As recruiters, we work with companies when they are on the verge of change. Most of the time, they are either ramping up for growth, replacing someone who's left, replacing someone who's currently in the position, or are adding a new division and they need to staff up. Either way - a job order from a company signifies change, growth, and new opportunity.
It goes without saying that the candidates with whom we work are at the cusp of change in their lives as well. They are either happy but looking to grow their career, or they see some bad financial writing on the wall of their company, or perhaps they've already been RIF'd, looking to relocate back to a certain area of the country, or left their last employer for a variety of reasons. Aside from the candidate who is looking for career growth, most of the candidates we work with are feeling a bit vulnerable and nervous, scared even, about their present situation, their future, and their ability to advance their interests while bringing home the bacon.
Recruiters approach their relationship with their candidates in many ways. For a lot of recruiters, there is no "relationship". The candidate is a commodity and you are simply marketing a commodity to a company. If there is no possibility that you can place the candidate now, you may not even get back to them with a personal response. You may not pick up the phone and actually speak to the candidate. You realize the candidate is a thinking/feeling person but that is not your concern; your concern is filling a job and getting paid, then moving on to the next job.
After 12 years in the business, it is still my practice to develop good rapport with my candidates. Can I help all of my candidates? No. Can I place all of the candidates who contact me? Certainly not. But by always remembering that there is an actual person on the other end of the phone or behind that email I just read, and that this person is quite possibly going through one of the most stressful times of their life, I reach inside to find the compassion and decency to listen, explain, direct, guide and comfort candidates when necessary.
You have to be mindful of your time and not allow yourself to get sucked into a candidates' personal life or be drawn into a candidates' black hole of conversation from which there appears to be no way out! It doesn't take that much time, however, to listen to someone, reassure them about something, explain a little bit more, and perhaps provide a bit of encouragement no matter how bleak the horizon appears to be. To me, that is simple human decency. The business side pay-off is that candidates remember you and the time that you took with them. They refer their friends and business associates to you and are very willing to network with you when you ask them. So not only do you get to do the "right" thing, but you also get to expand your candidate and networking base.
Recruiters may learn this lesson with the downturn in the economy; WE are now the ones worried about our jobs. I would encourage you to not forget that feeling of vulnerability; bring it to mind whenever you are approached by a candidate who is unsure about their situation, or was just let go from their job. We should never forget the Art of Being Human while we practice our Art of Recruiting.