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I have a candidate, who on paper, is a perfect fit for one of my openings. He also interviewed EXTREMELY well. However, when I submitted his resume for review, the hiring manager indicated that he knew of the candidate's reputation in the territory and would not consider him because of his poor work ethic.

Cool. I send my "thanks but no thanks" and keep it moving. He reached out about a week after I sent the notice asking specifically why he wasn't moving along in the process. By this time, we were preparing an offer for someone else, so I used that excuse. After about a month (internal issues impacting offer) we couldn't move forward woth our candidate. We re-post the job, the rejected candidate reapplies and is calling to speak with me about the role.

 

All of this to ask, when you have someone who is technically "good" but you disqualify them for a bad referral/reputation, what do you usually tell your candidate? I really don't want to say "Hey, the hiring manager heard about your rep and doesn't feel comfortable moving you along in the process." I know there would be a slew of questions to follow. He wants details as to why he's been disqualified. I know some recruiters who will "ignore" the candidate, but since he's been persistent, I feel the need to tell him more than just the standard "We've found someone who more closely matches our needs.....blah, blah, blah."

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I hope someone has a good answer for this because I struggle with it too... it's harder, I think, for corporate recruiters because we have to keep the company reputation in mind and not say anything "bad" about the hiring manager.

Thanks. I never want to say anything that could compromise my organization. "Blind referrals" are like a necessary evil.

Kristin Yates said:

Hi Tiffany,

I truly feel your pain on this situation. It's happened to me on occasion and not only is it disappointing to your candidate, it also puts you in a tight spot.

This may not be what you want to hear, but I think the best way to handle it is exactly how you have been (with the standard "safe" responses). Telling your candidate that it was because of a bad referral will do nothing but create even more of a negative, defensive dialogue and, as you said, trigger many more questions (most of which, you may not even have the answers to! Especially in regards to his past work ethic).

Also-- maybe the referral was confidential? If that's the case, you're definitely doing the right thing by just staying professional and keeping mum on the situation. It will fizzle out eventually. Unfortunately, he just didn't meet all of the necessary criteria.

 

Another option is to just say "if it were up to me, you would move forward. Sometimes hiring managers just say "no" and don't always give us a reason why. I wish I had more/better feedback, but all I know for sure is we're not moving forward".

 

Or something like that. He's probably not an idiot and could read between the lines... I don't know. It's tricky though and I hate it when that happens, especially a candidate that I like!

It's tough and you do have to err on the side of your client.  Afterall, the client pays the bills.

There have been a few times I have been candid with the rejected candidate but I only did this when:

1. I felt that this candidate had a right to know and needed to perhaps deal with a touchy relationship in order to proceed with his career.

2. I felt I could trust the candidate to respond appropriately.

 

In reality it was not my client that had a bad experience with the candidate, it is just that someone my client knew had a bad experience.  So this situation made me feel that this was not my client being personal with the candidate. 

 

But here is the thing I have only been candid a few times and each time the candidate sort of knew what the reason was, they just did not want to face the messy truth.

I'm a Corporate Recruiter so I'm sure he "knows" that I will "know" the real reason we are not moving forward. In this particular role, it is common for applicants to come from competitors and customers. Everyone tends to know everyone OR they can get the "skinny" from a business connection. It's a positive and a negative. I think I may be able to use the geographic location as a reason why he isn't the "best" fit if he continues to reach out to me.

Elise Reynolds said:

It's tough and you do have to err on the side of your client.  Afterall, the client pays the bills.

There have been a few times I have been candid with the rejected candidate but I only did this when:

1. I felt that this candidate had a right to know and needed to perhaps deal with a touchy relationship in order to proceed with his career.

2. I felt I could trust the candidate to respond appropriately.

 

In reality it was not my client that had a bad experience with the candidate, it is just that someone my client knew had a bad experience.  So this situation made me feel that this was not my client being personal with the candidate. 

 

But here is the thing I have only been candid a few times and each time the candidate sort of knew what the reason was, they just did not want to face the messy truth.

I try to be candid with my candidates when I notice them showing behaviors that could be hindering them from landing a job or something on their resume could be adjusted. Sometimes people don't know until we tell them. However, it is more difficult to give negative feedback when it's about one's reputation.

Yes Tiffany it is tough.

But I do think a reputation can be dealt with.  it might take longer than just changing a interviewing behavior.

In my last situation this guy used to work with a man who used to work with the client.  The guy trashed the candidate  and it was probably unfair.  I think going forward he needs to be cautious when he deals with mutual aquaintances of this guy.  Anyway, I knew he would handle the information appropriately and so far so good. 

 

I think as far as a rule of thumb you should protect your client but occasionally you can follow your instincts and be a bit more candid.

Maybe it's too late to do anything about it now, but I would want to get a bit more clarity about whether this candidate truly has a bad work ethic (or bad reputation for a reason) or if that is just someone's perception. What if whoever thinks that has some personal agenda against this candidate and is spouting off about something insignificant in relation to the future position? 

One time I had a hiring manager not want to hire someone due to contacting someone they knew who worked with that person a few jobs earlier and said they "weren't that strong." The hiring manager didn't even seem interested in considering that maybe they've matured, gained new skills and would perform well in a different time, place, and under other circumstances.

Anyway, a different opening with a different hiring manager came along and that candidate was eventually hired and worked out fine. 

Unless these behind the scenes references are validated and confirmed with second or third opinions, it seems unfortunate to let it have that much influence on the final outcome. Or, not at least without allowing the candidate an opportunity to answer more probing questions that would provide objective examples of their work ethic and / or how they conduct business. 

As for what to tell the candidate, how about: knowing the full demands of the role, the complex business setting, current customer/client challenges, the hiring manager simply didn't feel that you were right for this particular position within their group. 

Kelly, I agree. I'm always leary about "blind references." However, the hiring manager oversees the territory and the location where the candidate works. So I do trust that he has had encounters with him as well as his peers. Again, only because of the nature of the role, I trust the hiring managers opinion.

Kelly Blokdijk said:

Maybe it's too late to do anything about it now, but I would want to get a bit more clarity about whether this candidate truly has a bad work ethic (or bad reputation for a reason) or if that is just someone's perception. What if whoever thinks that has some personal agenda against this candidate and is spouting off about something insignificant in relation to the future position? 

One time I had a hiring manager not want to hire someone due to contacting someone they knew who worked with that person a few jobs earlier and said they "weren't that strong." The hiring manager didn't even seem interested in considering that maybe they've matured, gained new skills and would perform well in a different time, place, and under other circumstances.

Anyway, a different opening with a different hiring manager came along and that candidate was eventually hired and worked out fine. 

Unless these behind the scenes references are validated and confirmed with second or third opinions, it seems unfortunate to let it have that much influence on the final outcome. Or, not at least without allowing the candidate an opportunity to answer more probing questions that would provide objective examples of their work ethic and / or how they conduct business. 

As for what to tell the candidate, how about: knowing the full demands of the role, the complex business setting, current customer/client challenges, the hiring manager simply didn't feel that you were right for this particular position within their group. 

Thakns Kristin!

Kristin Yates said:

You said it just now, Tiffany. "Because the nature of this role, I trust the hiring managers opinion."

 

That's what you tell him; case closed.   Kudos to you for wanting to be as honest as possible with your candidates.

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