dealing with an overly persistent job applicant

A reader writes:

I’m an HR Manager at a small hotel of about 200 employees. I also have a director of HR. Our department is small. We handle everything between the two of us (worker’s comp, training, recruiting, hiring, firing, reorg, benefits, etc.). We wear many hats between the two of us. 

I have an applicant who calls me every single day and leaves me messages every single day. He is applying for one of the positions I posted and he appeared qualified. I was able to quickly review his application form prior to his messages and I actually placed it in the “Call” pile (he was not the #1 applicant but he was on the qualified pile to call). However, after listening to the messages he left me, I had second thoughts. His messages sounded like he’s almost begging for a job and he would not stop. He mentioned that he has children and that he needed to provide for them – I don’t have kids but if I did and in need of a job, I sure would not mention the munchkins for a mercy plea. His messages sounded creepy.

One day, I made the mistake of picking up the phone and it was him on the other line. He asked me why I wouldn’t give him a chance. He asked me what process we have in place when selecting qualified candidates…blah blah blah. I dealt with this guy in the most professional manner, and it was clear to me that he was not very stable.

I really didn’t want to turn him down right there because he seemed really unstable. He spoke to the front desk and wanted the GM to call him back…. I didn’t want him to show up at our workplace and inconvenience staff.

Is there any advice you can give me about dealing with this applicant? Can you please also give me pointers on how to turn down an applicant in a gracious way? I’m loss for words and I’m sorry you have to read this whole thing but I need to handle this in a respectful manner.

You know how sometimes women complain about overly aggressive suitors, and then it turns out that they’ve never actually told the person, “I’m not interested. Please stop asking me out”?

Yeah. This is you right now.

You have to tell this guy that you are rejecting him!  Tell him now, today. Yes, he’s being really inappropriately aggressive and that’s his fault, not yours … but it’s your fault that you haven’t yet told him that he’s out of the running, especially since it sounds like this has been going on for a while. You should have told him as soon as his messages crossed a line. It is not kind to have let this go on for so long.

As for how to actually do it? The same way you’d turn down any other job applicant, with a regular old rejection email. Something like this:

Thank you so much for your interest working with us. We’ve received a large number of applicants for the ___ position, and unfortunately are only able to interview a small number. However, although we’re not able to advance you in the hiring process, we very much appreciate your interest, and we wish you the best of luck in your job search.

Send this right now. And I hope you’re sending something like this to all the candidates who you’re not hiring. Others may not be placing crazy, overly persistent phone calls to you, but I assure you that plenty of them are anxiously waiting to hear something back.

After that, if he calls you and asks you to explain or reconsider your decision, be polite but firm: “I know it’s a tough job market, but we have a number of well-qualified candidates and we’re interviewing the candidates who most closely match our needs.” And if he tries to keep you on the phone to argue the decision, you need to refuse to engage in that: “I’m sorry, but I’m just not able to give individual feedback to each of our applicants.” (I should note that in general I’m a proponent of giving real feedback to rejected candidates when it’s feasible to, but it doesn’t sound like you want to get into that with him, and you’re not obligated to.)  And don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a long conversation; this should be a few minutes, and if he doesn’t allow the conversation to end there, then you need to end it yourself — politely but firmly.

Now, let’s talk about how to handle this in the future before it ever gets to this point again. If someone is calling you over and over or otherwise behaving inappropriately, don’t just ignore it and hope it will stop. Tell them, plainly, to stop. You need to have sentences like this ready for use: “We will be in touch when we’ve made decisions on interviews or if we need additional information. We’re not taking calls about the position meanwhile.” And if someone continues even after that, “I’ve told you previously that we’re not taking calls about the position. Please do not call again.”

You must be direct with people who aren’t reading your cues correctly. In situations like this, it’s not optional.

Email this guy right now.

{ 72 comments… read them below }

  1. Sugabelly*

    Or… perhaps his children REALLY ARE starving to death and he needs this job more than he has needed anything in his life.

    Just because someone is in desperate need of a job and you know it doesn’t mean you should reject them. As the poster said he was qualified and chances are his behaviour is only being driven by his desperation and it is not a crime to be desperate. What he NEEDS is a JOB not your judgment and the chances are neither you nor the poster have probably ever been in a situation where you wake up every day and your children are hungry and they ask you what they are going to eat and all you can do is look back at them because you have absolutely nothing to give them.

    If you had ever been in that situation then you would know what real desperation is and you would realise that your sense of “propriety” or your annoyance at being called by a qualified candidate is nowhere near as importance as this man’s ability to put food on the table for his children.

