Many years ago, when I was just starting out in my career, I was approached by a recruiter about a brand marketing role with Michelin, the tire company.
The job sounded interesting, but I knew Michelin's Canadian head office was based in Quebec. So I asked, "Is this role based in Toronto?"
And the recruiter confirmed it was.
So I agreed to the next step in the process: I was to review a website that outlined the features and benefits of a new tire Michelin had recently introduced and put together a presentation for the leadership team.
And because this was long before video conferences even existed -- let alone became "the new normal" for meetings -- I was to be flown out to Montreal to deliver this presentation.
I was happy about the assignment because it played to several of my strengths: assessing situations, making recommendations, and delivering presentations.
So I got to work. And on "interview day", I took a taxi to the airport, flew to Montreal, took another taxi to Michelin's head office, and delivered my presentation.
It was a hit!
My presentation was followed by an interview with the person who'd be my manager. The interview went well, right up until the end when he asked me if I had any questions for him.
"I do, actually... you live in Montreal, right?"
"So, how do you see us working together with me living in Toronto and you living here?"
"Um... you will be living here."
It turns out the job wasn't going to be based in Toronto... and that was never the intention.
But the day wasn't a total waste of time, because they really liked my presentation. So much so, in fact, that they asked if I would meet with the sales leadership team in their Mississauga office for a sales role there. I was open to exploring that possibility, so a week or so later, I delivered my presentation again to two sales leaders at that office.
They loved it!
We then had a good chat, after which they asked if I had any questions. And I did.
"So, Michelin is a French company and the Canadian head office is based in Quebec... do either of you speak French?"
Neither of them did.
"Okay, do you think that's held you back in your career with Michelin?"
One of the men got very quiet.
But the other one, after a pause, said, "Yes, if I'm being honest, I think it has."
I don't remember that man's name, and I'll bet he's long retired by now, but I remain extremely grateful for his candour... because I also don't speak French.
The recruiter sent me a job offer shortly after my meeting with the two salesmen.
It was for a sales role, not for the marketing job I had initially been approached about.
It was for a Quebec-based company, and I didn't speak French.
And the compensation package was lower than I was led to believe it would be.
So after considering the facts, I called the recruiter to let him know I'd be declining the offer.
That's when the yelling started.
"You're being an IDIOT!"
"Don't be so f*cking STUPID!!!"
(I wish I was exaggerating, but I remember this like it was yesterday.)
"If you do this, you'll look back years from now and regret it!!!!!"
"Maybe," I said, "But I think I'll take that chance."
I ended the call... and emailed the senior HR person at Michelin. This was before LinkedIn existed, but she had been copied on one of the emails I was sent early on in the process.
In my email, I thanked Michelin for the opportunity, but I let her know I was declining the job offer because it was a sales role (not a marketing position) and because the compensation package was lower than I needed; out of respect for the two salesmen I had met with, I didn't mention anything about why I believed not speaking French would have proven to be a career obstacle for me.
Then I told her about my final interaction with the recruiter.
I described how I had been yelled at, sworn at, and called various names.
And I wrote that while I didn't think poorly of Michelin as a result of this recruiter's behaviour, other candidates might... and that Michelin might be better off finding someone else that could better reflect their brand. Or, I suggested, perhaps they could handle recruitment themselves and use the fees they would save to make higher offers to candidates.
I didn't hear back from Michelin.
But a few months later, I got another call from a different recruiting firm... about a brand marketing role with Michelin.
Immediately understanding what must have happened, I couldn't help but smile.
If you're wondering, this story is 100% true. And while you might not believe this, I didn't add any hyperbole or embellishment for effect... sadly, I didn't think any was required.
Candidates, if you're being treated poorly by a recruiter, find a way to let the company know. Smart companies understand that a crappy recruitment experience is a poor reflection on their brand, and most won't stand for it. To their credit, Michelin clearly didn't.
Recruiters, I know many of you reading this are 100% focused on delivering terrific experiences for both your clients and your candidates, and are as appalled at reading about this situation as I was experiencing it. And if you're one of those recruiters, kudos to you.
But if you're one of the "other ones" who think this is just the way things happen sometimes... you should recognize we now live in a world where candidates are openly sharing their experiences and understanding they don't have to tolerate this poor behaviour.
A world where your poor treatment of your candidates is a poor reflection of your clients... and your clients are starting to realize how much these negative situations hurt their efforts at attracting top talent and positioning their companies as great places to work.
A world where LinkedIn DOES exist and a senior contact at your client is only an InMail away... which means any bad behaviour you demonstrate is more likely to catch up with you.
Really, is there a downside to being a recruiter who's transparent, professional, and "candidate-first"?
I doubt it.