6 Difficult Candidates and How to Deal With Them

Whether you’ve been working in recruitment for two months or twenty years, you’ve likely encountered your fair share of difficult candidates. They can be hard work! But the good news is, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of placing them.

Here’s a run-through of some of the most common tough candidates, and more importantly – how to deal with them!

1. The demanding candidate

Man in Hawaiian shirt saying I'm giving the directionOften these candidates will have a lot going for them, and you might be feeling confident that they’ll be a great fit for your client…but there’s no denying that they ask a lot from you during the hiring process.

These are the sort of candidates who want allowances made for them: they’d prefer not to have early morning interviews if they can avoid them, ask to have their interview travel expenses reimbursed and immediately want to challenge the salary bracket on your job ad.

I’ve had my fair share of demanding candidates, and from my experience, you need to have a pretty frank conversation early on.

Sure, you’ll always do your best to accommodate their requests if they are keen on the role. But, it’s worth pointing out that they are the terms the hiring manager is offering. It’s also OK to drop in a mention of the high number of applicants who applied for the role.

This will put the ball back into their court – will they continue? The choice is theirs!

2. The over-confident candidate

Woman patting herself on the back It’s likely you’ll have come across candidates who are so over-confident they’ll try to skip through the intro questions. To them, these questions aren’t even necessary.

They’ll quote huge salary expectations way above the going rate for their industry and experience and finish up with questions like “When do I start?”. But whilst this type of candidate can talk the talk, can they walk the walk? It’s your job to find out.

Try to catch your over-confident candidates off-guard with some seriously tough initial questions. This will pull them out of their comfort/pitching zone and remind them that they do actually have to prove to you – a credible recruiter who’s been hired to assess their skill set – that they have what it takes.

If they’re as great as they say they are, they’ll understand that they have to switch their approach and bring some hard proof of their skills to the table and actually demonstrate their knowledge to you. If they succeed in impressing you, you’ll be their biggest advocate and this will have a major influence on whether your clients hire them.

3. The needy candidate

Man saying 'I've got a stage-five clinger'These candidates certainly mean well, but they’re partial to some serious communication overkill. Not only are they applying for every single role that comes up on your website, but they’re emailing you every day!

They’re constantly pressuring you for feedback that your client hasn’t come back to you on, making the constant communication a painful waste of everyone’s time.

At this stage, it helps to reassure your needy candidate that they’re top of your list, remind them that they can log into their candidate portal themselves to see the status of each role, and let them know you’ll be in touch with them the minute you have anything to report… Peace at last!

4. The nervous candidate

gif-4-1You can spot them a mile away, those nervous candidates who can’t give you eye contact and reach out with a trembling (and sometimes sweaty) handshake. Even on Zoom, you can see their nerves getting the better of them as they stumble over their words, repeat themselves constantly or go completely blank!

You might be thinking – I don’t want to put this person in front of my client – but some of my best candidates have started out as the nervous type. A lot of these candidates care too much, and only want to do well. They just need a little extra TLC and coaching!

Put yourself in their shoes as interviews can be extremely stressful and intimidating. Offer guidance on how they can improve, where you think they went wrong and more importantly (to boost their confidence) where you think they did their best.

Often, practice makes perfect, so run through mock interviews with your candidates. Ensure your feedback is constructive and deliver it in a positive way that will be sure to have them acing their interviews. That’s the key combination for helping your candidate rise above their nerves.

5. The hot-air candidate

gif05-1These candidates sound like they’ve swallowed a thesaurus – they’re full of industry jargon and buzzwords but provide no real substance when answering your questions. They may have impressed you with their killer covering letter and CV, but when it comes to the crunch, can they really put their money where their mouth is?

The biggest issue with hot-air candidates is that whilst they’re likely to sail through the interview process with flying colours, they’ll be reaching out to you again in two months time looking for new opportunities (as they weren’t up to the job after all!). This is bad news for you if you’ve got a rebate clause in place with your client.

A good trick is to put hot-air candidates on the spot by feigning a lack of knowledge and asking them to explain some of their jargon in simple language for you. If they can’t deliver, you’ll need to have a long hard think about whether it’s worth the risk putting them forward – and don’t be baffled by their jargon!

6. The humble candidate

gif-6-1The extremely humble candidate is one of the most frustrating you’ll have encountered. You know the ones we mean – those excellent candidates who are absolutely great at what they do but are equally terrible at selling themselves.

They seize up in the interview room and struggle to talk confidently about their skills and experience, even though they boast an excellent track record.

The good news is, candidates like this just need a bit of reassurance of their abilities and some interview coaching – you can prep this candidate for interview success in a blink of an eye!

The next time you come across one of these difficult candidates, remember there’s always a solution. Try a few of these approaches and you’ll be sure to transform them from difficult to desirable in no time!

Managing Candidate Job Offers

Beth Williams

Awesome Aussie Beth is an experienced recruiter and Growth Executive here at Firefish. She has a huge love of the industry and a real passion for helping recruiters to change the way they recruit.

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