Client Feedback: Are They Saying What They Actually Mean?

  • Client Feedback: Are They Saying What They Actually Mean?

    Client Feedback: Are They Saying What They Actually Mean?

    As consultants, we’ve heard a lot of interesting, unique, and downright strange things from the clients we work with. Recruiting is a tricky game, after all, and it can take some time to match the perfect candidate with the perfect role. But should these matches fall short, the client always has some justification for it. The problem is, do these justifications reflect the issues giving them pause?

    Softening the blow

    Have you ever heard the old “It’s not you, it’s me”?

    Many of us have—and this type of sugar coating is common in the business world.

    A client might say, “We don’t need a candidate like that at the moment.” From which, one could reasonably surmise that the candidate might be a good fit at some other position in the company. But really, the client means “We don’t need a candidate like that. Ever.” Fair enough.

    It’s easy to understand where this comes from. Few of us enjoy being truly honest with one another, particularly strangers—so what’s the harm in a little softening of the blow?

    It’s all about communication

    Not much—unless you’re a business trying to build a long-term relationship with your recruiter! If you’re interested in filling a vacancy, it’s to your benefit to be upfront. For example, another concept we hear thrown around a lot is cultural fit. “This person won’t fit our company culture,” says the client.

    Ahh, company culture. It’s a deliberately nebulous term that’s a perfect justification for any decision, particularly when clients want to avoid saying what they really mean: “We don’t like this person’s personality.” Fair or not, that’s sometimes how it goes.

    Not to say that hiring for cultural fit isn’t a real thing, of course, but culture is an easy scapegoat for more legitimate issues a company might have with a candidate.

    It comes down to effective communication, really—and the issue isn’t limited to recruiting! Any professional in a creative field has had to deal with this at one time or another.

    The pitfalls of creative work

    For example,  freelancers often hear “We have a fast turnaround on this project”, which too often means “we forgot we needed this done and you’re picking up the slack.” Oof. Well, work is work, right?

    Another pearl many of us have heard is “Send us a few options and we’ll choose.” This seemingly-innocent sentiment sounds a little different to some creative types, who often perceive it more like “We don’t trust you to make the call, so we’ll need backups.” Yes, the truth hurts.

    And we’re not getting down on clients by any means. All of us take this approach to communication at some point in our lives, but when it comes to client relationships, this moderate approach should take a backseat to all-out honesty.

    Regardless if you’re working with companies, creatives, or contractors, do your best to avoid falling into these communication pitfalls. It’s tempting to soften the blow—but in business, concrete feedback is always the way to go.

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