    Seriously, this is EMPLOYMENT we’re talking about here. A person doing a JOB for MONEY.

    People NEED money so therefore they NEED jobs.

    It’s not about how you feel, it’s about the reality that this man needs a job in order pay rent, buy food, pay school fees ,etc.

    Knowing that someone needs a job desperately should not be a “turn-off” to you. People beg for jobs because they NEED them. They don’t beg for jobs because it’s fun. Rejecting someone who needs a job and is qualified because you are annoyed by their need is callous and disgusting.

    May you never NEED a job in the future and only WANT it, because when you get there you will see just how horrible it is.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The problem is that begging for a job and calling over and over like this raises real red flags about boundaries and the ability to follow professional norms. Many, many people are desperate for jobs right now. It’s scary and horrible. But employers can’t make hiring decisions based on who is most in need; they need to make them based on who will be best in the job, and an appropriate sense of boundaries and professionalism is a factor in that.

      I don’t think anyone is denying that this situation is very sad though.

      1. GM1*

        I like your response, it´s professional.

        I have a situation like this right now, and I have to gently, yet firmly reject the person. When a person sounds unstable, how can I be sure that he will not ruin, steal, or create problems.

        In my case, this person was previously fired, and now he is calling because he really needs a job. I feel his pain, i´ve been there! However, nobody hired me, i had to literally apply to hundreds, until the right fit came in.

        A manager must seperate emotions from logic.

        The logical decision is to place the right candidate for the job, someone who´s the right piece in your puzzle.

        Now, if this desperate candidate qualifies… give him a chance.

    2. Under Stand*

      Your kidding right. So you think each interview should go: tell me why I should give you this job, applicant tells their sob story, you pick from the saddest. Kind of like free cycle. Sorry, not going to happen. If someone is creeping you out, sounding all unstable, usually there is a reason. Trust your gut.

      If someone creeps me out, they get bumped from the list. Even if they were previously at the #1 spot. And hearing that their kids are hungry does not change that. I run a business, not an orphanage.

    3. Anonymous*

      There are social service organizations that exsist to help people who cannot feed people that night.

      This hotel is a business, not a social service organization. And I gaurentee that this guy is not the only one applying for this job who is in desperate, dire straits. That doesn’t mean he should get it. The other people in the qualified “call” might need it more. They might be homeless with more kids to feed than this guy, and no friends couches to stay on. Should they get it? Do they not get it because this guy is begging more? What if the guy is lying and he is really a single guy but he thinks that it will sound better if he says he has kids? Why does a guy with kids deserve a job more than a single person? What if the single person is qualified and homeless and the guy with kids is married and has a house because his spouse is working and is less qualified? Is there a scale of needs? How do you gauge the situations?

      Turn to social service organizations for help when you are in that dire of a situation. That is what they are there for.

      Act like a professional who wants the job in front of you and will behave in a professional manner when it is offered to you.

    4. Anonymous*

      NO NO NO. Feeling sorry for someone is never a good reason to hire someone (or be friends with someone, or rent an apartment to someone…) because manipulative creeps know that good people feel guilt and they exploit that. This guy is very obviously trying to play up his situation to guilt her into giving him a job. Candidates should be hired on merit.

    5. Malissa*

      If this guy was really starving to death, or as desperate as you say, he shouldn’t have this much time to bug one employer. He should be out going into every fast food joint, restaurant, bar, temp agency, and store he can find to drop an application. Work is work. Last time I checked Labor Ready was available in most major cities and quite a few smaller towns. They’ll put you to work for the day and give you a check at the end of it.
      Heck there’s towns in North Dakota were the fast food places are willing to pay $15 an hour for anybody to work because they are that short handed. Sell everything buy a motor home and head north. Heaven knows I’d be there if I was that broke.

      1. Mike C.*

        I think it’s great when those of us who are doing well are able to dictate exactly what someone down on their luck should be doing with the assumption that they aren’t doing anything at all to improve their situation. Who are you to say how much time someone should be spending pursuing work?

        By the way, there are tons of reasons why your strategies won’t work. Those jobs won’t hire those who are too experienced, educated or “too old”. The blogger “Evil HR Lady” has covered this extensively. Very few people live in North Dakota and it costs money to move.

        And by the way, telling someone that they need to just blast resumes and applications everywhere is among the worst job seeking advice you can give. So how about you get off your high horse and stop dictating what others need to do.

