Candidate Engagement Failure: Why It Happens?

Volodymyr Bilyk
23 September 2021

Candidate engagement is one of those things you better nail down sooner the better. There are many context-bound reasons why some recruiters fail to get a candidate’s engagement and emotional connection in full gear. 

  • Sometimes, it is just bad timing. For example, the candidate is not ready to consider job offers or just started working in a new place. 
  • Then there is a prior experience backlash – when the candidate recently had a negative experience with recruiters and is unwilling to reply to anyone titled “recruiter” out of principle.
  • These days, more often than not, candidates don’t engage simply because they get way too many offers from other recruiters, and some of them get lost in the shuffle. 

But if we look at the pattern of different early candidate impressions and what went right or wrong – we can spot several interesting things. 

So let’s pick them apart from one another.

Candidate Engagement Failure Reason 1: Limited Adaptability

Limited Adaptability

Reality testing

Reality testing is the ability to examine the experience and what objectively goes on. It is critical in providing the proper reaction to the candidate’s response. In terms of candidate engagement, it is critical for course correction and subsequent situational awareness (especially when it comes to early candidate impressions).

More often than not, recruiters tend to maintain wishful thinking regarding the candidate. So they push their narrative instead of facing the facts and reacting accordingly.

  • For example, trying to artificially extend the conversation with weak arguments upon getting a straight decline. 
  • Or going all boo-boo when the candidate’s presentation of the company and vacant position leaves the candidate cold. 


Adjusting to the situation is one of the most obvious things to do. Yet it is easier to say than do. In the case of recruiters, it manifests itself as following the script no matter what and ignoring various conversational opportunities. 

On the other hand, flexibility also relates to emotional intelligence and changing your game plan to move closer to fully-fledged candidate engagement. 

  • For example, sometimes candidates indirectly generate negative impressions to recruiters by the way they speak or look or behave. For some recruiter’s that’s enough to pass on the candidate. 
  • Or here’s another one. The candidate doesn’t check all of the boxes but possesses a solid culture fit and willingness to learn. Instead of following through, the recruiter moves on because the candidate doesn’t fit the requirements to a tee. This phenomenon also goes under the name  “purple squirrel hunting”.


AKA – one of the recruiter’s “must” skills. However, the ability to identify the nature of the problem and the way to solve it requires some situational awareness (see “reality-testing”).

  • For example, the candidate expresses mild interest in the position. There is a need to elaborate on the “what’s in for me?” question. 
  • So instead of trying to explore the candidate’s point of view, the recruiter pushes on with the tried and tested arguments like “professional growth” and “career opportunities.” And then the candidate drops off because he doesn’t care.

Candidate Engagement Failure Reason 2: Failure to Establish an Interpersonal Relationship 

Failure to establish an interpersonal relationship

Inability to form a bond between recruiter and candidates is the direct result of limited adaptability. But there is more to it – a three-layer reason why.


The basic thing. The awareness and appreciation of feelings and understanding of their nature. In recruitment, it is more of figuring out how to approach the conversation from the particular candidate’s point of view.

  • For example, lack of empathy can be crushing when approaching introverted candidates as they need some extra groundwork for proper engagement. 
  • Some recruiters try to force the conversation regardless, so they more or less push themselves into “sorry, I’ll pass on this offer” territory. 

Social Responsibility

This one is tricky. In a nutshell, it is about making the conversation about the candidate, not the vacant position – the “what’s in for me?” thing. 

Because of that, it is important to be constructive and cooperative. In a way, it is an empathic convergence of the employer value proposition and the candidate’s point of view. 

  • For example, the candidate is curious about the job proposal but hesitant to apply. His current position is all right, and the job description doesn’t offer anything out of the ordinary. 
  • So instead of emphasizing what drives this particular candidate, the recruiter recites high-concept stuff like “platform for self-realization.” The candidate drops off.

Interpersonal Relationship

The ultimate goal is to establish a mutually beneficial and trustworthy relationship with the candidate via affectionate interaction. The other goal is to create a throughline that showcases company culture in a nutshell and communicates EVP.

In plain terms, it is about passing through the “candidate image” to the person itself.

  • For example, the candidate is relatively passive in the recruitment conversation. The interest is there but he is reluctant to commit because of formal communication. 
  • Instead of going outside the formal conversation, the recruiter maintains a dry, formal tone and gradually sours the candidate’s interest instead of keeping it.

In conclusion

Candidate engagement failure is one of those things that stem from a weak foundation. It is the direct consequence of the lack of vision regarding the cost-effective recruitment process and the inability to translate the company’s employer value proposition into the candidate’s perspective.  

If you need to fix this particular recruitment issue or need recruitment help – our consultants can help you out.