How Do You Tell Someone They Suck?

Tim Sackett HR (& Life!) Advice, Recruiting, Tim Sackett 3 Comments

Every Monday morning we have a recruiter meeting at HRU, the contract, technical staffing company I run. I get asked a lot, “What do you do?” Which makes me laugh because I feel like all I do is work. My real day job is running a staffing company (call me if you need help – 517-614-5014!)

The purpose of the meeting is for our recruiting department to share with each other what they are working on, what they’ve accomplished the prior week, and give updates that the full group might need to know.  Something came up this morning that I wanted to share.

Like most recruiting departments/companies/etc. we have our “Repeat Offenders” – these are the people who just won’t give up.  At one point, a recruiter probably called them, and maybe even interviewed them, possibly even hired them, but now, they won’t leave you alone.  They call, they email, they LinkedIn message, send Facebook friend requests, etc. Basically, they become a stalker!

This morning, one of the recruiters says, “Mr. Jones (I’ve changed the name to protect the guilty) won’t stop bugging me, he emails his resume to me ‘every’ day!”  We all know Mr. Jones because Mr. Jones used to work for us at a client, and it didn’t turn out so well.  Now, Mr. Jones wants us to find him his next assignment.  The problem with Mr. Jones isn’t skill related, it’s personality related. He’s annoying!  He was annoying to the client and to his work group peers, he is annoying to us, and I’m pretty sure he was annoying to his ex-wife! Thus the “ex”!

So, the BIG question. How do you get Mr. Jones to stop bugging you?  This eventually happens to every single recruiter I know.

Here are the steps I use:

1. Tell them!

That’s it, no more steps.  Here’s our problem as recruiters, we never want to burn a bridge.  “Well, Tim, you don’t know where he might go, who might hire him, I don’t want to ruin my reputation.”  Bullshit.  You’re being conflict avoidant, and if you look at your last performance review, I bet under “opportunities” it probably says something about avoiding conflict or not confronting issues head-on.

I had a very good HR mentor once tell me, “It’s best to deliver them that gift, than to allow them to walk around not knowing.”  Once you start being straightforward you’ll be amazed at how many people will say, “No one has ever told me that!”  That’s the problem, no one ever tells them the truth, thus they keep doing the wrong thing, instead of trying to fix what is wrong.

How do you get an annoying candidate to stop bugging you?  You tell them exactly, very specifically, very calmly, with no ill intent,  “I want to give you a gift.  You might not see it as a gift right now, but I hope in time you’ll understand it to be a very valuable gift.  I (don’t use “we” or “us” or “the company – you’re avoiding again by using those) think you have a very bad personality flaw that comes across annoying to me and, from the feedback I have received, to those you work with. If this does not change, I won’t be finding you any job in the future, and you’ll probably struggle to find one on your own as well.”

OUCH! That hurt right?  But, read it again, was there anything mean or untrue in the statement? If this person actually listens to the statement and acts on it, will they be better for it?  You can change the reason for whatever issue the person might have – maybe it’s hygiene, maybe it’s a crazy laugh, who knows, but the basic message stays the same.

You need to change, or I never want to speak to you again.

It’s hard for recruiters to understand this because 99% have been taught to be nice, thoughtful people, not to be rude.  This sounds a bit rude.  In reality, I think it’s rude to string a person along and not care enough about them to actually tell them what is wrong and to help them.  Stop telling candidates your blow off lines and start telling candidates the truth.  At the very least, you’ll have more time on your hands to talk to the candidates you really want to speak to!

Comments 3

  1. When you ask anyone, “if you’ve not met someone’s expectations, when do you want to know that,” or with your article, “If you’re not the right fit for the job or company, when do you want to get that information?”, The answer will always be, “Right away.” But for most people delivering that information is hugely uncomfortable, so politeness versus truthfulness ensues.

    So those conversation starters can make all the difference in telling the truth versus watering down or skirting information that could shed what could be life-changing insight.

    Recruiter: “I have some information to share, and I’m not sure if it’s going to come out correctly” can position your positive intent.
    Candidate: “Just tell me” (or something to the like; you now have permission to blunder your way through your well-meaning message with authenticity)
    Recruiter: “I couldn’t help but notice that you said XYZ or did XYZ, and as a result, we decided you weren’t a fit for the job” (using “couldn’t help but notice” is a good conversation starter when sharing uncomfortable/awkward information).

    If the candidate persists, then you then might have to do the “broken record” and repeat you won’t be able to help the individual find a job within your organization (and wish them the best of luck).

    Agree, it’s better to be direct. Most people don’t want the runaround. It’s just a matter of finding a way to articulate the information in a way that feels hearable and sayable.

  2. Pingback: How Do You Tell Someone They Suck? True Wage | Consulting, Compensation & Benefits

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