        1. Malissa*

          I’ve been there done that. I’ve gone to labor ready and worked for the day so I’d have money to buy dinner that night. I have sympathy for people who are willing to stand up for themselves and do what ever it takes to survive.
          I ran out of sympathy for those who think whining about their situation and playing the guilt card will get them an advantage. Also having been on the hiring end of things in a bad economy, tells me the guy who calls in every day to “check” on his status or tries to bully/guilt his way into a position is not going to be the best employee. It tells me that after he’s hired he’s going to try to guilt/bully his coworkers into doing his work for him because he’s too tired/overworked/or whatever.
          Working in a union environment where it takes 10 times longer to get rid of this person down the road, evaluating them upfront becomes more important.
          I’m also aware that for every guy like this applicant that’s using guilt to get the position, there’s 3 more equally qualified candidates in the same predicament that aren’t using guilt to get the job, instead they are using their skills.

    6. Mike C.*

      I think a lot of folks here are misunderstanding the post here. The candidate was qualified enough to put in the call pile, so the poster above is arguing that the actions of the candidate might simply be the result of someone who is in desperate need of a job, and are acting in this manner because of it. And by that reasoning, disqualifying a normally qualified candidate because they are desperate doesn’t make much sense.

      She’s not demanding that the job automatically go to this candidate in any way, so I’m at a loss as to why so many people seem to think otherwise. She’s arguing that maybe folks should have some empathy for a stranger. Nothing more.

      I don’t know how I personally feel about that reasoning, but the folks screaming about how their business isn’t a charity or that there are plenty of well funded charities out there taking care of everyone in need are really missing the point.

      You folks need to argue what is actually being written here rather than putting words in her mouth.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The problem is that the candidate took himself out of the running by raising serious red flags about respect for boundaries and ability to follow professional norms. Being desperate doesn’t make it okay to do those things — or at least you can’t expect to remain under consideration if you do. So it makes perfect sense that he was out of the running at that point.

        And I think we all have plenty of empathy for this guy. You can have empathy for someone without feeling obligated to interview them, and I think a lot of people are insulted to be told they’re being callous for pointing that out.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, I think that reasoning is well supported.

          I was just annoyed at all the folks assuming that “Hey, there might be good reasons not to close the door on this guy” actually meant “He should be handed the job”. Those are two completely different ideas and only the former was ever mentioned.

          If people want to disagree that’s fine, but they should argue the ideas of a person, not a straw man.

          1. fposte*

            Sure. But I also think people are overly conflating his desperation and his inappropriate behavior. Plenty of desperate people behave appropriately, after all, but we don’t know about them because they’re not drawing the same kind of attention to themselves. He’s certainly not going to be the only desperate applicant in the pile, and it’s not like he just mentioned desperation in passing and the OP got frosty about the notion. So I’m also against the “might be good reasons not to close the door on this guy”–there might be good reasons not to close the door on *any* applicant, but the door gets closed on all but one of them because that’s the process. Even if this is the simple reason for his problematic behavior, that doesn’t get him anywhere. All applicants have reasons for their weaknesses. But hiring isn’t about whether the applicant’s flaws come from a good place or not, it’s about whether the applicant’s flaws are acceptable in this position and are overbalanced by his/her strengths. His strengths haven’t been sufficient to overbalance the weaknesses he’s demonstrated.

            None of which means that people don’t feel for the guy, but the flaw in the OP’s behavior is failing to reject him, not in failing to be nicer to him or to interview him.

      2. Anonymous*

        “Empathy for a stranger” = good. Hiring an unbalanced creep who uses guilt and harassment as job search tactics = bad.

    7. fposte*

      But it’s not a contest where only one experience wins the right to matter. The OP’s frustration isn’t invalid just because one of her desperate applicants is dealing problematically with his desperation. Otherwise you get into the logical fallacy where the job seeker then has to shut up because at least he has a roof over his head and loving children and not everybody’s as fortunate as he is. Nobody’s taunting or deriding the applicant, whatever his situation.

  2. Anonymous*

    This is also a hotel. So the ability to appropriately interact with the public, understanding boundaries, and generally not creeping people out are key to this job, even more so than in other, less public jobs. Perhaps the OP could explain that he has not demonstrated proper etiquette in his dealing with the hotel, which is a concern.

    1. Anonymous^2*

      Seriously. Letting a person with apparent boundary issues and in a place of desperation potentially have access to guests’ rooms, belongings, credit card info, etc. just because you’re sympathetic that they don’t have a job is super-bad hiring.

  3. Snow Hill Pond*

    Where’s the empathy?

    Aside from Sugabelly, the advice given here sounds awfully close to “Let him eat cake.”

