How do you handle a candidate with a large ego?

I had a highly qualified candidate interview with my client about 2 1/2 weeks ago. My client wanted to hire my candidate on the spot (don't you love when that happens?). My candidate let myself and my client know that he has 2 pending offers on the table and would like to wait to see the outcome and should know within 3 weeks. My client still really wants to hire my candidate and is growing impatient. The problem is my candidate has a very large ego and is trying to "run the show". I really want my candidate to accept the offer from my client (obviously). What is the best way to go about handling my candidate and speeding this process along without offending him and/or losing him altogether?

Views: 1133

Comment by Bill Schultz on August 3, 2012 at 2:47pm

Tough one.  Ask him to rate the opportunities and if your position is at or near the top, then ask him what he likes about it and what it offers that the others do not.  

Very important that he articulates these things as opposed to you saying it and him agreeing.  If the conversation is going well then say, what would the company need to do to have you end process with the others.

If the conversation doesn't go well, you may want to pull the position away by suggesting to the client to pull the offer and find someone else.  

Comment by Joshua Lee on August 3, 2012 at 5:49pm


This is pretty much par for course.  We are all right in our own eyes.  We often can't see our own shortcomings.  This is true for everyone.  Whether or not this person you are referring to "actually" has a large ego... who knows? But you think he does because he won't listen to you.  

All I'm saying is, if you consider his side of the big of a decision this is....what else he is considering than you will be able to handle this with the appropriate level of expectations.  You can't force someone to take the job you're working on nor put a square peg in a round hole nor have everything your way.  This is his career and next job, its not just about your commission.  

I think the right question is, out of the 3 opportunities, which is the best for the candidate?

If this guy isn't sold on your client, what's to stop him from taking the job, find out he's not happy in 30 days and quit?  

If you want to avoid a disaster, take yourself out of the equation and work towards understanding his world and the nature of how he makes his decisions.  Weigh the nature of the other opportunities objectively and honestly.

You'll have the answer in front of you.

Comment by Poonam Bhanushali on August 6, 2012 at 4:14am

Aptly suggested by Bill and Joshua.I believe its imperative to share good rapport not just with client but with candidates too. Irrespective candidate accepts your offer or not you should end up with him at a good note.You never know if you get the same requirement with same or diff client and you have to reach out same candidate or his referral

Comment by Ryan Leary on August 6, 2012 at 11:37am

A few things jump out here:

  1. The candidate is not interested in your job as a top prospect and if hired won't last too long anyway.
  2. You need to control the conversation. Pending offers do not extend 3 weeks for top candidates. If the other offers are solid than the candidate would have taken them. I'd give a final deadline and tell them this is the final offer date.

Unless you have a firm start date, continue to send candidates and set your clients expectations. Don't over promise to the client hoping your guy accepts.

** Joshua - I see your points here but in the end it's not about feelings. It's about the placement. The other offers that the candidate is speaking about is a clear example of an objection that should be overcome before the candidate is submitted to the client. You need to know that your candidate is accepting before sending.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 6, 2012 at 1:38pm

Well, this is a whole piece of the recruiting process that is always interesting.  Bill has covered it as briefly as possible but there are books written on the way to handle the multiple interview situation by candidates.


First my observation is that you may have labled your candidate as having a big ego when actually he is trying to make the best decision about his life and his future not make you or your client happy.  Timing of offers is always a beast for everybody concerned so we dance with several partners here.  Of course he is trying to run the process, it's life and his job so he has himself in mind, as he should.

That being said, talk to your candidate, don't close and don't try to control.  Find out what he likes about your client and what he likes about the others.  I agree with Bill , ask him to rate your client's offer.  You indicated that your client wants to hire him but you didn't say if there were an offer on the table.  Find out if it's about money, what he would anticipate from the other companies and i always use Bill's comment re: What would it take for you to say yes to my client and not look back.  If it is not about money then you need to know what it is about.  Is one closer to home.  If so is that more of a priority than perhaps a better opportunity.  If it is you and your client are toast.  If it is about the responsiblities of the job you have something to talk to your client about or not.  If it is about size of the company, stability etc.  you have something to talk to your candidate about.  Does he want to be a big duck in a little pond or a little duck in a big pond.  What is his comfort zone.

