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If you've been in recruitment for any length of time, then you'll have encountered them. Whether they're rude, needlessly scruffy, entitled, or aggressive, bad candidates are just one of the many things that could spoil your week in this business.
Let's face it, they're unlikely to get the job anyway, and they are hardly going to do your reputation any favours when they roll up at the interview ...
So what's the best way to deal with them? We've already shown you how to tell someone that they smell bad - so let's take a look at how you can navigate this next potentially awkward situation.
What is a bad candidate?
First, you need to know what type of person you're dealing with, so you can select an effective course of action. Let's take a look at a few of the prime suspects:
The scruffy candidate
It's important to begin this section by saying that not only is scruffiness in the eye of the beholder, but that not everyone can afford to purchase the latest in designer fashion - especially if they've been unemployed for any length of time. We should also note that some people just need a few pointers on what to wear to an interview.
With that said, if you're unpresentable, then you're going to have to be pretty damn good at your job before an employer's going to consider you over someone who makes a bit of an effort. That's just the way of the world.
From candidates who turn up at job interviews in tracksuits, to the world's more 'provocative' dressers, some people just don't get that the best thing to do is generally to mirror the interviewer's sartorial choices, rather than to (presumably) try and shock them into approving their application.
The entitled or naive candidate
Yes, I do realise that I'm fresh out of uni, graduated my BA with a 2:1 from a second tier (at best) institution, and have no experience, but I really do think I'd be perfect for the role of Senior Project Manager. My Dad says I'm great at managing projects!
Uni leavers are far from the only candidates who do this, too. Some people just have their head firmly in the clouds. While there's nothing wrong with that in some ways, their constant demands for an unrealistic salary or perks get really old, really fast.
There's only so far you can go with 'managing expectations' before you get into the realms of the 'reality check', so it could be time to cut this one loose before you end up on the receiving end of some serious histrionics.
The aggressive or clingy candidate
Everyone gets stressed out sometimes, but some candidates really take this to a new level. From calling you every five minutes for updates on something, to taking umbrage when you give them bad news, this type of behaviour is not healthy, and in most cases you shouldn't have to put up with it.
Now, there's a fine line between being assertive and being overly aggressive, so you do need to check that you're not the one being overly sensitive here, but if a candidate makes you feel uncomfortable during the hiring process, then just imagine what they would be like to work with. You wouldn't be doing your client any favours.
Unfortunately, this type of candidate can be one of the most difficult to drop, thanks to their emotionally unstable nature. Read on to find out the best way to deal with them ...
The lying candidate
Not all candidates are 100% truthful when applying for a job through a recruiter. Understatement of the year. It's common knowledge that sometimes people are economical with the truth in such situations.
But some candidates are guilty of using a few of those infamous 'alternate facts' when putting their CV together - which can lead to a whole world of trouble if they end up meeting with one of your clients.
Part of the skill of a good recruiter (and indeed, what your clients pay for) is the ability to sniff out a liar at 50 paces. Don't forget to pay attention to a candidate's body language in order to get some hints.
How should you get rid of a bad candidate?
Getting rid of a bad candidate is a lot like ending a relationship. We've all been there and it's never fun - but sometimes the best thing to do is to eat that frog, as Mark Twain might have put it.
Taking the coward's way out?
First up, you need to decide how you are going to do this. Do you take the coward's way out and drop them a text? Do you go full on brutal and do it face to face? Do you book a fancy meal and do it at the end of the main course? No. Trust us. Don't try that last one ...
Which method you choose is really going to depend on both of your personalities - as well as the situation itself - so we aren't going to make that decision for you, but we will give you a few pointers.
While some people will genuinely respect what you are doing by having a difficult conversation face to face, others will not, and will be put on the offensive by such an approach. Unless something happens in the heat of the moment, this means that it's often better to put some distance between you and the candidate with technology.
One important point to remember here is to be sure of your company's policies so you don't run afoul of them. Discuss this with your supervisor if you're unsure. Remember that a good line manager is going to have your back in this situation. You're doing the company a favour by protecting its reputation, after all ...
And of course, if you're going to have a conversation like this in person, remember that you're probably going to want to choose a private location - where you won't want to be left on your own with the candidate.
Whichever method you choose, stay professional
The trick here is to take a firm but professional approach, no matter what you do. Don't beat about the bush - come straight out with what it is that you want to say.
Maybe you decide that brutal honesty will do the candidate a favour by letting them know what not to do next time - or maybe you decide to tell a white lie to save the heartache. Either way, don't lose your cool.
Never just ignore someone in the hope that they will go away. This not only gives a really bad impression - it also leaves you open to a really embarrassing encounter at some point in the future. It just isn't the way to go about things, is it?
We're not going to pretend that there's a 'one-size-fits-all' approach that's going to work in every situation we describe here, but no matter what type of bad candidate you're dealing with, it is important to remain professional.
If you feel bad about having to drop the candidate, just remember that you are likely doing your own and your employer's reputation a great service by not recommending this candidate to any clients. Whether you offer any advice to the candidate on where they may wish to improve is up to you, but this might help you to feel more positive about the situation.
As always, take advice from a supervisor if you are unsure about anything, and be sure to stay within your company's policy at all times.
Written by Matt Atkinson