    1. Anonymous*

      Sure, this is a sad situation, but there are a million people dealing with these situations at this time. People’s personal lives should not play into whether or not they get a job, and pleading for a job is just plain unprofessional. This person clearly does not understand boundaries and seems to think making the hiring managers feel sorry for them should play into their candidacy. People who call HR over and over again seem to think recruiting is the only function HR has; when I have candidates calling me incessantly, after I have told them the hiring manager will contact them if they are interested in speaking with them further, they are truly digging their own grave. Oh, and don’t get me started on the people who show up uninvited and lie their way into the HR office so they can hand-deliver their resume and explain why they are the best person for the job…

      1. Anonymous*

        Showing up uninvited, calling over and over, hand delivering your resume are things that some “career counselors” will tell you to do. It is also difficult for people who were originally hired back in the day when going door to door with resume in hand was proper behavior and have been thrown back into the workplace now when that is considered creepy behavior. Who can keep up?

        While this guy may have just put himself out of the running, I was unemployed for a time and know that he probably sounds desparate because he is desparate. He may have exhausted social service options and has nowhere else to go. It’s not a myth that many companies won’t even look at the resume of an unemployed person, making him or her that much more desparate.

        There was an excellent article in the WSJ recently about the disconnect between what companies wish was in the job pool and reality.

        1. Anonymous*

          When my son was a newborn, a colleague who claimed to be a parenting expert informed me -on more than one occasion- that cough syrup and rum are great tools to use when faced with a baby who will not sleep through the night. She also told me that car seats are a rip off because she transported her kids in laundry baskets and “they were just fine”.

          Smart people are faced with dumb advice all the time and on every topic imaginable. What makes them smart is their ability to decide what advice is worthwhile and what advice is not.

          1. Anonymous (other one)*

            Smart people do face dumb advice all the time, but this could be a case of someone who has not looked for a job in years and the rules are completely different than 20 years ago. It was drummed into me in my college days to always, always, always follow up on any application/resume sent in. Always. Now, this advice is nearly impossible, and, although this is an extreme case, it is considered “creepy”. For baby advice, you can trust friends and relatives who you trust who have had babies; a job seeker may not really know anyone who has been successful finding a job in the past few years. And I have read plenty of career “experts” who say to call, call, call, or even go so far as to hang out at restaurants near the business. Sound advice? Not to me, but when people are desperate, they will do things that they normally wouldn’t do. And trust me, plenty of people are desperate.

    2. Under Stand*

      Empathy has nothing to do with it. If you do your hiring by who you feel most sorry for, you stink as a manager. You hire by who can best fill your needs. Someone who is creepy and pushy does not need to be working in a Public position at a hotel. This is not where you place Norman Bates.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve got empathy for the guy. But I’m not going to hire based on who I feel sorriest for. You can feel for this guy without thinking that it makes sense to interview him.

    4. fposte*

      I have empathy for *all* the applicants.

      He doesn’t get extra for being problematic, and degree of inappropriateness isn’t a measure of relative need.

  4. Anon from 7:43*

    One more thing. Having been the “screener” of applications for a handful of positions with hundreds of applicants (I was a program assistant; we didn’t have a real “HR” department), I would not send individual rejects to everyone who wasn’t interviewed. It sucks, but I just didn’t have the time, even to send out a form letter. Instead, we put on our job posting that “only short listed candidates will be contacted” and provided a due date for applications. (And as a job applicant, I have NEVER received a rejection letter for any of the countless positions I applied to but didn’t get. Not a single one.)

    I would, however, let a candidate know they weren’t selected if they contacted me.

    1. Under Stand*

      y’all were seriously understaffed to not have the time to set up and mail merge. You were tracking your applicants, correct?

      1. Anonymous*

        y’all were seriously understaffed to not have the time to set up and mail merge

        Such advanced technical features appear to be beyond the intellectual capacities of most.

        1. Anon from 7:43*

          Ouch dude, harsh. My point was, from having some experience on both sides of the hiring process, I now really understand why candidates usually don’t hear back (I’m talking about non-interviewed candidates only). Yes, it sucks, but it’s understandable. Considering our acceptance rate for these positions was about 0.3%, contacting everyone in the other 99.7% would be a bit burdensome.

          I was the program assistant for an organization of about a dozen employees and three program areas. Since I was programmatic staff, screening applicants for my division was on top of my regular responsibilities. (We had an opening only a couple of times while I was there). For the obvious rejects, we just filed their resume in a folder in a dark, dark filing cabinet. So copying and pasting hundreds of email addresses into excel was really low on my priority list.

          1. Anonymous*

            For the obvious rejects, we just filed their resume in a folder in a dark, dark filing cabinet. So copying and pasting hundreds of email addresses into excel was really low on my priority list.

