When the Candidate Rejects Your Feedback, It May be Time to Walk Away

Aug 19, 2014

Defensive postureThings move fast in recruiting. You speak to dozens of candidates daily, giving both positive and constructive feedback.

Today, we are studying the case of a candidate named Kelly G.

Kelly earned an MBA from Duke and worked in mid-management marketing positions at Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines over the past four years. She looks great on paper, but does not get past the first interview. Hiring managers go from excited before the interview to cold as ice afterward. Their typical comments run along the line of: “Just not a good fit” and “We found another candidate that was a better fit.”

In other words, she blew the interviews.

After the last failed interview, the recruiter (Rick) decided to dig deeper to learn why Kelly was rejected. Rick needed to know so he could give honest feedback to help Kelly improve before the next interview.

Kelly, he learned, seemed “stiff,” “aloof,” and “a bit of a know-it-all.” There were concerns that Kelly would not get along well with others, particularly her boss.

Initially, Rick thought that this was good news because he was facing an interviewing issue that could be corrected with coaching.

The problem got worse when Rick talked to Kelly. Normally, Kelly was enthusiastic and forthcoming with any information Rick needed. But as soon as Rick offered his constructive criticism, Kelly bristled and became defensive. She felt the feedback unfair, and that the interviewer was the one with the attitude. She could not see a problem with any of her interviews.

Rick was faced with a candidate dilemma. Was she a waste of time?

If a candidate refuses to acknowledge feedback, then the recruiter may not be able to rehabilitate that person. As you know, a recruiter’s top priority is to serve his client. If Kelly somehow interviews her way into another job – which she may, based on past jobs that she has gained – she will likely not last long. That’s not good for you or for your client.

It is becoming clear why Kelly has held two jobs in four years.

Look out for behaviors in your candidates that might preclude their success. If you carefully pay attention to someone, they will reveal themselves to you. The fact that Kelly could not take criticism and passed the blame to the interviewers is a red flag; a tipoff  she will be difficult to work with, and difficult for a recruiter to place.

At this point you may have to walk away from a candidate like Kelly and focus on candidates that will truly benefit your client.

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