How to Deal With Unrelenting Candidates Without Sacrificing Your Employer Brand

How to Deal With Unrelenting Candidates Without Sacrificing Your Employer Brand

Annoying or pleasantly persistent? Hiring teams and recruiters are often forced to make this call based on specific job seekers’ actions. But how can one applicant be considered tenacious and another a stalker?  Adam Karpaik argues that “It’s almost impossible to be annoying… if [they’re] qualified.”

If you’re getting overwhelmed by a candidate’s continued follow-up, it’s important to approach the situation with tact, whether the applicant is qualified or not. Remember, any interaction with a job seeker impacts your employer brand. When that candidate calls for the third update in one week, take a deep breath, and remember these four tactics:

Set Clear Boundaries

When you know that it’s going to be impossible to give feedback to every single applicant, then you need to create clear expectations for candidates on how and when they will hear from you. Automate an acknowledgment email that is sent when applicants submit their information in order to give them a concrete outline of how the process will work going forward. This should help you avoid a barrage of follow up calls and emails from antsy job seekers. It will also establish a point of contact within your company, so candidates will be less likely to try to get in touch with department heads or management to get a foot in the door.

Many recruiters are worried that automated emails are off-putting to candidates because they lack any personal connection. However, in this case, a prompt, albeit automated, response will help put candidates at ease about next steps and can even be considered a sign of professional respect. If a candidate continues to contact you, politely refer them back to your original email and remind them of the next step. You should be able to avoid wasting time with a back-and-forth while preserving both your sanity and your employer reputation.

Never Miss a Touchpoint

You’ve given your applicants an outline of the hiring process from their end, now it’s your job to stick to it. Applicants, especially the persistent ones, need to be reminded that you’re working with/for their interest. That means keeping them in the loop. If your timeline changes, drop them a quick line and let them know why you need to push something out.

Most importantly, when creating your timeline, be realistic about when and how you will be able to update applicants. Try to gauge the number of candidates you will have based on past placements and job requirements, and then block times off on your calendar to take care of follow-ups and touchpoints. Set reminders on your phone if you have to. If you’re working with a candidate who continues to contact you after your scheduled touchpoints, politely and firmly remind them of the next step and reiterate when they should expect to hear back from you. Hopefully, they will get the message.

Decline Candidates ASAP

Your team should already have a policy in place for how and when you decline unsuccessful candidates. The actual results may vary based on your workload and the volume of applicants a job has, but a good rule of thumb is to never leave an unqualified candidate hanging for more than 72 hours. Absolutely do not ghost them or ignore them if they ask for an update outside of that window.

You’re not obligated to give specific reasons for why they haven’t made the cut (although constructive criticism is good for everybody), but try to balance the short, non-specific response you want to write with the personal, sincere message that will soften the rejection.

One standard response that helps to guard against inadvertent discriminatory statements is “Thank you for applying, but we have decided to pursue other applicants.” If you don’t want to offer any specific criticisms, add a sentence or two about their interview strengths or how you hope to run into them in town. Whatever you add, make it personalized to every candidate, and if an applicant tries to argue with your verdict or becomes angry, simply reiterate your statement and end the conversation without upsetting the applicant further.

Have some Empathy

You were a job seeker once, remember the uncertainty and anxiety that comes along with it. When an unrelenting applicant comes your way, try to remember that they hang on to every word of your calls and emails. Try to invoke their own self confidence in your correspondence. Think  of it as a chance to hone your own communication skills. Watch your tone, and try to build them up, even when you reject a candidate. Remember that whatever you say with help to form their opinion of you and the company. Even worse, if you’re rude or aggressive in your messaging, job seekers will likely share their experience with friends and family which can tarnish your brand.

In the end, having empathy boils down to prompt responses to their notes and a clear message that you hear their concerns and are working your hardest to make sure that they are updated as quickly as possible. As always, if a candidate bothers you beyond what you can handle, simply remind them of your next touchpoint and let them know you’re looking forward to addressing their concerns then.


If a candidate is making your life a nightmare and you’re worried that your response or eventual rejection could cause legal or brand issues for the company, don’t be afraid to consult an attorney. They can give you advice or even engage with a candidate when necessary to make sure the problem goes away for good.

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