            If the application process was of sufficiently poor quality to be entirely paper-based, I can see extracting email addresses would be a time-consuming exercise. However, most places require electronic submission – which means that there is absolutely no excuse for not sending a global rejection email.

        2. fposte*

          Our email client doesn’t support mail merge, unfortunately. But copy and paste can be pretty quick, so that’s what we use.

          1. Anonymous*

            Then you need a new email client! No excuses. It’s 2011. This reminds me of the IT person a few months back who was bragging about not having a cell phone. Sheesh.

            1. KayDay*

              Shameless plug: We use Google Enterprise, which to my knowledge (I’m no IT person) doesn’t support mail merge unless you sync it with outlook (which isn’t that hard). But considering I have not yet had to send a mail merge (we have a database that can send emails), it’s great! It’s free for small non profits and universities, and it’s really cheap for for-profit businesses and larger non profits.

              It’s 2011; you should be able to find a really inexpensive tool online instead of needing an expensive email client and in house server. (reminder: I’m not an IT person, so I hope this makes sense).

              That said…the IT guy needs to get a cell phone.

            2. Kim Stiens*

              Plus, getting a new email client or setting up a mail merge (or LEARNING to set up a mail merge, if that’s not something one has done before) all takes time. If you’re talking to someone who claims to not have the time to do something, telling them to set up solutions that themselves take time and money is probably not the most fruitful move.

              1. Anonymous*

                If you’re talking to someone who claims to not have the time to do something, telling them to set up solutions that themselves take time and money is probably not the most fruitful move.

                Probably correct – those who are grimly determined to be lazy and rude will always find excuses to be so.

              2. fposte*

                “Lazy and rude,” seriously? I acknowledge receipt of every application and inform all candidates when they’re rejected, interview or no. You really think because I don’t use the technique you think I should that I’m lazy and rude?

              3. Anonymous*

                I apologize for the ambiguity – those who send nothing on the grounds of lack of time were the object of those remarks.

    2. Satia*

      I’m glad Anon qualified that that rejections would not be sent to anyone not interviewed. I have applied to many jobs, received no response or received an automatic response (along the lines of: Thank you for applying and someone will be in touch if we feel you are qualified). I shrug these off and continue applying.

      But it is very hurtful to go to an interview, to meet one or more people face-to-face, and to hear nothing. The fact is, looking for a job is an extremely vulnerable experience. This desperate applicant is obviously in need of a job but then everyone without a job is in desperate need of one. And to put yourself out there, to get your interview outfit dry cleaned, put on hose and makeup, and try to impress a stranger (or several strangers) and then not even hear back that the job was offered to someone else?

      I know that Alison has said it time and again and I’m so grateful to hear a manager say that it’s simply common courtesy to say tell an applicant, especially after an interview, that they did not get the job.

      As to the OP, I appreciate every reply from those who are pointing out a lack of compassion in cutting this guy off. However, there is much to be said for intuition and if you’re gut is telling you that this guy may be unstable, you owe it to the people who already work at your hotel not to encourage him further. Send the email and hopefully he will move on.

      Building a strong team of employees is a challenging and often delicate responsibility. You clearly know that you won’t hire this person and he deserves the same respect, stable or not, as anyone else.

    3. Anonymous*

      I have recieved everything from personalized letters being rejected before I was interviewed (that was weird, but good), to nothing after several interviews. And the places I had nothing from after interviews all fell off my list of places to work at or with or buy from. The large places with tracking systems have no excuse to not e-mail all applicants with a thanks but no thanks.

    4. KellyK*

      I think that if you’ve told people they’ll only hear from you if tehy’re short-listed, and you contact people that you’ve met with or spoken to, that definitely fills the minimum courtesy that a lot of people can’t be bothered to do.

      It would be *better* to use mail merge and do a form letter, particularly since the due date for applications only gives a vague idea of when you’ll actualy make an interview/no-interview decision. But when application screening is a small side part of your job and there’s no real HR, sometimes the bare minimum is all you can do.

  5. Anonymous*

    People cannot bulldog their ways into positions. What’s scary is that this behavior sometimes doesn’t show itself until it’s too late! So, it’s helpful to weed out candidates with this aggressive behavior. Trust me, they’re awful to work with! Good luck to the OP.

  6. Anonymous*

    May I just make one general statement about rejecting job candidates? If and when you send out an email or form letter of rejection, please spell the candidate’s name properly! I just got a rejection letter, and the person didn’t bother to proofread. I know I don’t have the most common of names and it can be spelled multiple ways, but the way this person spelled it is not even an option. While they waited, apparently, for the end of the hiring process for this position – which took a good part of the year – and I had already dismissed it in my mind since I assumed I wasn’t getting a call for an interview, it irked me more that they couldn’t be diligent enough to spell my name right. Yet, we, the candidates, have to make sure our cover letters, resumes, and applications have to be letter-perfect. Go figure…!

