Taking Control of Difficult Candidates

"Where's your candidate?" the hiring manager fumed. "His interview was supposed to start a half hour ago."
Alex suddenly felt sick. This was his third no-show in two weeks. "You mean he didn't call to cancel?" Alex said.
"You got it," said the hiring manager. "And I'm getting pretty tired of this. If you can't control your candidates, I'll have to find a recruiter who can."

The Rude Revolution
Of course, the candidate's behavior was inexcusable-but not unexpected. In a culture that seems to reward expedient self-interest, this type of rudeness is becoming increasingly commonplace.
But on reflection, Alex probably could have done a better job of qualifying-and ultimately, taking control of his candidates.
I've found that by gathering better information, spotting red flags and exercising caution, recruiters can generally avoid the pain associated with erratic or conflicted candidates. Here are some easy ways to increase control and avoid disasters:

1. Explore the motivation. If you don't know what compels your candidate to change jobs-or you're unclear as to the characteristics of a job your candidate most desires-your ability to sell the job or defend against a counteroffer is greatly diminished.
2. Show me the money. Be sure to build a complete compensation profile that includes the candidate's salary history, salary expectations and performance review schedule. that way, you'll avoid sticker shock when the offer is on the table.
3. Probe for job search activity. Find out where your candidate has interviewed, whether anything is in the works or where your candidate's resume can be found, either online or in the files of prospective employers.
4. Recognize-and react to-signs of disrespect. If the candidate is hard to reach, doesn't return your calls or won't answer qualifying questions, you've got a problem. And the best way to deal with it is to confront the candidate and correct the problem sooner than later.
5. Make the candidate sell you. Ask your candidate why he wants the job you're trying to fill, and why a prospective employer should hire the candidate over someone else. If the person can't make a convincing argument, he probably won't get hired anyway.
6. If possible, avoid obvious deal-killers. Obstacles such as relocations, spousal resistance, long-term employment at the current job or visa discrepancies can sometimes be overcome. But be careful; if your candidate looks, walks and quacks like a duck who's afraid to fly, he probably is.
7. Don't fall in love with your candidates. This happens all the time, especially with candidates bearing -perfect- resumes. To paraphrase an old saying, when passions run deep, the mind tends to get shallow in a hurry. Look at your candidate objectively and remember that in addition to the resume, factors such as behavior, attitude and job market exposure will play a significant role in the placement process.
8. Lay out the ground rules. Most candidates are happy to comply, as long as the rules-and the consequences for misconduct-are clear and seem fair.

For example, not only is it reasonable to ask your candidate to keep you posted as to any changes in job status or new opportunities, it's practical as well.

Inherently Defective Candidates
Finally, you should recognize-and adjust to the fact-that some candidate populations are more problematic than others. For example, certain industries tend to attract flakey candidates like a high-powered magnet. If that's the case, do the best you can to qualify all your candidates, even if you know that some may bail out unexpectedly.

When dealing with an unreliable candidate pool, it makes sense to protect yourself from employer blowback with the following script:

"Mr. Employer, my experience has shown that the candidates in our industry have a tendency to drop out of sight shortly before their first interview.

"Despite the headache it causes for me, this cloud has a silver lining: problematic candidates will show their true colors before we invest a lot of time resources in the person.

"That means that the candidates who follow through have a much greater likelihood of successfully completing the interview process"and in fact, will make stronger, more loyal employees in the long term, since the candidates are self-selecting from the very beginning.

"So, let's allow the weaker candidates to drop out on their own and be grateful that the candidates who show that they're willing to make a commitment early on will have a higher level of enthusiasm and a better chance of success with your company down the road."

By Bill Radin
 BlackDog Recruiting Software Inc.
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