Why being a “friendly recruiter” matters, according to science

I’ve always wondered if I should be a friendly recruiter with candidates.

  • Does it matter if I’m friendly? 
  • Or do candidates prefer a person that keeps the relationship purely professional?

To my surprise, there’s academic research done on the topic of recruiter friendliness by workplace and management professors. This research shows that recruiter friendliness matters to candidates.

I’ll discuss the theory behind recruiter friendliness, what friendliness looks like, and the overall impact of being a friendly recruiter on our recruitment processes. To explain these topics, I’ll summarise one academic article called Effects of recruiter friendliness and job attribute information on recruitment outcomes.

Why recruiter behaviour matters

Why would a candidate value a recruiter’s behaviour? The article gives various reasons for this:

  • The recruiter is often the applicant’s first and only contact with the company and often the only source of information about the job opportunity.
  • Recruiters are tasked with pitching the role and company to candidates and getting them interested in the job opportunity. 
  • They also play a role in getting candidates to get and accept a job offer. 
  • A candidate can also use their experience during the interview stages to signal the company’s likelihood of extending a job offer. 
  • Finally, candidates may use their interview experience to fill in knowledge gaps about the company.

So, candidates value a recruiter’s behaviour and may use this behaviour when assessing a job opportunity. Good recruiter behaviour, or friendliness, may lead to a better candidate experience and hiring outcome during the process.

Recruiter friendliness

But, what do we mean by recruiter friendliness? The researchers in the article experimented with the effects of two levels of friendliness – friendly and unfriendly – against a group of participants.

The participants – students at a university – were asked to place themselves in the role of a job applicant while watching a video simulation of a campus recruitment interview. The students filled a survey after watching the video. They received a written packet containing information on a company and general entry-level job. 

The researchers used an actor that pretended to be a recruiter in the video simulation. The actor created the friendliness manipulation primarily through his non-verbal behaviour.

Friendly non-verbal behaviour included smiling, direct eye contact, head nodding, and a forward trunk lean. Unfriendly non-verbal behaviour involved frowning, avoiding eye contact, looking around and leaning back in his chair.

Afterwards, the participants rated the recruiter on friendliness and rated the job on different attributes. The most relevant for our discussion are:

  • Unknown job characteristics
  • Probabilities of receiving a job offer
  • Attraction to a friendly recruiter
  • Attraction to the employment opportunity 
  • And a willingness to pursue the opportunity 

The results and conclusion

Candidates were more attracted to a friendly recruiter than to an unfriendly recruiter. When the recruiter was friendly, participants were more attracted to the employment opportunity and were more willing to pursue the employment opportunity. 

Recruiter friendliness also influenced perceptions of the likelihood of receiving a job offer. Here’s my observation, but giving a candidate a reasonable idea that they might receive an offer is essential because candidates are more likely to pursue job opportunities they have a good chance of obtaining. 

On this point, the article concludes that “Organizations should carefully monitor this signal, since they may lose a good job candidate if the recruiter’s behavior during the interview sends signals that the organization is not interested in the applicant.”.

So what does this mean for recruiters? It means that ultimately, having a friendly relationship with candidates can help you get more hires. The study shows that small behavioural changes have a strong impact. So, use eye contact, nod your head, lean in, and don’t forget to smile!

Published by José Marchena

Hi, I'm Jose Marchena I’m a London-based internal recruiter, host of the Coffee with a Recruiter podcast and occasional blogger. I use this website to explore insights on recruitment, productivity and self-development.

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