The Four Least Wanted - how to counter and neutralize poor candidate etiquette

I recently read an article written by Jonathan Littman and Mark Hershon, summarizing their new book called “I Hate You.” This comedic take on a traditional workplace self-help book shows you how to identify the “Ten Least Wanted” --the people you hate in the workplace--while revealing the strategies to neutralize them.
It got me to thinking about identifying candidates in a similar light. In uncertain and stressful times especially, people aren’t on their best behavior, and this poor behavior often leaks its way into the interview process. Candidates respond in a variety of ways when put on the spot and asked to answer questions about themselves – some treat you like a telemarketer interrupting Thanksgiving dinner, others determine they have built an instant rapport with you, and feel compelled to tell you about the colonoscopy they are going in for next week.
Regardless of what you experience, there are ways to identify, counter and neutralize these behavioral faux-pas.

1.) The Oversharer

This guy is extremely likeable at first. He often starts the conversation with friendly banter about the weather, talk about his upcoming vacation, or shares the information that “this is a perfect time to talk,” because he has just returned from walking the dog. In moderation, these can be smart tactics to engage in on an interview – showing your personality and ability to quickly build rapport, however when taken too far it can be fatal. The Oversharer will often mention things that leave the interviewer stumped in response, such as his mother passing away last month, his divorce being finalized tomorrow, or that he keeps running to the bathroom due to the flu bug he has. Regardless, it is up to the interviewer to keep things on track, and important to stay focused on the task on hand, bringing the conversation back around to the job and the resume. Counter his oversharing with something like “I only have a limited amount of time before my next meeting, and need to get through all of my interview questions….” If he has good listening skills, he should get the message.

2.) Mr. No Manners

One of the mysteries of the universe in my eyes is getting a rude response from a candidate upon first contact. Whether or not you are an active or passive candidate, you never know whose hands the fate of your career might land in, so it’s safe to treat every recruiting call like it is important, whether or not you think it is. Mr. No Manners will treat your interruption of his day as if you’ve called him before 7:00 and woken him out of bed. He will tell you he is too busy to talk, cut you off, and engage in general naysaying before you’ve even described the position. There are a few ways to deal with Mr. No Manners. Depending on the position, sometimes it is best to end all communication at that time, for example if the role involves heavy interaction with customers or teams. If you do choose to proceed, often times the best tactic is to call his behavior out in a non-confrontational way. For example, “I’m picking up from you that perhaps this is not the best time to talk, is there a time that would work better?” Often times this will catch Mr. No Manners off guard, and once acknowledged, he will correct his behavior. Otherwise, it may be time to turn Mr. No Manners into Mr. No Hire.

3.) The Yes Man

Candidates always want to appear competent, and often do not want to admit when they do not know something or have not worked extensively in a required area. When asked if they’ve have experience with XYZ, they will say yes. When asked how they rate themselves on a scale of 1-10, it’s always a 9 or 10. But peel back the onion a bit and you may discover they didn’t develop the code from cradle to grave, but actually just sat near the guy who did. Eventually it will come out, maybe in a technical screen further down the road, but this can disperse time better spent with other candidates. Since we can’t actually polygraph our candidates, develop your inner polygraph. Listen to their answer – are you confused by it? Usually candidates that can’t clearly explain their responsibilities leaving you foggy on the details are covering up for lack of knowledge. If their answers bring you on a circuitous route, never really addressing the question specifically, they are not the expert they claimed to be.

4.) The Groupie

While we can all commend enthusiasm, The Groupie takes it to a whole new level. He’s on your linked in profile, reading your blog, messaging you on Facebook, and overstepping countless boundaries in order to impress and show his interest. He will call to check in, on a sometimes daily basis to ask for a status update. Once declined, he will insist on knowing specifically why he didn’t make the cut, and then most likely continue to submit his resume to positions he is not qualified for. He acts either out of being desperate to get into your company, or just being desperate, period. Depending on which kind of desperate he is will depend on the best way to neutralize his behavior. Candidates that apply to every job you post, call every other day, and tell you of their financial woes quickly make their way onto the D list. However, if the candidate is passionate about what your company does, and has some relevant transferable skills for an opening, he may be a loyal long-term employee which the return on investment will over time, outweigh your irritation. *

Views: 259

Comment by Alex Putman on August 14, 2009 at 1:19pm
Great information. I am certain we all have experience with each one of these types!
Comment by Lucy Sonsini Romoli on August 14, 2009 at 1:36pm
Clever titles to some common candidate behaviors. Thank you for this!
Comment by Mat von Kroeker on August 14, 2009 at 7:50pm
Your personalities are dead on-- one quick story about the No Manners candidate. One of the worst personalities I've come across (short of hanging up the phone) -- I bit the bullet and submitted him anyway on his resume. He get's the job-- and like your onion analogy-- he turns out to be a nice guy later on. There's always exceptions, I guess. He ended up being brought on perm, too.
Comment by Tim McGuinness on August 15, 2009 at 12:02pm
Interesting take from a group that features the least professional people in the business -- not you guys of course. Even the cable company customer service returns calls. I didn't realize self-righteousness could run so deep in a profession that survives off the talent of other people. As an applicant it's interesting to think that the people who make you money are being put down on this blog. Granted oversharing, rudeness and lying are general bad traits, but take the groupie and realize that this person actually may just care.
Comment by Jason Monastra on August 15, 2009 at 1:04pm
The candidate traits that you identify are common and your presentation offers some humor with the description and grouping. However, let us not jump to conclusions that these behaviors demonstrated in limited form or isolated situations make these candidates unwanted. People are who they are since that is what they know. Most of the time they simply have not been taught otherwise. So if you find someone that is has good skills, but might be an "over sharer", lets ensure that we take the time to educate them to why this does not make professional sense. Counsel and prep previous to the interview for them as well will assist greatly, thus affirming the reasons why they need to make some behavior modifications.
Comment by Suzanne M King on August 15, 2009 at 5:50pm
My favorite phrase = "actually just sat near the guy who did". Love that!
Comment by De Pues Veronique on August 17, 2009 at 3:41am
Interesting and I agree with the comment of Jason Monastra. I do feel as a Recruiter we do need to also coach our candidates, beeing there in the interest of both our client and our candidate, who might one day be a potential client after all.....
Comment by Nicky Unsworth on August 17, 2009 at 9:25am
I am always amazed when candidates are rude or dismissive to a recruiter. We only have a short period of time to assess a person's abilities and "fit" within the company's culture - why not put your best foot forward? I have met many candidates who see me simply as an obstacle between them and the hiring manager. Sometimes the best way to get around an obstacle is to impress the hell out it!
Comment by Kathie Turo on August 17, 2009 at 12:30pm
I think some people on this comment line are being a little harsh, let’s remember why we love recruiting blogs, it is a place for recruiters to share stories and write about their experiences.
Calm down! Laugh! The article was funny and meant to be funny and SOME people, some candidates unfortunately fall into these categories. I don’t think the writer intended to come across as insulting or self righteous, we have to remember that recruiting is all about customer service, and we all have customers stories to share, this article just does it publically, which is the point of a blog.
Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on December 31, 2009 at 12:42pm
Enjoyed reading the post! Helpful information in there. I wonder whether others would agree about a category called 'The Rambler'. I once submitted a 'Rambler' to a client. They loved his tech chops and hired him, but the 'Rambler' trait caused him to get fired 4 months down the line. Apparently, he was bringing down the productivity of the entire floor that he worked on, mostly by accosting co-workers and forcing upon them unending conversations about 'anything'.

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