If you'd had more than a few interviews with candidates who have been out of work for a while, you've probably had several instances where you left the room shuddering from the misdirected negativity, attitude, and complaints.

So where do these candidate go wrong...

  • Candidate lacks professional appearance when they arrive for interview. ("What I wear isn't going to make a difference, anyways..")
  • Candidate shows clear skepticism in your intentions. ("I'm not going to answer these questions because the interviewer is just trying to find ways to eliminate me.")
  • Candidate shows obvious exhaust and limited depth in responses. ("I'm not going to spend time preparing for the interview and giving answers longer than a few words to these questions.. After all, this probably won't work out and I'm not going to waste my breath.")
  • Candidate has an attitude in responses. ("Well of course I have experience doing XYZ, how else would I know how to ABC? What a stupid question. If this interviewer knew anything they'd stop asking me these questions and give me a job.")
  • Candidate complains about the economy, places they interviewed previously, the job market, etc. ("Nothing ever works out, I can't believe X Company made me do all those interviews and then canceled the position, I don't even want to do what I do anymore I'm so tired of looking for jobs, etc")
While I am certainly empathetic to those who are facing tough times and difficult employment situations, these behaviors during an interview are unacceptable. I'd like to help them to understand what they're doing wrong, but they seem so far gone and in denial about the situation. Several times I've encouraged candidates to keep trying, maintain a positive attitude, avoid using certain negative terms or comments, etc., but these tips are often met with rolling eyes.

How do you handle these interviews? Any advice for letting these candidates down gently?

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Short answer: " I understand and agree with you. Let's don't waste anymore time. I will call you if i come across a situation where you will not be required or expected to answer a lot of questions and they don't care how you present yourself. Have a good day."

Don't waste time with people who want to bitch and argue. There are too many people who don't. We are not social workers. Why worry about letting sore heads and the negativati down gently. Just tell them you don't think you can help them and suggest they contact the recruiter down the street that you don't like.

People are generally pretty resiliant. When they get sick and tired of being sick and tired they will do something about it or not.
With all due respect, I am sure you are not "apathetic to those who are facing tough times..." but, rather, sympathetic.
"While I am certainly apathetic to those who are facing tough times and difficult employment situations"-Amy Walz

Wow, what a proverbial slip. Apathetic means: lacking interest or concern. And your blog post clearly demonstrates that. While I am gainfully employed and have been so during this horrible economic climate I know others that have not been as fortunate. Many intelligent talented individuals are in the job market and have been there for an extended period of time. And staying "positive" about the search can be difficult. As a friend I've been on the receiving end of their frustration and depression. I've even had the unfortunate need to attend the funeral of a friend that committed suicide due to the lack of work. Could they be doing something to shoot themselves in the foot as you outline. Possibly. But rather than take a smug approach, I choice to offer honest feedback. If two minutes at the end of an interview to show a little compassion is too much for you. I totally understand. Everyone is different. I hope that if I ever make a mistake, you are not sitting on the judgement bench. And likewise, if you ever fall short, I hope you don't do so in front of someone with your outlook. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.
Great post with honesty about a tough situation we as recruiters wish didn't happen. My experience is that unless people ask for reasons the company is not moving forward with them as a candidate, it's not likely any feedback on their attitude will make an impact. Until people ask, I don't feel comfortable trying to give them unsolicited advice, even though my intentions would be to help them. I agree with Sandra that when they are ready to make this critical change they will try to do that. I can only hope they will reach back out to me for assistance when they are ready.
Hi Amy -

I'm fairly certain you meant "sympathetic," not "apathetic" to these folks' situations (tho I could be wrong... ;)

Anyway, I take a different tact than Sandra, especially if I find the person to be a good candidate outside of their frustration with their job situation (after all, if they are frustrated, that indicates they WANT to work, and that's a good thing!). I've told multiple candidates that while I understand their frustration, even when it seems like recruiters are interviewing them just to interview them (as I've heard dozens of times) it's critical that they leave that frustration outside of the interview and present themselves as eager and positive. For the most part that advice has been well received. If a candidate doesn't want to hear it and just wants to be bitter, well at least I tried and I move on.
Lauren, i don't think what Amy is talking about here is being smug or judgemental of someone who is "down" from being in the market for an extended amount of time.

As i understand her comments she is asking what to do with those who are in a state of denial or what i call the "yes but" attitude. As her example states, the candidate who says, "It doesn't make any difference what i wear". Of course it does. It always has and it always will. Being asked all kinds of questions in an interview situation has been and always will be the situation.

When people reach the stage of deflecting empathic advice from someone they contact for assistance about anything because they have become bitter ,anything we say will be met with rebuttal. Realizing that a person is past the point of being willing to listen or accept any suggestion is part of our job. We can spend endless hours listening to complaints that are not productive for the person. I have referred many candidates to counseling when i realize that the scope of their depression or bitterness is past my training and ability to correct as a recruiter.
We do not do them a service by exacerbating a forum to air complaints.

