Rude Candidates are Annoying. But, Maybe I Should Be Nicer to Them

Something has been bugging me and I feel I need to confess.  It happened many years ago and I frequently think about it.  But, not until recently have I started looking at myself and thinking I should have done something differently.

Let me explain.  Long, long ago…I was recruiting for a very premiere brand in the industry (for the record, said company is not a part of Microsoft).  These people were the cat’s meow (do people still say that?  I bet Laurie Ruettimann does).  They had a huge name brand, bazillions of loyal fans, and an IP people were beating down the door to work on.

I was working with a new hiring manager who was ready to make an impression.  He opened up a new kind of role…a role that was not common in the industry, but that many people were starting to see value in.  During our initial review meeting, I asked the standard question, “Do you have anyone in mind already?”  Why, yes…he did.  A friend of a friend of a friend knew this guy.  So, I called said guy and we chatted.

Immediately, the candidate tells me that he gets 5 weeks of vacation at his current job.  These 5 weeks are very important to him.  Immediately I respond that there is no way he will get 5 weeks vacation out of the gate.  Won’t happen.  But, we both agreed that, despite this, it was worth continuing the conversation.

So, we run him through an interview.  His current pay was rather low.  See…rather than give employees raises, his current company gave them more vacation time.  So, when we put together an offer, we brought him to where we thought he should be and even sweetened it a bit to compensate for the vacation he was losing.  I may have said it before on FOT, I like to give the best offer first.

Here’s where the drama starts.  I call him to roll out the offer.  I give him all the details.  As I am talking, he is silent.  Nothing.  Finally, I finish.  More silence.  I ask what his thoughts are.  He says, “I don’t know.”  And then hangs up on me.

Now… I’ve been hung up on before.  But, it’s usually very early in the process.  You know, “Hi! This is Jason calling from…” *click*.  This was the first time that I had built a relationship, worked with someone through our entire hiring process and then had them completely disregard me in that way.  How freakin’ rude!

Within 5 minutes, I get an e-mail.  In a nutshell, he was ticked because we didn’t give him 5 weeks of vacation.  The significant salary increase… that’s what he’s worth, so it’s no surprise.  The bonus… anyone at his level (which, to be honest wasn’t THAT high) should have gotten one.  And the stock award… well… stock is nothing.  It could be worth zero next week.  Never mind that he doesn’t have to pay anything to get this stock.

I’m annoyed.  I call him back.  The conversation quickly escalates.  I’m mad at his rude reaction.  He’s mad at what he sees is a lowball offer.  I’m mad that our FANTASTIC offer is being regarded as crap.  He’s mad that I am actually thinking such an insulting offer is even worth his time.  The discussion isn’t pretty.  In the end, he says that if we are not giving him his 5 weeks vacation, we need to increase our offer by an additional significant amount of money.  I say No…on the spot.  We end our conversation.

I call the hiring manager to relay the results of this conversation.  I was expecting him to say, “Damn straight we’re not giving him that money!  That’s ridiculous!  The offer we made was above and beyond already.”

But, that’s not what he said.  Actually, what he said sounded more like, “Give him what he wants.”

Wait… what?

Anywho… following another somewhat heated discussion with the hiring manager, in the end, I got to tuck my tail between my legs, call back Capitan Jerkface and give him what he wanted.

So…what have I learned?  Why the mea culpa (which I am told is Latin for…something)?  To this day, 8 years later, this is a scenario I reference when asked about a time when I failed.  But, for the longest time, I would say I failed because I couldn’t convince the hiring manager that it was stupid to hire this guy.  Now, after time and reflection and a recent discussion with a colleague, I am rethinking that.  Obviously, the candidate could have handled things better.  I’m not letting him off the hook.  At no point did I bait and switch him.  His reaction was over the top.  Still…maybe I also overreacted.  Maybe I should have been nicer.  Instead of getting heated and letting the conversation escalate, maybe I should have tried harder to calm him down and get him back into reality.  Maybe I let my pride get to me.  I look back now and think, maybe, I could have handled this differently and gotten a better outcome.  I could have been the bigger person.

Or… maybe the guy was a putz and we shouldn’t have hired him.  Whatever.

FOT Background Check

Jason Pankow
Jason Pankow realized long ago that he wasn’t smart enough to actually program video games and game consoles. So, he found another way to participate! In between bouts of pwning newbs in Halo or scoring mad gamerpoints, Jason spends his time as the Staffing Program Manager for Microsoft’s Devices and Studios Division. Jason’s day is spent running programs that help recruit the obscenely talented developers, designers and engineers that have blessed the world with the likes of Xbox, Kinect and tons of other rad stuff, much of which he can’t tell you about. So, don’t ask. In non-nerd speak…what this means is that Jason has the coolest recruiting job in the world! Look him up as “Satchmo Baggins” on Xbox LIVE. But, watch out for the dreaded headshot!