    Sure some of you are going to write that I was lucky to get a rejection letter. Sure, but at the same time, in my opinion, it’s disrespectful to spell someone’s name wrong – typo or otherwise.

  7. Joanna Reichert*

    As someone who has been in a tight financial spot since 2009, I understand the guy’s desperation.

    I fell into debt – literally- when I fell off my bicycle and smashed up my mouth. The immediate bill was $16,000+ and rose higher over the next few months as I required more surgeries and dental work.

    My credit is ruined, I was unemployed at the time (of course without insurance) and fortunately I’m blessed enough to have parents with a bit put away, and they bought my groceries, gas, a used car and professional clothing so I could look for a job again.

    If I didn’t have their support? You’d better believe I’d be at workforce agencies, riding my bicycle/walking, and visiting the food bank while working any little odd job I could.

    I don’t care how crazy and dire your situation – there are resources available to you and you simply cannot approach a professional position from a needy standpoint. It just reeks of immaturity and lack of social skills, and if a company cannot trust you this early on to be courteous and professional in your demeanor, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

  8. Kelly O*

    The other bad thing about this situation is there are “career experts” out there who would advise this guy to keep on trying until he gets a definitive “no” (and some who would argue even a “no” means “keep trying.”)

    The sad fact of the matter is, no matter how bad you feel for the individual, a business can’t start making charity hires. For one, I would guarantee you at some point, a new employee would tell someone that he told this sob story about his blind, pregnant wife and four kids and got the job. That someone might think “hmmm…” and either come knocking with his sob story, or make up one thinking “oh they won’t turn me down if I have a good story.”

    Let’s face it, there are lots of times that the only thing separating the eventual new employee from all the other applicants is how they mesh with the people they meet. It’s not qualifications (which may be equal) or experience (which may be very similar) or even technical ability. We talked the other day about basically being a vegan trying to get a job in a meat-packing plant – it just doesn’t jive.

    I do agree that in this case you need to say up front, “we are not interested in an employment relationship with you.” This guy doesn’t get boundaries and needs it spelled out for him. I’d think that even if you don’t normally notify unsuccessful applicants, this would be the guy who you just say no to. You don’t have to give a reason. Just say no. He’ll probably ask why (and I think that’s where people get all antsy about opening up potential legal/discrimination issues and don’t want to even have the conversation) – “we received many qualified resumes and could only move forward on some of them. You were not chosen. Good l luck in your job search.”

    Maybe not the easiest conversation to have, but clearly one that needs to be had.

    1. Mike C.*

      This is the other thing that came to mind. This could be a perfectly good candidate who is being told terrible advice from any number of “authoritative” sources.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s true. He could be getting bad advice. But he should have the sense to know it’s bad. Beyond that, the red flags I see in the OP’s account of the situation (that he is creepy and seems unbalanced) lead me to believe that he would be a terrible hire in any case. I can see hiring someone good in a bad situation to help them, but I doubt this is a good candidate. She needs to trust her gut and her gut is telling her that he has issues that would make him a severe liability.

  9. Anonymous*

    I think everyone needs to look at this a little differently. The issue isn’t the economy, or whether he should be hired based on his perceived desperation. This issue is that he is inappropriately persistent, doesn’t understand social cues, makes her feel uneasy, and is generally creepy. This is a personal safety issue! He seems unstable and would likely have trouble finding employment in any economy. She needs to firmly tell him he’s out of the running, advise him to stop contacting her, and then not respond to any further communication from him. Otherwise, he will think he still has negotiation power and he will only esculate things to new, creepier levels. I’ve encountered people like this before and that’s the only technique that works.

    1. L*

      I’m with you on this one. Although I empathize with this man’s feelings of sadness and desperation, his decision to ignore boundaries and social cues is unacceptable. He’s still responsible for his behavior. She does need to actually tell him he’s out of the running though.

      1. Anonymous*

        And it’s complicated by gender – what do you want to bet he’d have an easier time “believing” a rejection from a man?

  10. Yup*

    Agreed. Imagine that you’ve hired this guy — now fast forward six months or a year when he doesn’t get a raise. Will he then call HR and leave messages every day, begging for a raise because he needs it to provide for his family or pay his bills?

    I empathize with how bad the hiring environment is right now, and wish this poor guy well in finding something fast. But scaring the hiring folks with inappropriately aggressive contact renders them unable to see you as a capable, reliable employee.

