Love bombing: Are overenthusiastic recruiters friends or foes?

Nov 16, 2023

6 mins

Love bombing: Are overenthusiastic recruiters friends or foes?
Marlène Moreira

Journaliste indépendante.

So, you’ve just met a recruiter who showered you with praise, rolled out the red carpet, and promised you the world on a platter … Then, you suddenly find yourself signing a contract for a role you don’t even understand. If this sounds familiar, you could be a victim of “love bombing.”

Being courted by a recruiter can feel pretty good, but beware. What could they be hiding behind their enthusiasm? Find out all about this recruitment trend from those who’ve been on the receiving end.

What is love bombing?

Love bombing is a strategy used by some recruiters to attract candidates by showering them with compliments, making tempting promises, and paying them a little too much attention. The goal? To wow you into a dazed fog of acceptance, so they can convince you to join the company as quickly as possible.

Although the concept comes from the world of dating it isn’t all sunshine and roses—it’s a full-blown toxic relationship, stemming from an abuse of trust.

Once the glitter fades and the honeymoon phase is over, love bombing can lead to disappointment for both parties. “_At the very least, the disillusion creates a lack of motivation, decreased performance, less commitment, or total absenteeism. At worst, it can lead to the candidate leaving the company during the [first few weeks] or shortly after,_” warns Charlène Hémery, director of TalentCatcher. Let’s just say, employers have nothing to gain by overselling their working environment, company and project, or lying about the day-to-day.

The dangers don’t end there. “It might also harm a company’s image because an employee who’s been duped is unlikely to keep it to themselves,” remarks Hémery. “It could even cause legal issues. Written promises that aren’t upheld present a contentious risk for the company.”

“I didn’t think to look at the management style, company culture, work-life balance, and so on. They were careful not to mention any of that in the interview.”

Does the talent shortage mean anything goes?

Last year, data analyst Christian was contacted by a recruitment company. His profile and skill level are highly sought after. “From our first interactions they dangled a six-figure salary and interesting tasks,” he recalls. “But above all, I felt pressure to accept quickly, with a recruiter calling me back several times to convince me.”

Only once the contract was signed did the disillusionment start to set in. Although the job turned out to be fairly interesting from a technical point of view, the relationship with the client was fraught and the commitment expected by the company was verging on modern slavery. “I was stupidly drawn in by the technical challenge and salary, and I guess my ego, too. I didn’t think to look at the management style, company culture, work-life balance, and so on. They were careful not to mention any of that in the interview.”

Expert opinion: “Over-selling leads to questionable practices. A lack of talent always means more benefits, flexibility, and higher salaries than competitors,” she explains. “Whether people are intentionally dishonest or not, I think that competition can lead to excess. I usually explain that it’s important to offer candidates quality rather than quantity, as there are no winners in this crazy race.”

When enthusiasm goes too far

It’s worth noting that not all recruiters are out to get you. Claire can attest: she left her job as a project manager in a large company to join a startup with the promise of a great adventure. “With hindsight, I realize that my manager—the one who had convinced me to take the leap—was genuinely optimistic and enthusiastic. She was sincerely convinced that I was amazing, and the role was perfect for me.”

As time went on, Claire came to understand that the role wasn’t a great match for her. “I resigned at a point when I wanted to change my life. Even though my colleagues were great, it simply wasn’t the job for me. I let myself be influenced by someone who believed in me and I didn’t stop to think about what I really wanted.”

Expert opinion: “I like to believe that it’s rare for someone to have purely bad intentions, as the consequences can be pretty serious and everyone involved will be aware of that,” explains Hémery, “but sometimes a recruiter consciously embellishes the reality to convince a candidate to join them in a mutually beneficial agreement when they believe an opportunity and candidate to be perfectly matched.”

Hémery also has some other reasons why a recruiter might be over-enthusiastic with a candidate:

  • A personal interest, particularly for recruiters with ambitious targets.
  • Premature offers when they aren’t the only decision maker on things like salary, flexibility, development opportunities, remote work, etc.
  • Genuine interest that’s simply not matched by the operational staff who take over.

Whether your recruiter has bad intentions or not, how do you handle love bombing?

When enthusiasm masks reality: 3 tips for keeping your guard up.

Tip 1: Trust your loved ones to keep you grounded

“I should never have applied for that job. I have strong environmental beliefs and this company was definitely on the ’polluter’ side,” _explains Alizée, an IT project manager. “But they came to me with an offer that was hard to ignore: a good salary, lots of benefits, and a decent budget for my projects.” _During the interview process, they made it sound great, waxing poetic about her possible career pathway, sharing brochures on their CSR policy, and even giving an office tour to take in their impressive view. It was all designed to tempt her and get her to put her personal convictions aside.

“They were showing off, and it nearly worked, but I took the time to discuss it with my loved ones and the people around me and they were all unanimous—it would be a mistake to accept because the company’s activities were too far from my own values.”

Expert opinion: “Anyone outside of the recruitment process—so anyone you have a relationship with—will be able to weigh the pros and cons more effectively than you. Talking to the people around you, the people you trust can also help you gather different opinions about a company. However, the final decision is up to the person involved as they’re in a better place than anyone to know what’s right for them” says Hémery.

Tip 2: Be clear on what you’re willing to accept

“Over the last six years, my ex-manager has offered me a job three times. He didn’t badger me about it, but it’s been like clockwork!”_ _Explains community manager, Jacob. Emails, texts, LinkedIn messages … eventually it paid off. One day, he agreed to attend an interview. “To be honest, being pursued like that is flattering,” he says.

It was only once he got to the end of the recruitment process that he realized a pitifully low salary was hiding behind all the requests. “He was a sly fox!” Laughs Jacob, “If I’d known from the start I would never have applied. But after all that, I’d started to imagine myself in the role, so I accepted. Was it a good decision? Only time will tell.”

Expert opinion: “I think a little introspection and good self-awareness are essential: our expectations and needs evolve, and we have to stay true to what’s important to us in the moment,”_ _remarks Hémery.

Tip 3: Be skeptical and ask questions

When Candice’s former manager described the new project he was working on, she wasn’t interested, but he was insistent. “He went on and on about the career benefits of taking part in this kind of project and took me to lunch ‘just to get my opinion,’ promised me a huge bonus, etc.” explains the former marketing manager.

She was a freelancer so she limited her other work so she could dedicate half her week to the project. “I was skeptical, but I was afraid of missing out,” she says. She quickly understood that her mistrust was well-placed. _“_The project looked great on paper, but there was so much to do and there was no budget to employ anyone else. And without a budget, there was no way the project could be finished. So I left, and I think it was the right thing to do.”

Expert opinion: “The best way to challenge impossible promises is to ask for examples and, if possible, talk with other people in the company. Companies are increasingly used to candidates getting in touch with their employees to get a glimpse behind the scenes,” especially via informational interviews and social media, for example. “So, it’s common practice now to connect employees with their potential colleagues, don’t feel like it’s something you can’t ask.”

“I’ve never met a candidate quite like you,” he says, looking you in the eye. This should set off alarm bells. Don’t be reeled in when the love bombs start to fly. Take the time to find out why. Keeping a cool head isn’t always easy, but by asking questions and uncovering what’s behind a silver-tongued recruiter’s words, you’ll get a much more objective view of the role. In both love and work, marry in haste, and repent at length.

Translated by Debbie Garrick

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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