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A rejected candidate with frightening follow-up behaviors

Q: I have never seen this question in this column before. I am a hiring manager of a growing company. We are selectively adding to our team of engineers. Because of the economy, we have many qualified candidates from which to choose. Sometimes we narrow down the pool of candidates to a few final candidates and then select one that we think will best fit with the team. I have had to turn down many strong candidates. One candidate though has been a bit too overzealous in her follow-up. I often suggest to a strong candidate (who may have been turned down) to follow-up with me periodically. And most candidates will email me every few weeks if they are still interested and looking for a job. This is fine. However, recently, I had a candidate who called me 2-3X per week since May, 2011. Then she will email me minutes later saying that I have not returned her call. Her tone will be aggressive and demanding. She has asked our receptionist for my cell number saying that she has trouble reaching me. Once she even stopped by our reception desk and left a small gift for me. The last straw was that she found me on Facebook and has asked that I “friend” her. I am getting nervous about this woman. She is behaving in a way that is too forceful. I no longer will consider her for our next position. What can I do?

A: Thanks for your question and I can almost feel your anxiety as I read (and re-read) your question. I have run across a few candidates with similar behavioral traits. Simply said, these behaviors can be frightening.

You should put this candidate on notice that her follow-up behavior is beyond what is acceptable. Maybe you did not specify how frequently she should follow-up with you (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, she has gone beyond what most would consider reasonable and professional limits.

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

Mary, 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 Mary that her 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 Mary’s behavior continues, you should consider further action to protect yourself and others in your company and family. If you have building security, I would notify them. You may also want to notify the local police. Stalking and harassment are against the law in Massachusetts.

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