates through even the most difficult conversations in recruitment.

Whether pre-closing a candidate, aligning on compensation, negotiating an offer, advocating for a rejected candidate, or revoking an offer, the key is to stay the course, read the trail signs, and trust in one's abilities as a skilled guide. With these strategies in hand, hiring managers can confidently embark on the next adventure, ready to lead candidates towards successful outcomes.

Redline Group changes lives every day, building world-class teams for technology companies. Our consultants have a deep understanding of their customers own area of expertise alongside an approachable and professional attitude. Our clients and candidates trust us to deliver the best recruitment services across the European technology arena. For more information or advice on the hiring process, call 01582 450054 or email


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