Competing for talent is not easy, especially in a tight labor market. To snag the most qualified candidates, employers must make a good impression. But some employers sabotage their recruiting efforts by breadcrumbing candidates.

Breadcrumbing Job Candidates_ Why You Should Avoid Doing It
Breadcrumbing is when a hiring manager or recruiter strings along a job candidate. They give just enough to keep the candidate hanging on in hopes of getting the job. Note that breadcrumbing can also occur in romantic situations when one person strings along a potential partner, who sticks around, hoping for an official commitment.

According to the Fairygodboss career site, these are three signs of breadcrumbing:

  1. The recruiter does not make an offer but still speaks in a way that is intended to make the candidate feel as though they are going to get an offer soon.
  2. Initially, the recruiter maintains frequent communication with the candidate, but suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, the recruiter stops reaching out and updating the candidate for weeks, sometimes months, on end.
  3. The recruiter makes vague statements that are intended to give the candidate false hope, providing the candidate with enough of a reason to keep holding on to the possibility of being hired even though the candidate is confused.

Breadcrumbing is risky business

Per a 2021 report by human resource consulting firm Robert Half, candidates are especially vulnerable to breadcrumbing now that many employers are taking longer than usual to hire. The report states that “one-third of senior managers surveyed said their company is taking more time to hire in the current environment despite having access to a deeper talent pool.”
Managers say that they keep candidates engaged during the hiring process in the following ways:

  • Setting up multiple interviews as part of the hiring process.
  • Asking candidates to complete unpaid skills tests.
  • Encouraging applicants to complete online training courses.

But by taking too long to hire, employers increase their risk of losing out on qualified people who either recognize the breadcrumbing behavior for what it is or simply grow tired of waiting for an update. 
Research by Robert Half has shown that “62% of professionals said they lose interest in a job if they don’t hear back from the employer within 2 weeks — or 10 business days — after the initial interview. That number jumps to 77% if there is no status update within 3 weeks.”
Moreover, here’s what candidates have said they would do if they believe that a hiring manager is breadcrumbing them:

  • Drop out of the hiring process without saying a word to the employer.
  • Decide that they will never consider working for the employer in the future.
  • Use social media as an outlet to release steam about their experience with the employer.
  • Anonymously post a negative comment about the employer on company review sites. 

None of these four outcomes are good for business. Senior executive director Paul McDonald states in the Robert Half report that “employers who don’t treat candidates with the same level of courtesy they expect may face consequences, including burned bridges with potential hires and a tarnished reputation, both of which can negatively impact future recruiting efforts and business growth.”

Avoid breadcrumbing at all costs

It’s important to remain transparent with candidates. Be honest and let them know where they stand at all stages of the hiring process rather than keeping them guessing. Remember that many candidates lose interest if they do not receive any updates within 14 days following the initial interview. So, examine your hiring time frame to see whether it is driving candidates away, and if necessary, shorten that time frame.