Warning Signs of a Time-Wasting Candidate

Time wasting - freeAfter 15 years in the career services, human resources, and candidate recruiting business, I have a pretty good “nose” for which candidates will get the job. Often it does not correlate with the most educated or skilled candidate. If you are recruiting talent, you can’t afford to waste any time during the selection process and you certainly don’t want to place a candidate that will prove to be the wrong choice. So, what are the top indicators of a poor candidate?

Flakes and Excuse-Makers

Every once in a while the train is going to break down and people do get ill. However, failing to arrive on time for an appointment and cancelling appointments with little notice is the calling card of the flake. Flakes seem to have an arsenal of excuses ready to help them out of any situation. I have had clients cancel three or more times for an appointment and yet they wonder why they are overlooked for promotions. A dedicated, resourceful candidate will have a back-up plan to get to an appointment early with time to spare to manage problems.

Lack of Follow-Up

Lack of follow-up shows a lack of interest and motivation. The follow-up letter (email) that is never sent after an interview may not be missed. However, if three candidates are finalists for a position, you can bet that the two candidates who took the time to send a well-prepared follow-up letter have the edge over the third candidate who did not send a letter.

Failure to Keep Promises

You know the kind of person you ask to send you a document and it is like pulling teeth to get it — “Oh, yeah. I will get that to you this afternoon.” The document never arrives. The promised call is never made. It is uncomfortable to be forced to hound someone to send you information they owe you, especially if you are in a position to help them with their career. On the flip side, those who always keep promises and meet their commitments are remembered as reliable.

Unprofessional Communication

If your friend is texting you outside the movie theater, “Where R U,” that’s acceptable. However, if you are communicating one professional to another via email, it is not acceptable to use shorthand, misspelled words, or poor grammar. This one is a red flag for two reasons. First, I wonder if they are lazy or disrespectful. In other words, they don’t care to take the time to write a professional email. Secondly, if this really is a sampling of how they will deal with clients, I would judge them as a bad hire.

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It is difficult to believe that we have to talk about rudeness. In my various roles in HR, recruitment, and career services, I have encountered some incredibly rude candidates. Here I am in a position to help someone advance his or her career or get an interview, and that individual behaves in a self-destructive manner. Examples include pushiness, insulting language, and demanding, unreasonable requests. I am thankful that these candidates reveal themselves so I can avoid investing too much time or energy recommending them to anyone! I wish we all would follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way we wish to be treated.

Stubborn Attitude

This is by far my favorite category, and the most frustrating of all. This candidate comes to you for help to gain a job, yet every step along the way they argue with you. They know better and insist upon choices that are truly harmful to their job search. I generally explain why another option is better; I point to other experts; and I share how this has worked for thousands of candidates. Yet, the candidate is sure they know more. Now it makes sense why this person hops from one job to another with long gaps in between. They are most likely exhibiting this same attitude in interviews and on the job.

I am sure you have examples of signals you receive when working with candidates. If you pay attention, people reveal themselves to you. You then have a choice. You can try to rehabilitate the candidate, and help them be successful. Or, you can let them go and concentrate on the candidates that are cooperative and more likely to succeed. I would love to hear your examples!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Debra Wheatman is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC). She is globally recognized as an expert in advanced career search techniques with more than 18 years' corporate human resource experience. Debra has also been featured on Fox Business News and quoted in Forbes.com, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC. Contact Debra at .debra@careersdonewrite.com, or, visit her website at Careers Done Write.


9 Comments on “Warning Signs of a Time-Wasting Candidate

  1. I am troubled by this article it has an under current of bias and blanket generalizations. A tad elitist with some cheap shots at the poor and those without credentials .

    1. Wow! You must have read a different article than I did. Obviously it depends on the niche you are working in but if a candidate has no credentials how are you supposed to help them? I don’t find that elitist, more like real world common sense.

  2. To address your last point, maybe the reason you run into stubbornness is because we all know that most recruiters are out for themselves and not trust worthy. A recruiter is looking for the biggest commission they can get from a candidate and 90% of the time that is what is driving the direction they want a candidate to go in

    1. Kandy, I would have to respectfully disagree with your point. Most professional Search Consultants I know who are successful, care more about a “win win” for both their clients and their candidates than they do about the fee. They don’t focus on the fee and they know if they are a good search professional and do their job well the fee will come at the end of the day. We want to keep our clients happy by landing the best people in their organization while at the same time elevating our candidate’s careers. That is what the search industry does. The following quote by Zig Ziglar rings true here: “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” We help our clients and candidates get what they want which in the end gives us what we want and that is a “win win” for the client, the candidate and then us, the Search Professional. We are left with the satisfaction knowing we did our job well and yes at the end we are paid for our results and we should be. Consider the impact of a key hire on an organization’s bottom line can be immense. The cost of an unsuccessful placement can be significant. Stock values rise and fall based on the talent within the organization especially at
      executive levels.

  3. I would agree with most of these points.

    The reality is that you work harder for Candidates that work with you (ditto for Clients also).

  4. Excellent article and fantastic examples! As the Founder and President of a boutique executive career management and recruiting firm I feel as if I’ve heard all the excuses out there. And, as you stated, some are reasonable and out of our hands. However, that seems to be the minority of the time. Primarily, poor planning or laziness is often the culprit for missed appointments, a lack of follow-up and failure to follow through. Your examples of poor manners and attitude are also spot on. Although we as recruiters are working for our candidates, it is a team effort and if part of the team is not going to carry their weight, their desired results can not be achieved.
    Ken Schmitt

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