  1. Love this story. I wonder if he still works at said company…

    • Jason Pankow
      Jason Pankow says:

      Hi Colleen…he is indeed still there! In the end, it’s probably great for everyone…even though it still stings. 🙂

      • Amaze-balls! I sooooo heart this story. There is a fine line from protecting your company from a diva (or in this case divo) and giving candidates anything they want.

  2. ToddR says:

    This doesn’t sound like a failure in any sense of the word. I’m sure there are a lot of circumstantial details that make this more complicated than it appears on the surface. The way it’s presented, it sounds as though the cards were a little stacked against you.

    The only aspect that seems totally missing is the pain. As a general rule, if a candidate isn’t able or isn’t willing to discuss any dissatisfaction or frustration in his current job, I typically consider him to be non-viable. I don’t need any extensive details. I just need to know that there’s something unsettling about his current circumstances that he’s trying to remedy and that he is willing to tolerate the effort and risks of taking a new job to resolve whatever ails him. If that element is totally missing, I disengage and tell the person “if you’ve got a good job, my advice is to stay with it.”

    Great story, though.

  3. Rebecca Janney says:

    I second Colleen’s question…tell us the candidate spent 8+ engaging, productive years supporting this company…or he got fired 6 months later for being, well, himself.

    • Jason Pankow
      Jason Pankow says:

      Beckster…He’s still there. Everyone loves him! It’s probably just time for me to get over it. But, that’s unlikely. 🙂

  4. Jennbo says:

    That doesn’t sound like a failure to me at all. It sounds like the hiring manager was thinking of himself like he was a CEO of his own company, free to ignore standards & best practices, when really he was just another hiring manager. It’s easy to be a manager in a department when you can pay employees more than others. This type of crap is how the good ol’ boys networks propogate. If this wasn’t a buddy of a buddy, the manager probabally wouldn’t be so willing to pay above market price. Salary descrepancies aren’t just because minorities are paid less than average, but sometimes buddies are paid more than average, compounding an industry wide issue. If the candidate wouldn’t be willing to accept a competitive package for the company, he probably wouldn’t have been a great FTE hire, suitable for anywhere in the company. Sounds like he could have been a good vendor contract instead and that the hiring manager didn’t really really care about fair hiring practices. I can’t even imagine how much stuff like that you’ve dealt with over the years!

  5. Greg Modd says:

    Was the rude turd a stud or a dud? The people demand an answer!

  6. Amy says:

    I want to know why the hiring manager gave it to him. Because they were already acquainted? Because he knew of an important reason for those five weeks that you didn’t?

    • Jason Pankow
      Jason Pankow says:

      That’s a fantastic point, Amy. The HM gave it to him because the role was pretty niche in the industry. To not hire him would involve starting a new search He did not want to go through that. I felt his pain, but I also disagreed.

  7. KD says:

    Is he still there?

    Just kidding, thought I would ask that for the fourth time.

    On another note, this is why the best managers make their own offers – all the BS, all the subtle messaging – doesn’t need a middleman if someone can negotiate on their own. And it’s amazing how many of these BS candidate reactions don’t happen when they’re dealing directly with the hiring manager.

    Not that you’re not great at what you do. It’s just in offer stage, you’re a message carrier.


  8. Monica says:

    Very entertaining read, thanks! I think I would have reacted the same way.

  9. Nick says:

    Jason, you had it right the first time. No matter how much of a d-bag the candidate is… you gotta protect the company name/brand. You did fail and you are still learning new lessons from it–that’s the important part.

  10. Bruce says:

    While I do agree that the candidate did not conduct himself in an appropriate fashion, why so much insistence on being right about the offer being fair? This guy seems like he’s really handling his end at the company. The hiring manager was willing to give what the guy was asking for. It sounds like if you went to the hiring manager with his request, you probably wouldn’t have had this issue at all.

    • Jason Pankow
      Jason Pankow says:

      Which request are we talking about? To clarify…he did NOT get the vacation. He got more money. The reason I didn’t go to the hiring manager is because I was ticked off at him for being so rude.

  11. Shannon says:

    Ah, anyone that’s been in the industry for awhile has had some variation of this story happen. It’s a total ego killer (plus, I’m always worried about the internal equity issue–whaddya mean so-and-so gets 5 weeks!?!?!?)…Usually, we can take comfort in being proven right down the road–the candidate turned over within 6 months or ended up being a perormance issue–however, unfortunately, in this case it seems like you weren’t able to feel vindicated. Totally sucks and I feel your pain!

  12. MattL says:

    Maybe you both were just having a bad day at the same time. Maybe if you had a beer with him today he would feel bad about how he behaved and is a good guy who loves kittens and butterflies. Maybe, like in Southpark, we all learned something today, and this is just another valuable datapoint/experience. And one other thing…

    “Screw that guy”.

  13. Tatiana Beale says:

    It’s interesting you had to end up giving in and going against your better judgement. I think it’s great you eventually reflected on the situation as a learning experience. Communicating with candidates can’t be easy!

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