That which is not acknowledged can not heal. Acknowledgement is up to the individual, denial of our own responsibility by blaming the interviewer for asking questions or the expectation of professional dress is simply destructive behavior on the part of the candidate and will not be changed by anyone other than themselves no matter what we say to them. In that mind set they will simply add us to the list of people they blame for their situation.
I am guess you also meant 'shuddering' instead of 'shuttering' in your first line "...several instances where you left the room 'shuttering; from the misdirected negativity, attitude, and complaints."
If someone says it it must be true. Please do not try to read peoples minds. I have been around the block and there are candidate that all they want to do is blame someone so good for you AMY
Wow, that was a big misuse, I apologize.. what I actually meant was "empathetic," as in being able to understand another person's feelings. Sympathetic works too. :)

Sandra, you are totally in line with what I was going for in your second comment.

I think plenty of recruiters have been in these interviews, so what I'm wondering is how do you help these people who don't realize what they're doing wrong is causing the very thing they're upset about?

I'm sad to see it came off to some as that I don't care about these people or that I don't want to help them. I wrote this because I do care about them, and want to help them. These are a difficult candidate to handle because they often speak very negatively about previous companies they've interviewed with and feel that they were wronged by. This isn't the sad, discouraged job seeker I'm talking about-- it's the angry, bitter one.

So I am looking for a way to get through to the person so they can change the behaviors, without putting myself or my company at risk. Unfortunately, I don't know if there is a way to do that... I guess maybe it's not my place. Maybe someone will see this and realize they're doing these things...

Mia Hirschel said:
With all due respect, I am sure you are not "apathetic to those who are facing tough times..." but, rather, sympathetic.
Have had this happen a few times lately and have just been honest with the candidates - that their negative situation is what comes through most clearly - not what a great employee they would be for us. "Yes, we know the fact that your last employer imploded sucked, but unfortunatley, that's all we know. Let us know what you could accomplish here, and why that's exciting to you." We don't wan't Pollyana's, but do want employees who like Timex, can take a lickin' and keep on ticken' - when you go dark, we can't see you.

Amy said:
Wow, that was a big misuse, I apologize.. what I actually meant was "empathetic," as in being able to understand another person's feelings. Sympathetic works too. :)

Sandra, you are totally in line with what I was going for in your second comment.

I think plenty of recruiters have been in these interviews, so what I'm wondering is how do you help these people who don't realize what they're doing wrong is causing the very thing they're upset about?

I'm sad to see it came off to some as that I don't care about these people or that I don't want to help them. I wrote this because I do care about them, and want to help them. These are a difficult candidate to handle because they often speak very negatively about previous companies they've interviewed with and feel that they were wronged by. This isn't the sad, discouraged job seeker I'm talking about-- it's the angry, bitter one.

So I am looking for a way to get through to the person so they can change the behaviors, without putting myself or my company at risk. Unfortunately, I don't know if there is a way to do that... I guess maybe it's not my place. Maybe someone will see this and realize they're doing these things...

Mia Hirschel said:
With all due respect, I am sure you are not "apathetic to those who are facing tough times..." but, rather, sympathetic.
A frustrated candidate willing to listen is very different from a bitter, argumentative candidate who is not willing to listen. I don't think we can say anything or do anything to help the ones Amy is referring to no matter how good their background may be.

We have all been in a "they done me wrong" situation at some time. How many times have you listened to friends who have been divorced go through the "crazies". Those who get it said and move on normally pick up the pieces and go on to new horizons. We all know some who have have become bitter and stalled out living in the past. In my opinion it's not much different. Attitude is a choice, sometimes it's more difficult than others but it is an individual choice.
Sandra,

Three points:
1. The original post did not make a clear distinction between the "exhausted and trying" and the "exhausted and frustrated". Her opening comment was: "If you'd had more than a few interviews with candidates who have been out of work for a while, you've probably had several instances where you left the room shuddering from the misdirected negativity, attitude, and complaints.". Which to me implies there are two buckets: 1) happy and content and 2) the several ("more than a few") bitter with bad attitudes. It was not made clear that she had three buckets in mind: 1) happy and content, 2) frustrated but trying and 3) bitter and complaining.

2. Through her own clarification and the clarification of many, a distinction has now been drawn. I can appreciate the distinction.

3. I too believe in personal accountability. With that said, I still maintain an air of humility and compassion. You obviously have a job if you are judging the unemployed. Many of the opinions voiced here feel harsh. But I respect the right for everyone to state them. This is just my opinion.

Sandra McCartt said:
Lauren, i don't think what Amy is talking about here is being smug or judgemental of someone who is "down" from being in the market for an extended amount of time.

As i understand her comments she is asking what to do with those who are in a state of denial or what i call the "yes but" attitude. As her example states, the candidate who says, "It doesn't make any difference what i wear". Of course it does. It always has and it always will. Being asked all kinds of questions in an interview situation has been and always will be the situation.

When people reach the stage of deflecting empathic advice from someone they contact for assistance about anything because they have become bitter ,anything we say will be met with rebuttal. Realizing that a person is past the point of being willing to listen or accept any suggestion is part of our job. We can spend endless hours listening to complaints that are not productive for the person. I have referred many candidates to counseling when i realize that the scope of their depression or bitterness is past my training and ability to correct as a recruiter.
We do not do them a service by exacerbating a forum to air complaints.

That which is not acknowledged can not heal. Acknowledgement is up to the individual, denial of our own responsibility by blaming the interviewer for asking questions or the expectation of professional dress is simply destructive behavior on the part of the candidate and will not be changed by anyone other than themselves no matter what we say to them. In that mind set they will simply add us to the list of people they blame for their situation.

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