September 9, 2011

When Candidates Attack!

Tigers and CandidatesBeing a Recruiter can be a lot of fun…in a very bad way.  Most Recruiters have a few horror stories that are hysterical, though maybe they didn’t seem so at the time.  In a business where we deal with people day in and day out, most often strangers, there are a number of variables at play.  As Recruiters it’s our job to identify the unknown, address it and quantify it.  But sometimes something slips by even the most experienced Recruiters.

While each Recruiter has a hand full of entertaining anecdotes about a ‘crazy’ candidate, the truth is that little things slip by us a lot more often than the big ones. I’ve had candidates show up in teal tuxedos to an interview (it was his only formal attire.)  I’ve had a candidate climb out of a bathroom window prior to an interview (No one knows how he got out unseen).  I’ve even had people show up to tell the hiring manager they couldn’t take the job because they didn’t trust the people they knew they might be working with.  (I’ve clearly been in the recruiting business for too time.)  But most often, we get a laugh out of those situations.

The real problems are the more common candidate problems faced by Recruiters on a semi-regular basis.

  • The No Show: This one is self explanatory. I think every Recruiter has had at least 1 candidate blow off an interview.  It’s absolutely maddening.  As a Recruiter we want to have an answer for our client.  Or we want to throw the candidate under the bus.  Or we want to call the candidate and let them have it.  But we don’t.  Because there might be a plausible explanation. No shows are always tough to deal with because the Hiring Manager feels more let down and frustrated than even we do. They usually get ticked off at the Recruiter who scheduled the interview. Indeed, the Hiring Manager tends to believe that we should have known the candidate was a flake in the first place. Most people that that a flaky person is wearing some sort of sign.  But the truth is that sometimes, people put on a great game face and slide one by us.  Even a Recruiter can be fooled.
  • The ‘I Wish He Didn’t Show’:  Recruiters are busy people and while this often strikes debate, they don’t always have time to meet candidates in person before an interview.  A lot of the time a Recruiter must rely on their skills, their history and their professional knowledge to help them interview and qualify candidates virtually.  Most of the time it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t…big time.  I think everyone has had an interview go off and waited for that Manager feedback to come rolling in.  But sometimes you wish you hadn’t picked up the phone.  Case and point; the guy who showed up in a teal tux.  Candidates can do a lot of strange things during an interview and unless you’ve met each and every candidate personally beforehand, it’s easy to miss some of the non-verbal issues.  Dealing with a bad interview isn’t always so bad, particularly if you’ve been open and honest with the client about not always meeting each candidate.  If you have let the client think you meet everyone prior to the interview, you’re in for a rough ride.
  • The Personality Disorder: That brings us to the great candidate you did meet and interview. The candidate was spot on, interviewed well, and was well met and personable. But then Dr. Jekyll called out and sent Mr. Hyde in his place.  Have you ever had a candidate do a complete 180° from submission to interview?  These are the times that the Hiring Manager’s feedback legitimately stumps the Recruiter.  The stumped Recruiter will then pick up the phone to see what happened on the interview to cause the Hiring Manager to miss the mark so badly.  And voila! You call the previously friendly and personable candidate only to get a different guy on the phone…surly, difficult and trying rush you off the phone.  Just another day as a Recruiter eh?  This one is a lot easier to explain than either the previous two, mostly because the Recruiter is undeniably confused and shocked.  Sometimes letting a Manager know that you have no idea what the heck happened in the last 48 hours is a real plus.  Other times candidates can do great and get the job…only to do something ‘off’ at the Client.  For instance, why would a working consultant tell everyone that she lost her toothbrush and hadn’t brushed her teeth for 3 days?  And why would the client call and ask the Recruiter to talk to her about her hygiene problems?  Oh boy…

Being a Recruiter can be a lot of fun but part of the fun is the constant change and variety that we get to deal with day in and day out.  It’s a fun profession, but sometimes the crazy stuff and wild candidates can give you some white hairs.  But hey, they make for great stories once they’ve had a chance to age a little.

Read more in Candidate Management

Marie is a writer for covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.