Nightmare candidates that you’d never, ever hire


In a daunting interview situation, it’s not unusual for a candidate to clam up and forget what they were going to say. But in a screening call with a candidate some time ago, Ashley Hever, head of talent acquisition (UK & Ireland) for Enterprise Rent-A-Car got more than he bargained for.

“I was asked to call [the candidate’s] mobile,” he explains.  “However, I was rather surprised that her mother answered instead and asked if she could represent her daughter. She continued to tell me that her daughter was far too modest and that as her mother she would be able to highlight her skills best. Of course, I politely declined and said that I would get back in touch to speak to the candidate directly.”

A few minutes later, Hever received an embarrassed call from the candidate to apologise. And while he stresses that he would never turn down a candidate based purely on an experience like this, sometimes the recruitment process can turn up all manner of nightmare candidate situations.

In another example, a US hiring manager had taken the candidate out to lunch to see how she would behave in a client-facing situation. Halfway through, a tornado warning alarm went off so the recruiter and candidate had to move. Realising the lunch would be coming to a close, the candidate ordered a number of coffees to take away, and a dessert, and asked the manager to add them to the bill. “That, and the fact she’d talked with her mouth full, made me realise I didn’t want her as the client face for my company,” said the manager.

Occasionally, you can be fairly advanced in the process before the candidate’s real motivations come to light, as Adrian Kinnersley, managing director of Twenty Recruitment Group discovered. “One candidate tried to convince me to hire both him and his twin brother for the same role. His view was that, they could take it in turns, with one working early mornings and the other in the afternoons!  Needless to say, neither of them were successful.”

According to Dan Russon, services director at IT services company Xceed Group, there are a number of signs hiring managers can watch out for to avoid a recruitment catastrophe. More often than not, these signs will display themselves at interview stage.

“A candidate that asks questions demonstrates interest, but be conscious of what exactly is being asked. Holiday, training and pay rises are all valid topics, but if there are no questions on the role, team and culture, this is telling,” he says. The same goes for candidates who are bit too keen to show-off their knowledge in front of their potential new manager. “If a junior candidate puts you straight in an interview on a topic they know little about, you might admire their chutzpah but they’d be guaranteed to wind you up if they got the role,” adds Russon.

Sometimes though, in the rush to fill a role quickly, a candidate’s unsuitability may not become apparent until after the offer has gone out. In one transport company that had just lost its office manager, one of the directors swiftly arranged interviews with a number of potential replacements. He didn’t really like any of them or feel they were suitable, but felt under pressure to hire the ‘best of the worst’ the same day because the company’s admin was in complete disarray.

“The new manager lasted three weeks and caused complete chaos, and everyone ended up blaming me because I’d hired her,” he remembers. So whether it’s a bad attitude, something they say at interview, or alarm bells when you read their CV –gut feeling can be a great guide when it comes to rooting out nightmare candidates.

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