Dial Tone in Mid-Sentence

Not too long ago, I had to call a great candidate and pass on the news that my client had decided to pursue another candidate, and she was no longer under consideration. It’s the worst part of my job. Giving honest feedback about the status of a search means sometimes being the deliverer of bad news, but please remember, search professionals are just the messenger. I don’t get to choose who a client company decides to hire. Search professionals are merely a router pushing content from our clients to the candidates – nothing more, nothing less.

But let’s get back to my point… I called this terrific candidate as soon as I had the definitive data that she wasn’t going to receive an offer and was no longer in the running for the position we’d been hired to find. The conversation started out well – she was very warm and friendly… and then I gave her the news. I was working my way towards some valuable feedback when suddenly there was a click, and then nothing but dial tone. What?! Are you kidding me?! How does that work?! Feedback helps us understand what has changed in the client’s mind since the last interaction they’d had with the candidate. That’s how we get better at the job, right? Giving feedback to someone is already tough enough – it becomes impossible when there’s nobody listening on the other end of the phone.

I do realize how disappointing it can be when a client informs us that you’re not the one. It’s happened to me in my career. Been there, done that, and I know how it feels. I can also tell you that refusing to listen to feedback is not the right decision for job seekers. Feedback helps you better understand more about your value equation and should help you pinpoint the reasons why you were not anointed as the ‘chosen one’ in a given search assignment. I know it’s painful to hear bad news, but take the information and learn from it. You’ll be better prepared the next time you have a chance to swing the bat – and you will have other chances!

Assimilate the feedback and learn from it. Just don’t shoot the messenger.

About the author


Tim Tolan

Tim Tolan is the Senior Partner of the Healthcare IT and Services Practice of Sanford Rose Associates. He has conducted searches for CEOs, presidents, senior vice presidents, vice presidents of business development, product development and sales. Tim is also the co-author of "The CEO’s Guide to Talent Acquisition – Finding Talent Your Competitors Overlook," available on Amazon.


  • Probably the best advice that I ever received is “accept ALL feedback as if it were a gift”….

    Great post Tim!

  • Joe: Great advice as ALL feedback is the only way one can make changes and improve. Hanging up is not a very good plan for a variety of reasons, including future search oppty’s with those that are trying to help. Not a good plan. Nope.

  • Absolutely Gwen! At the same time I discovered an emotion with this candidate that will linger with me. It’s not always fun to be the messenger – but at the same time, hanging up on someone delivering not so good news is poor judgment and completely unprofessional.

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