Candidate trolls

Apr 20, 2017

They wreck the recruiting process, and a lot of them want a great offer to use as leverage for a raise where they already work.

Remember how recruiters used to sneak up and wow candidates with amazing opportunities? Those fantastic jobs still exist and are easy to sell. But when recruiters fail to follow-up with candidates because firms decline for one reason or another, bad things happen. Now candidates are striking back by trolling recruiters more savagely than ever. They’re the real deal in recruiting nightmare scenarios, and it’s pure annoyance – an adrenaline rocket of disappointment that explodes on email contact.

Wait, say the skeptical, seasoned recruiters. Isn’t this about the lack of quality candidates, recruiters failing to be direct, and choosing silent indifference when there’s not a next step in the hiring process? Yes, it’s that, too. And yet these trolls – in turn not responding when they’re needed most – can temporarily crash the recruiting process beyond the borders of nihilism.

Troll candidates have found something they love about this tale, as it unfolds within an online world gone crazy, of firms looking to expand business sectors. The hiring and recruiting process can be deliriously fast and fun, a wonderful match of individual and team cultures set in perpetual motion by cold calling and InMails. But when these cultures don’t match, when candidates don’t get the advertised opportunity, or when they show their true colors, there’s a body count.

The “drug addict” troll candidate. Beware! This troll is cleverly pleased by impressing everyone with an initial phone conversation. After receiving the toxic high of praise, he or she will then accept a face-to-face follow-up interview – and cancel a few hours before the meeting. When faced with this situation, recruiters try to splash water on the overdosed candidate’s face. We don’t want the candidate to die, a situation made worse by not showing up to the interview. But what’s a recruiter to do?

The past always pulls everyone in. The candidate’s history of being hired once before and developing an ideal skill set are no match for the dozens of other dream jobs he or she has been applying to on Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn – all without a single response. And then you did respond, potentially giving the candidate a place at the table of the A/E elite. That’s when the “drug addict” troll candidate returns to old habits. Recruiters will continually praise that one great conversation when sobriety dominated, but the candidate will take hit after hit of email, messaging, and voicemail praises. In the end, however, these drug addicts will just be happy with the hits. They won’t follow through and they’ll add you to the list of recruiters and firms they trolled before overdosing themselves out of contention.

The “Jekyll & Hyde” troll candidate. As I write this, one of my colleagues is cold-calling an MEP candidate who has posted on LinkedIn that he is looking for a new position. The career opportunity matches his background perfectly, and the firm would even let him build his own team.

Suddenly, the calm and collected Dr. Jekyll candidate transforms into Mr. Hyde. “You shouldn’t be calling me at my firm! I know I didn’t post my personal cell or personal email address, but you should use them anyway, even if you don’t know them. Also, I’m looking for a job – but I’m not – but I am!” The diatribe takes place over his work phone as he outlines a step-by-step recruiting guide that takes longer to navigate than the entire Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series combined.

To be fair, all my colleague said was that he was giving him a quick call to see if he had five to 10 minutes of free time after work to talk. The only positive is that we now have insight on how he will treat his team. We’ll take this trolling hit and move on.

Lastly, both websites and candidates are constantly selling their services. However, modern A/E firms and recruiters need to recognize when candidates are trolling them and treating the recruiting process like a Facebook group they joined but secretly despise. If candidates are looking for an opportunity but won’t listen, then the recruiting process will go nowhere. If offer letters are presented without a deadline (please sign and return the offer by April 15) they are used as leverage to secure raises where they already work. And, most important of all, if candidates can’t follow through on simple pre-employment appointments, then what makes you think they’ll follow through once your firm hires them? Nothing, because they’re trolls!

Chris Patton is the team leader of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1192 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.