Bridge Out Ahead: Applicants Burning Bridges Before They’ve Been Crossed?

One of the most interesting aspects of recruiting is the human interaction and the incredibly wide variety of personalities that we encounter. We all have our lists of applicant horror tales and candidate side-splitters when we gather around the Recruiters’ Happy Hour story swap. Eclectic and unique don’t even come close to describing it (I see your nodding smile). But this week I had a somewhat unfamiliar and unexpected interaction with a candidate, and after picking myself up off the floor, I had to decide not only how I would respond to his email, but I also had to decide if there was any way I could possibly proceed with his candidacy.

In a nutshell, he flipped me off. Decisively.

With a particularly heavy week of candidate responses to several job postings, on top of my 87 other Human Resources Management duties this week, I had the familiar task of sorting through all of the 500+ applicants by position, then screening further based upon our criteria and moving forward in the process. As I do not presently have at my disposal an automated method of responding to every applicant with at least a receipt acknowledgement (antiquated, yes I know), lately I’ve taken to just sending out a very succinct but professional reply. It is addressed, “Dear Applicant”, and it basically confirms that I am in receipt of the applicant’s resume (which saves them the trouble of three follow-up phone calls inquiring of same); that we are looking at all of them, and don’t call us, we’ll call you. At least this is better than the apparently more common black hole of no response, or so I assumed. But given the email from one respondent with his one-word subject line reading simply, “BULLSH!T”, methinks this candidate is not so much happy.

Please allow me to paraphrase the flipper’s dissertation (my editorial commentary in italics for your amusement): I know your position isn’t real (then why did you email me?). You posted it to cover your arse. And schmucks like me trying to support a family waste allllll this time and energy responding to the job, only to get a BS reply like this (so writing this reply isn’t wasteful?). Why don’t you have the decency to call and tell me if I’m seriously a candidate or not? (Maybe since I’m not Superman I cannot effectively screen 528 resumes in 36 hours?) I am sorry for being so unprofessional (Oh, um, thanks?), but I am perfect for this job (Sure you are! Why ever did I not see it before?). I keep getting responses like this, and you high and mighty HR jerk offs deserve a piece of my mind. (…crickets… I got nothin’…). You better hope this Karma doesn’t catch up with you (Why, did he apply too?). Best Regards, Mr. Nicely Wonderful, Managing Partner. (Managing Partner of what, Psychotic Inc?). There was more, quite a bit of it. But his point is made.

The worst part is, this candidate actually had some of the credentials we were looking for. Before I received his love letter, his resume had been selected for the short pile of potentials. His education was admirable, his experience in the industry was surprisingly stable, he had the right location… he truly had a shot. Were I not fortunate to have received enough other seemingly qualified applicants, I may have been forced to toy with whether or not I should overlook his brazen honesty and proceed with an interview. Thanks to Karma I won’t have to. I have decided to let his unguarded personality simply speak for itself, and regrettably he speaks a language that my company cannot condone. The thought of potential customer complaints were I to let this cannon loose into my client field is frightening; how much further would this person go if he were really provoked? I will also unfortunately remember his name, for as long as my recruiting life lives.

In my much earlier days of recruiting, I probably would have initiated a rather lively sparring match, giving him a piece of my mind and feeling rather lofty in doing so. He deserves it after all. I cannot explain it, but from some deep-seated pool of merciful compassion, I actually did send Mr. Wonderful a very professional, supportive, and encouraging response, while taking great care not to give him any indications that his candidacy would continue. Hopefully he will receive it in the spirit with which it was intended, namely affirming the understanding that we all know how tough the job market is out there, and that we’re all doing the best we can.

And in the meantime, if you have a bridge that you feel deserves a good burning, you may want to consider trying to cross it first and check the view from the other side.

I would love to hear how you would have responded in this situation, or hear some of your bridge-burner stories if you’d like to share.

 

Nanci Lamborn

Brightmove Team Writer

Nanci Lamborn is a 20-year veteran of human resources and recruiting. She currently recruits in the Atlanta area for the insurance industry and recently obtained her SPHR designation.

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