How to communicate with a persistent candidate

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Q:  I am a hiring manager of a growing company.  We are hiring more sales reps.  When we have our top candidates, we try to communicate that we have identified our top 2 or 3.  We first look at the ability to meet a quota, and then if they are a fit with our team.  By fit, I am mean having experience working in a start-up/early-stage company, and are familiar with a scrappy environment, and not a lot of layers of management.  Often times, we turn down candidates because of lack of industry experience, a “jumpy” employment history or they discuss that their prior organizations have 2 supervisors, 1 manager etc.  Or they expect lots of training, and are sent to a home office to receive extensive training.  We don’t have an extensive training program at a home office within the organization.  We are the home office and no one is designated as a full-time trainer.

I have had to turn down many strong candidates.  We may call them at a later date, if we continue to grow.  However, there are some candidates who almost torment us.  They call every week, and they send us messages through LinkedIn.  They can’t seem to take a simple no.  They threaten to sue us.  It is exhausting.  The emails, voicemails, etc. make me less interested in them.  One candidate even mailed me a package of cookies and asked that I re-consider her application.  I know candidates are encouraged to follow-up, but some are overly persistent, to the point of being obnoxious.  One candidate told me that she knew a board member of our company, and the board member recommended her.  This is untrue! 

What can we do? 

A: I don’t question your experience with candidates.  Once I had a candidate place a resume in my family’s mailbox.  I think that is stepping over the boundary of professionalism.  To me, it sends a message of inappropriate conduct.  These behaviors can approach questionable or even frightening.

You could strongly word an email or a text that this behavior is unacceptable.  Reasonable follow-up is ok, and sometimes demonstrates ongoing interest. You should put this candidate on notice that their follow-up behavior is beyond what is acceptable.  Maybe you did not specify how frequently (e.g., once per week or once per month?) or what method (e.g., email or voicemail or only if you have seen a position posted on our website?), however, they have gone beyond what most would consider reasonable limits.

I would suggest emailing this candidate a clear message.  The email could read like this:

Chris, I have received all of your emails, voicemails and even a gift from you.  I think your follow-up has been excessive.  Please discontinue contacting me.  I wish you the very best in your job search.

Sending an email provides a “paper trail” of evidence that unquestionably communicates to Chris that this behavior should stop.  It may be helpful to have a copy of this email if you ever have to file a complaint against her.

If this candidate’s behavior continues, you should consider further action to protect yourself.   If you have building security, I would notify them.  You may also want to notify the local police, if the behavior continues beyond your email.  Stalking and trespassing can be unlawful in Massachusetts.

As a side note, think about incorporating your “fit with the team” another way.  Add language which states experience with a start-up company, ability to work independently with few layers of management and industry experience is strongly preferred.  Sometime “fit with the team” can be used to screen out candidates who may be different than your existing team.  If these differences include age, race, gender, color, sexual identity and ethnicity, that can be very problematic.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.