Straight Talk: How Do You Tell a Bad and Persistent Candidate to Go Away?

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Every Monday morning we have a recruiter meeting at my company, HRU.

The purpose of the meeting is for our recruiting department to share with each other what they are working on, what they’ve accomplished the prior week, and give updates that the full group might need to know.

Something came up this week that I wanted to share. Like most recruiting departments/companies/etc., we have our “Repeat Offenders” – these are the people who just won’t give up. At one point, a recruiter probably called them, and maybe even interviewed them, possibly even hired them, but now they won’t leave you alone – they call, they email, they LinkedIn, send Facebook Friend requests, etc. Basically, they have become a stalker!

Here’s an easy, 1-step solution

This morning, one of the recruiters says “Mr. Jones (I’ve changed the name to protect the guilty) won’t stop bugging me. He emails his resume to me ‘every’ day!”

We know Mr. Jones because Mr. Jones used to work for us at a client and it didn’t turn out so well. Now, Mr. Jones wants us to find him his next assignment. The problem with Mr. Jones isn’t skill related, it’s personality related – he’s annoying. He was annoying to the client, to his work group peers, he is annoying to us, and I’m pretty sure he was annoying to his ex-wife – thus the “ex”!

So, the BIG question. How do you get Mr. Jones to stop bugging you? This happens to every single recruiter I know eventually.

Here are the steps I use:

  1. Tell them!

That’s it – no more steps.

Use straight talk rather than being conflict avoidant

Here’s our problem as recruiters: we never want to burn a bridge. “Well, Tim, you don’t know where he might go, who might hire him, I don’t want to ruin my reputation.” Bullshit. You’re being conflict avoidant, and if you look at your last performance review, I bet under “opportunities” it probably says something about avoiding conflict or not confronting issues head on.

I had a very good HR mentor once tell me that “it’s best to deliver them that gift, then to allow them to walk around not knowing.” Once you start being straightforward you’ll be amazed at how many people will say, “No one has ever told me that!”

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And that’s the problem – no one ever tells them the truth, thus they keep doing the wrong thing instead of trying to fix what is wrong.

How do you get an annoying candidate to stop bugging you? You tell them exactly, very specifically, very calmly, with no ill intent – “I want to give you a gift. You might not see it as a gift right now, but I hope in time you’ll understand it to be a very valuable gift. I (don’t use “we” or “us” or “the company – you’re avoiding again by using those) – I think you have a very bad personality flaw that comes across as annoying to me, and from the feedback I have received, to those you work with. If this does not change, I won’t be finding you any job in the future, and you’ll probably struggle to find one on your own as well.”

It’s rude to string a bad candidate along

OUCH! That hurt right? But read it again; was there anything mean or untrue in the statement? If this person actually listens to the statement and acts on it, will they be better for it? You can change the reason for whatever issue the person might have – maybe it’s hygiene, maybe it’s a crazy laugh, who knows – but the basic message stays the same. You need to change, or I never want to speak to you again.

It’s hard for recruiters to understand this, because 99 percent have been taught to be nice, thoughtful people and not to be rude. This sounds a bit rude. In reality, I think it’s rude to string a person along and not care enough to actually tell them what is wrong and to help them.

Stop telling candidates your blow off lines and start telling candidates the truth. At the very least, you’ll have more time on your hands to talk to the candidates you really want to speak to!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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6 Comments on “Straight Talk: How Do You Tell a Bad and Persistent Candidate to Go Away?

  1. Nicely put! I have one of those who even got his brother involved and messaging me for updates.  I’ve told the candidate straight up, I’ve told the brother, I’ve even un-LinkedIn and this guy is persistent.  Sometimes straight talk doesn’t work and you just have to resort to ignoring their messages.  Nice flew out the windows 10 emails ago. Thanks for the great article.

  2. Well written stuff.
    It’s a very ideal thing to tell the candidate what they need to fix. Most recruiters keep making excuses with the same old cliches- “I don’t have anything at the moment, I will get back as soon as I have suitable role for you.” I wish every recruiter becomes a little more considerate & tells the candidate exactly what is the truth, Wht they need to do to become more saleable. I hope the recruiters are reading & listening..

  3. I think this is great advice, not only for HR/recruiting people, but anyone in a management role. Far too often we beat around the bush and never tackle the actual issue, all because we fear being not nice. Then we wonder why the problems never seem to go away.
    The problem is that I’ve come across very little (if any) “interpersonal skills” training that would actually advocate for this. Rather, we’re always told to be the better person, or look inside ourselves to see if we may be the problem. I know that in my company, were I to be this direct (and I have), I would be the bad guy, no matter how valuable or honest the feedback may be. And I’m not talking about being mean. Simply truthful, and entirely diplomatic. If my interaction with another person was like this, I’d be the one hauled in front of HR for some more skills training.
    And that’s unfortunate all around.

  4. Great post! We were just having this conversation yesterday. People who are TOO persistent need to hear it in a very direct/blunt way or they never go away. Some of them think it makes them look proactive and ambitious and need to hear that it’s just plain annoying.

  5. I believe there is promise with those who refuse to accept “NO” as an answer. I would give this person a chance to see what he is made of. If it doesn’t work out then you will find out pretty damn quick. S/he may be a diamond in the rough…never know.

  6. Mr Jones is not a them. He’s a him. You mean tell him.

    Good article Timmy. Tho I would like to see half a dozen examples from real life of people telling dweebs and drips and other wet noodles that they aren’t being hired because of their personalities.

    It ain’t gonna happen. Regards

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