How Do You Tell Someone They Suck?

Every Monday morning we have a recruiter meeting at HRU.  The purpose of the meeting is for our recruiting department to share with each other what they are working on, what they’ve accomplished the prior week, and give in updates that the full group might need to know.  Something came up this morning that I wanted to share.  Like most recruiting departments/companies/etc. we have our “Repeat Offenders”  – these are the people who just won’t give up.  At one point, a recruiter probably called them, and maybe even interviewed them, possibly even hired them – but now, they won’t leave you alone – they call, they email, they LinkedIn, send Facebook Friend requests, etc. Basically, they become a stalker!

This morning, one of the recruiters says “Mr. Jones (I’ve changed the name to protect the guilty) won’t stop bugging me, he emails his resume to me ‘every’ day!”  We all know Mr. Jones, because Mr. Jones use to work for us at a client, and it didn’t turn out so well.  Now, Mr. Jones wants us to find him his next assignment.  The problem with Mr. Jones isn’t skill related, it’s personality related – he’s annoying.  He was annoying to the client and to his work group peers, he is annoying to us, and I’m pretty sure he was annoying to his ex-wife – thus the “ex”!

So, the BIG question. How do you get Mr. Jones to stop bugging you?  This happens to every single recruiter I know eventually.

Here are the steps I use:

1. Tell Them!

That’s it – no more steps.  Here’s our problem as recruiters – we never want to burn a bridge.  “Well, Tim, you don’t know where he might go, who might hire him, I don’t want to ruin my reputation”  Bullshit.  You’re being conflict avoidant, and if you look at your last performance review, I bet under “opportunities” is probably says something about avoiding conflict or not confronting issues head on.  I had a very good HR mentor once tell me – “it’s best to deliver them that gift, then to allow them to walk around not knowing”.  Once you start being straightforward you’ll be amazed at how many people will say, “No one has ever told me that!”  That’s the problem – no one ever tells them the truth, thus they keep doing the wrong thing, instead of trying to fix what is wrong.

How do you get an annoying candidate to stop bugging you?  You tell them exactly, very specifically, very calmly, with no ill intent – “I want to give you a gift.  You might not see it as a gift right now, but I hope in time you’ll understand it to be a very valuable gift.  I (don’t use “we” or “us” or “the company – you’re avoiding again by using those) – I think you have a very bad personality flaw that comes across annoying to me, and from the feedback I have received, to those you work with.  If this does not change, I won’t be finding you any job in the future, and you’ll probably struggle to find one on your own as well.”  OUCH! That hurt right?  But, read it again, was there anything mean or untrue in the statement? If this person actually listens to the statement and acts on it, will they be better for it?  You can change the reason for whatever issue the person might have – maybe it’s hygiene, maybe it’s a crazy laugh, who knows – but the basic message stays the same.  You need to change, or I never want to speak to you again.

It’s hard for recruiters to understand this, because 99% have been taught to be nice, thoughtful people – not to be rude.  This sounds a bit rude.  In reality, I think it’s rude to string a person along and not care enough about them to actually tell them what is wrong and to help them.  Stop telling candidates your blow off lines and start telling candidates the truth.  At the very least, you’ll have more time on your hands to talk to the candidates you really want to speak to!

5 thoughts on “How Do You Tell Someone They Suck?

  1. What a fantastic post. I couldn’t agree more … and yet at the same time know how hard it can be do. It really is a gift to the person, however, whether they take it that way or not. One recurring theme I hear from people who write me at my site is that they wish they could get feedback, no matter how unpleasant or awkward it might be to hear. It truly is a favor.

  2. Sounds like good advice – however I have a question I was once told by a very wise person that Tim knows very well that if you really want a position “sit on their doorstep” that there are many resumes out there and if you let the employer know that you are interested and really interested and make sure the do not forget you without going over the top what is the happy medium (ok I know not to go as far as the above with Candi wow that was definately over the top) but want to make sure I am noticed without being obnoxious any suggestions

  3. Excellent advice but hard to do but a person will never reach their true potential in many ways until they push themselves beyond their “comfort level”. Your blog says it all regarding recruiters.

  4. I just had to do this myself last week as well. I’ll call the candidate, “Candi”.
    Candi had applied to us for a part time position. The initial interview went well directly with us, but unfortunately paired against another candidate she came off over the top. We chalked it up to nervousness, let her know that her aggressiveness was a bit much but that showing enthusiasm was good, it just wasn’t a fit right now.
    A week and half later, we posted for a similar position, only now it was Full-Time. She had expressed the need for working part-time, so we didn’t bother to call her out of the gate.
    At 8:48, 8:53, 8:59, 9:01, 9:04 and 9:11 and 9:39 we received calls on two of our lines. She sent messages at 8:41, 9:03 and 9:41 to make sure we had received her calls and to let her know that one of our numbers was out of order. She also said that if she didn’t hear from us by 11:00 AM she would call our client herself to see if there was a fit. By the time I was done my first morning meeting at 10:31 I called her immediately.
    “Hi Candi, this is Michelle from Elevated.”
    “Oh, you finally called!”
    “Finally? Candi – do you remember when I gave you the feedback that you were perhaps overly enthusiastic in the interview process?”
    “Yes.”
    “You’ve just taken it to the next level. I’ll be honest – this kind of behavior is over the top and I’m not comfortable putting you forward to represent US nevermind a good fit for the client! This is too much.”
    “What do you mean too much?”
    “Candi – you’ve gone from enthusiastic to aggressive. I’m not saying this to be rude, I’m saying this to help you.” I proceeded to read out all the times we got missed calls, voicemails and emails from her.
    “Well, you didn’t call back.”
    “You’re right – our turn around isn’t immediate. We have other items on our plate beside recruiting.”
    “I really want this job.”
    “I can tell – but this isn’t the way to do it. We are uncomfortable with you and unfortunately you’ve alienated yourself.”
    “I don’t get how I’m supposed to ensure the employer knows I’m interested if I don’t follow up.”
    “There’s a line and you crossed it. Typically – one vm, followed with an email. Done. Otherwise it gets weird.”
    “Really?”
    “Really.”
    We ended the call, amicably (I think). She didn’t follow up with an apology – I wasn’t really expecting it and yet I was. But I think Tim is bang on – as recruiters, it’s not really our “job” to tell people why they didn’t get the role, but it’s not not our job either. Feedback on a blindspot is truly the greatest gift you can give to another person. While it might sting a bit at first (especially if they’ve never been given feedback before) you truly are helping – if not right away, after they’ve had a chance to think about it.

  5. Tim,

    I agree. Go for honesty without malice. When I give people tough love the most common thing I hear back is, “no one has ever said that about me.” It may be true, but it’s likely they’ve thought it. I have an advantage because most of the people I have to deliver tough words to know I care about them. I’ve proven it on many levels. In busy recruiting environments, staff may not have the time to form enough of a relationship for the job seeker to trust the feedback is an act of kindness. Even then, the constructive criticism is still necessary. Too often the strategy is to ignore the person and hope he/she goes away. That rarely happens. The person gets angrier and happily tells all who will listen how bad your follow-up stinks or how you are discriminating against him/her for this or that. In the end, I’d rather have job seekers saying “that Lisa had the nerve to say I’m negative and I need to change my ways” than going on to others about my follow-up, or lack there of. I’ve convinced myself most hearing the complaint would likely agree and send me a silent thank you for uttering what they were too chicken to say themselves.

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