July 26, 2022

How to deal with difficult candidates

6.5 min read

As a recruiter, your relationships with your candidates are at the heart of your job. All the best candidates are in high demand, but that doesn’t always make them the easiest to deal with. To be the best recruiter you can be, it’s important to identify the root cause of your candidates’ problems – if you can figure it out, you can help solve them, making your life a lot easier.

The Over-Confident One

Sometimes, when every recruiter wants to be your best friend, it can go to your head. It can make a candidate egotistical, complacent, arrogant even. The key here is to try not to make snap judgements. Don’t take it personally – this candidate is a product of their environment, and recruiters and employers before you have had a hand in this candidate’s attitude today. Try and be patient, empathetic, and try and find a way to relate with them. Spend some time discussing non-work-related topics and share something of yourself with them too. Once you’ve found a more human side to your candidate, dealings will become that much easier.

The Demanding One

Often these candidates will be at the point in their career where they are just realising their worth. But now they think they can ask for the moon and more. Having a frank but open conversation about this early on in your relationship will help nip this in the bud. Of course, you’ll need to reassure them that you’ll always do your best to get them everything they’re asking for, but it’s also worth delivering a dose of realism with that too. Try and help them identify a few priorities – focusing on these will help the candidate see past some of the more minor shortcomings of an opportunity.

The Nervous One

Perhaps not as easy to spot on the phone, but if you can hear the repeated clearing of the throat, the shaky breaths and a constant stream of ‘ums’, then you can bet there are red faces and sweaty palms there too. Even a video call will make nerves apparent, so work with this candidate on making a good first impression. Interviews can be stressful, and your candidate is nervous because they care. That’s not a bad thing, but you must help them channel that energy into something more useful. Practice will help here. Provide constructive feedback, run mock-interviews, and engage them in conversation on their specialisms. It will all help build confidence.

The White-Lie On

We’ve all been there, wanting to use an accolade to impress, but sometimes your candidate may just be over-egging it. Buzzwords and jargon may flow from them aplenty, but you’ll need to make sure they can walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Spend some time really chatting with this candidate, play dumb and get them to explain their jargon so you can really understand the depth of their knowledge. If they can’t explain clearly, you’ll want to consider if they’re actually worth the risk.

The Clingy One

No, not a limpet, but yes, will be sticking to you as though they were. This candidate may be anxious, needing to feel in control, or simply may feel at sea with their career at present. It’s important for you to be calm but firm when dealing with them. You’ll probably be the one steering the ship in this scenario; make sure you’re drowning out the distractions for your candidate while presenting their options with a clear ‘pros’ list. There may be excessive phone calls and emails – reassure your candidate that they are top of your priority list and that you’ll report back to them as soon as you have any updates.

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