I will disagree with Ryan that we can know that a candidate will accept before we send them.  We can get a feel for it but we can never predict the future nor can we control what another person decides no matter what they say before they interview. 

My approach in these deals is to tell my candidate that it is his job and his life and not mine but perhaps i can help him with all this timing mess because i do not want him to take my client's offer if he is only going to take it as a last resort.  I would rather help him work through this stuff even if he decides to trun down all three offers.  There is never a last job.  Take the press off your candidate.  Get him to level with you about what he is thinking.  If he simply wants to evaluate several offers help him buy the time to do so.  Let your client know you want to be sure that he has looked at the market and if he accepts with them he will be 100% committed and be a long term hire because he has explored the market.  So if he does not accept with your client they dodged a bullet. 

Keeping both the candidate in play and the client in play is an exercise in brinkmanship.  It is what makes the difference between a really good recruiter who gets referrals from candidates they didn't place but who appreciated the help and not being pressured thus knowing that you wanted what was best for them.  It is what makes the difference with a client who will call you again because even though your candidate did not accept they know that you shot straight with both them and the candidate and didn't oversell their job to make a fee.  Better to walk away from a deal that is not best for everybody than to be known as the recruiter who "closed a candidate into a job" then have both the client and the candidate wake up in 90 days and both want to blame the recruiter.

Yes you work for the guy who signs the front of the check so it's your responsibility to see that his money is spent wisely for the long term with a candidate who makes a wise choice.


There is a time to let your candidate know that the client is growing impatient because they want him badly to join their team ask him when he can let them know his answer.  How you convey that message can make the difference in whether he says yes or not.  Many a receuiter has blown up a deal by getting too pushy with a candidate or a client.

I tend to agree with Joshua, however if the candidate is in a muddle "help" him find his way out of it.




Comment by Joshua Lee on August 6, 2012 at 1:43pm

Ryan - if you read my posting then you know I agree with you.  I'm not talking about feelings at all.  Quite the contrary.  It's about the right candidate being closed appropriately by an experienced recruiting who can see objectively all sides of the problem.  

Those other sides happen to be what makes this candidate tick, his interest level of this and other jobs, why those other jobs are appealing and an accurate analysis the likelihood this guy will stick even if he takes this job.  The more persuasively you can get this guy to take your client's job that isn't the right fit, the bigger the disaster in the long run.  The point is the foresee a potential disaster or if opportunities are similar than play on the other areas that might get him interested in your client.

Comment by Ryan Leary on August 6, 2012 at 2:38pm

Agreed - Joshua and Sandra. Great points.

Arianne - Great posting

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 6, 2012 at 4:05pm

We have a saying in the horse world.  If you have a big pretty horse that does dressage, don't sell him to somebody as a "prospect" for a jumper or a reiner because somebody thinks he's pretty.  if you do sell him as potentially something he isn't it will forever be your fault that the knothead couldn't jump or slide.  Sell him for what he is and the world will be knocking on your door for another one like him.

Comment by Arianne Bachove on August 6, 2012 at 4:12pm

Thanks for all the great feedback friends! Just to be clear, I never assume anything. I didn't assume that this candidate had a big ego. He mentioned on more than one occasion that he's a "legend" in his industry. Yes, he referred to himself that way. I work in healthcare and even my client, the physician, felt that the candidate had a large ego. And that's saying something coming from a physician!! Oh, and the main deciding factor for my candidate is unfortunately, his salary. I wish it was coming down to more than that but that's what his priority is. I have no idea what the other company might offer him. I should know the decision on Wednesday and will update everyone.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 6, 2012 at 5:09pm

LOL, one living legend to another.  Ok if the deal is money.  Has you client made the very top offer he can make.  If so good luck on Wed.  If your client might up the offer if your legend gets a better offer just ask your candidate to give you the option of asking your client to match or offer a bit more than the candidate's best offer before he says yes if the other offers are higher.  I always ask a candidate to give my client the right of first refusal before they accept something else.  The worst thing that can happen is your client says, "nope can't do it, won't do it."  At least your client gets to say no to the candidate.  Seems to be something psychological about that for the client.


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