This one is a classic, when you think you have the right candidate in place, but you still want to keep the “semi” good candidates in the loop so you have something to fall back on if something goes wrong with the preferred candidate. At the same time, you don’t want candidates to feel like a second choice and thus, you don’t give a clear answer but come up with vague explanations, when following up.
For a candidate, this is always a bad experience. You want recruiters and companies that believe in you and see a great fit. My advice to candidates that experience this would be to demand a clear answer when things get blurry. Are you in or out?
I’ve been guilty of this several times and to be honest probably still am to some extent today. I still haven't developed a good method to get around this yet (suggestions would be highly appreciated). However, I’m very aware that every time I’m doing this, I’m tearing apart my reputation as a candidate-driven recruiter, and at the same time wasting candidates valuable time. For this, I’m terribly sorry.