Transitioning from Transactional to Relationship-Based Recruiting

Advice from experts · 7/20/2023 · 1 min read

Transitioning from Transactional to Relationship-Based Recruiting

Recruiters play a critical role in the decision-making process of job seekers. Even though there are a variety of factors that candidates take into consideration, we, as recruiters, have the opportunity to become the best partners and advocates for our candidates. There are several ways you can transform the recruiter-candidate interaction from simply transactional to a solid relationship that your candidates will love.

Most of us love unique interactions, or at least, we care more about unique experiences than the standard day-to-day interactions. The same thing happens with our candidates—they have minimum expectations from their recruiters. When they cross paths with a recruiter that goes the extra mile for them, that's when a quality relationship starts.

In the next few paragraphs, I will describe how to differentiate a transactional relationship from a qualitative one. However, keep in mind that this is just a guide; every recruiter has their own style, so make it yours!

Why is building a relationship so important?

Just as Uber does not own vehicles and Airbnb doesn't own properties, I believe recruiters don't own candidates. Instead, we own the relationships we build with candidates, and as a result, we deliver highly talented candidates to companies.

Candidates don't have a way to predict a company's environment from the outside. Even though they can research on the web, look for reviews, and more, as a recruiter, you play a critical role in how your candidates perceive the company from the outside. There's no better way to be an ambassador of your company than by providing an exceptional candidate experience.

Don't rely heavily on elevator pitches, and make sure that your candidates can experience the company culture through you. Most of your candidates know that a big part of your job is to make hires for the company. So, instead of overselling through words, build relationships that make an impact and gain candidates' trust.

Are you being transactional?

It almost comes naturally to us to identify if our interaction with the candidate is transactional or not. But here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do you feel like you can ask questions to your candidates without friction?

  • Do your candidates sound confident about sharing information with you?

  • How often do you follow up with your candidates?

  • Do you think your candidates see you as an advocate for them?

It's really hard to identify exactly how your candidate feels about the relationship, but as recruiters, we become adept at reading people's reactions. Most of the time, we can sense how the relationship is going and perceive the level of engagement from the candidate.

How can you build that relationship?

There is no magic pill for it. Every candidate has a different personality, and our ability to actively listen to them and understand their drivers is critical in this process. However, we can set a few goals that are direct indicators of the quality of the relationship.

Be their advocate: Make sure your candidate doesn't feel you are just another strict evaluator or, even worse, "just the recruiter." Make them feel that you're THE Recruiter. It's important that your candidate feels that you know the game and that you're there to not only pass their information to the hiring manager but also to support them and help them succeed. Communicate with your candidates accordingly, and more importantly, ensure that your actions align with your words.

Help them prep for their interviews, even for your interview. You can share the agenda of the topics that you'll cover during the interview. That simple detail will set the tone for a professionally organized interview. Helping them prep for their upcoming interviews will automatically position you as a support person for them.

Why is this so important? When you become their advocate, the entire atmosphere of the relationship changes from a candidate pursuing a job opportunity to a candidate supported by the recruiter pursuing a job opportunity. That directly influences the confidence of the job seeker, and your support will help them perform better during the interview process, increasing the chances of succeeding together.

Be present: As part of your journey to building a relationship with your candidates, it's important that they don't hear from you only when you need something from them or when you have news for them. You should check in with them at every step of the process. After they have completed an interview, check how they feel about it and ask for feedback. The trick here is to anticipate anything they may need and be there for them when they least expect you to be.

Watch out for templates. Yes, I know, templates are a lifesaver for productivity. They save a lot of time, but they also reduce the quality of your interactions. Realistically speaking, automated messages or templates are not going to disappear, and that's okay. We can still mitigate that by following up casually with our candidates. Perhaps having a sync meeting, a quick 15 min chat to check how they feel about the process every week on top of the written communication is pretty doable, and I'm sure it will be a game-changer and it will help you differentiate yourself from other recruiters.

P.S: Always identify the communication channel they prefer the most (LinkedIn, text message, email, call, etc.).

It's a wrap!: Just like everything in life, the recruiter-candidate relationship eventually comes to an end. This could mean a hire or maybe not, and that's okay! In both outcomes, there's a win for both parties. The candidate learns from the experience, and if it was a great one, they are more likely to share a positive comment with a friend or even refer someone. On the other hand, you as a recruiter also learn and grow your network.

Regardless of the outcome, it's vital to have a quality closure. Make sure to write a meaningful email or have a thoughtful chat with your candidate, depending on their preferred communication channel (ask your candidate from day one).


Let's not forget that behind every resume that we come across is a human being with emotions working hard to get their dream job. The application process is a roller-coaster of feelings. Sometimes they feel on top, and sometimes at the bottom.

We have the power to become a source of confidence for them during and after the interview process. The recruiter-candidate relationships can go beyond the interview process. Let's not drop the ball when the outcome was not as expected. Getting the "you didn't get the job" email is not easy for anyone, so make it as warm as possible and remind your candidates that their skills are highly valued and they will eventually land the perfect role for them.

Recruiters who provide a phenomenal experience are never forgotten, and the network that you build today will be of help tomorrow. Remember, we don't own candidates, but we own the relationships, and that's our fuel to achieve successful hires.