  11. Christine*

    I’m surprised no one has noticed that the OP had put this guy in the “Call” pile. I’m not excusing his behavior, but I wonder how soon after the job posting was this guy beginning to leave messages. What was the OP’s timeline in contacting those in the “Call” pile?

    This reminds me of a friend of mine who played the desperation card when she wasn’t being called in for her part-time job (it was the type of job where the schedule is determined every couple of weeks based on staffing levels).

  12. Samantha*

    Yup stalker. And if he keeps calling don’t answer. The more you answer the phone the more he’ll try to change your mind. Again the book the Gift of Fear has a really good section on dealing with stalkers.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes on Gift of Fear. In fact, there is a section in Gift of Fear that references this exact same situation (the job candidate who constantly and inappropriately contacts the hiring manager)! In that case, it resulted in some pretty scary behavior when it wasn’t nipped in the bud early on. It’s spooky how similar the OP’s case is to the one profiled in Gift of Fear. When I worked in HR, our VP made us read it and for good reason.

    2. Nathan A.*

      I wouldn’t elevate this to “stalker” – it’s insulting.

      The guy simply hasn’t been told “no” yet. Nobody gave him boundaries, so he assumes that he isn’t being heard and needs to try harder – that’s pretty much it. Some people are just desperate and likely was just given some bad advice.

      If he keeps calling after being told no, starts showing up, and generally starts making people uncomfortable, you have an actual stalker problem. But, to call the guy a stalker even though he hasn’t been given an actual no is just being ignorant. Some people have social hangups and need a clear and definite “no”.

      I notice this with quite a few managers – the manager doesn’t know how to be firm and say “no”.

      1. Doug*

        @Nathan: You hit the nail right on the head. It is very insulting to call a person a stalker when no one has bothered to tell the guy “no”. I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve been on only to not have HR/hiring management have the professionalism or class to say “no….we are considering other candidates”. You are left with no follow-up call or email despite your best efforts to procure some kind of closure. Sure I just walk away, but its bad business. I don’t blame anyone for “stalking” if they have been treated poorly. One day the shoe will be on the other foot.

  13. Laura*

    I’ve had a similar problem in the past. Basically, I worked for a large tavern/pub style bar in which most of our staff were perky young females, and the uniform was a tight t-shirt and a plaid skirt. We were doing mass hiring for the summer season, in order to be prepared for patio season. We held open interviews one day a week… As bartender, people often came up to me to apply, and I was supposed to tell all “good applicants” (read: good looking, good attitude when interacting with me) to come back on that day for an interview, and all no-way-in-hell applicants (read: old, unattractive, bad attitude, male applying for a position we only hire females for) would be told that someone would call, and their resume went in the trash. It’s horrible, I know, but I got chewed out a few times for telling chubby girls about the open interview date, so as awful as I thought it was, I began to follow that practice. There was this middle aged woman with cokebottle glasses and a snaggle tooth that applied (resume thrown in garbage) who would return once or twice a week and DEMAND to see a manager, usually around the very inconvenient lunch rush, and I’d have to tell her there were none available, and that if they were interested, they would call her.

    However, every once in a while, an applicant would come up to the hostess instead of me to apply, and she would tell anyone and everyone about the open interview day… Old Snaggletooth one day found out about the interviews through her, and decided to show up. She was so angry with me for not telling her about it, and chewed me out so I had no option but to get a manager to interview her, HOPING this would mean she would finally leave me alone! Unfortunately, not only did I get in trouble for not doing a better job of evading her application (don’t see how else I could have), she STILL showed up all the time asking why she didnt get a call… at least after that she stopped bugging ME about it, and would walk straight over to the manager’s office to harass HIM about it…

    How do you avoid these situations in which it is clear that the position is still available (she can see 4 or 5 interviews going on when she shows up) and that the reasons for not hiring her are blatantly discriminatory? (before the stalkerish aggressive behavior, anyways)

    1. Nathan A.*

      As callous as this sounds, some positions (modeling) are very focused on how a person looks, and factors into the hiring process. You all aren’t being forthcoming about that as being a requisite though, which is why she keeps showing up.

        1. Laura*

          This was a bar… they were applying for waitressing positions, not to be models. Blatantly descriminatory, so the only thing we could do was pretend we weren’t hiring or were uninterested due to legitimate reasons… without divulging what those reasons were. Hard to do with someone who won’t take no for an answer, or are possibly fishing for lawsuit fodder.

        2. Laura*

          This was a bar… they were applying for waitressing positions, not to be models. Blatantly descriminatory, so the only thing we could do was pretend we weren’t hiring or were uninterested due to legitimate reasons… without divulging what those reasons were. Hard to do with someone who won’t take no for an answer, or are possibly fishing for lawsuit fodder.

    2. Anonymous*

      One thing to be aware is that she may decide to march down to EEOC and file discrimination! therefore what you seem to have, my friend is “kobayashi maru” a no win scenario!

  14. Laura L*

    I’m a few days behind on the comments here, but this situation and the comments about it make me think of the men who think that a woman owes it to them to talk to/date/sleep with them because they are a “nice” guy and haven’t gotten laid in months or years.

    Sorry, that’s not how it works. If I’m not interested in you, I don’t owe you anything, and you repeatedly telling me how desperate you are to get kissed (or laid, as the case may be), will not convince me to talk to/date/kiss/have sex with you.

    It will, in fact, make me run in the opposite direction. Regardless of what I thought of you before you behaved that way.

  15. Anonymous*

    Come On everyone! Gloria Seinham and other “liberated” ladies aggressively lobbied for the rights of females to have responsible positions in the workplace. But when you start saying someone “creeps you out” so you will not hire him is a cop out and you are playing the female card, just like him plaing the “my kids are starving” card. All right! so the guy is calling every day, and yes you have concerns about his boundries. Well did you ever consider that he may has the potential to be one of your best employees? If he is being this diligent in applying for the job, logic would dictate that he would also be a good employee, and would do what it takes within the company guidelines to be an excellent worker.

    Remember, this is NOT someone you are going to date, or marry or kiss. this is BUSINESS! and if this person does not work out and you find that he must be fired then you can document the fact that you did offer him the job, DESPITE this behavior and gave him a chance, one which he blew!

    You may also be facing an EEOC discrimination case, if the guy is a minority, or disabled, or over 40. in the end you may avoid the ” rap” but not the “ride” , by paying a settlement of $2,000 to $10,000, having EEOC come and comb through your personnel files, and even worse end up in court as a witness if EEOC decides to sue. Say nothing for the fact that EEOC could give the OP a “right to sue” letter, at which point the plaintiff lawyer “sharks” will smell blood and take his case!

    But whatever the case may be, sometimes it is just better to swallow some pride and just hire this guy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not sure why you’re assuming the commenters in question were women; there’s nothing indicating that.

      And no, having no awareness of normal professional boundaries does not mean he’d be a diligent worker; it’s more likely to mean he’d be the employee who can’t take no for an answer in the workplace.

      And there’s absolutely no reason to assume there’s an EEOC issue, any more than there is when rejecting any other candidate.

  16. Anonymous*

    The reason for someone to be persistant these days is that it is very competitive in the job market. How long has it been since many of you were out of work? Also, those of you, who attempt to judge this person’s request to have a chance at the job need to look at yourself and see whta you would do, or what you would want someone to do for you if you were the one searching for work, and needing to find enployment.

    As hard as it is to find work these days, it is also nearly as difficult to find people who have good work ethics. This whole since of propriety that some of you seem to have here may just not be applicable when dealing with a diverse population of job applicants and employees.

    My advice to you is to swallow some pride here and GIVE THIS PERSON A CHANCE! After he is hired, if it does not work out, then it is HIS fault, and you, at least can have a clear mind about the whole thing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Under that theory, candidates should call every day because it’s so competitive in this market. That doesn’t make sense. Employers will continue to hire people who show that they know how to conduct business in an appropriate way.

  17. Anonymous*

    nobody is sayng you should hire everyone who calls every day! But in the case of this person, perhaps he should be given the chance, despite this poster’s concerns, and during the probation period if he does not work out then he should be terminated. Even if you hire someone who conducts himself/herself during the initial interview and screening process may not always guarantee futuer success on the job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      When you have tons of highly qualified applicants, they all deserve to be “given a chance.” But with one slot and hundreds of candidates, that’s not possible.

  18. HRCajun85*

    While in this economy, I feel empathy towards all of my applicants, I have unfortunately fallen victim to situations such as this HR Manager. I recently had an applicant who emailed several times, getting more and more desperate with how badly he needed this position, and also trying to use God and his religious beliefs to guilt me into putting his application on the top of my priority list. I totally agree with other posters regarding this man’s boundary issues. In my opinion, an applicant’s interview truly begins at the moment of their application and throughout the follow up process leading to an acutal interview. If he is willing to make poor decisions, overstep social norms, and ignore common sense boundaries, this speaks on what type of employee he’ll be. Desperation is an emotion we’ll all go through at one point in our personal and professional lives. It’s how you react and manage your desperation that can make-or-break a career.

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