How to Lose a Candidate in Four Easy Steps

Having a hard time keeping your best candidate interested in your opening? This post may be about you! How to lose a candidate in four easy steps, essentially, what not to do in your hiring process.

No Agenda

Cold calling is still very much a work of art, although cold calling a candidate with no set agenda, not good.

One way to lose promising candidates? Calling them with no agenda, said Naomi Baggs, author of “How to Lose a Candidate in 10 Days.”

“Try calling a candidate with no agenda, get them to step outside their office for at least five minutes while you watch the seconds tick away and ask them about salary requirements, their previous managers, applications and any other fishing you can do. When the candidate asks about the opportunity you have in mind, bluntly tell them that you don’t have one, just keen to find out in case something comes up,” she says.

Instead, focus on your goal. Get some of the basics out of the way quickly and ask them if you can schedule a 10-minute call for later in the day.

Cold Shoulder, Warm Shoulder

Nothing like a roller coaster ride in the middle of your work week. It’s a little game called “will we reach out to you?” Candidates, especially the ones that meet all of your qualifications, love to be tossed around like a county-fair ride. It’s a hurry-up-and-wait industry. Giving your candidate the cold shoulder when you don’t have feedback is one of the worst things you can do. The warm shoulder is when you need something from them. Whether it’s references, updated resume, or interview availability, you’re probably blowing up their phone to get the info you need. The warm shoulder shows that you’re only interested in speaking with them when you need something.

Fun fact, don’t give your candidate either shoulder. It’s important to keep a balance of information. Ask them for a schedule or “best time to call” and follow up with him/her at that time. Whether you have an update for your candidate or not, it’s important to keep that line of communication open.

Oversell the Job

Briggs continues to write, overselling the job is a main key to losing a qualified candidate. Just tell them that, “while it may not be the salary or even close to the type of job they told you they are looking for, definitely emphasize they will be working on cutting-edge, world-leading stuff that definitely matches their profile. Vouch for the office location (even though you’ve not been there yet… the manager told you it’s nice, though). Short contract? Tell them there’s a 99 percent chance the company will keep them on even if you have no clue. Let the candidate take the day off work and sit back as they experience the disappointment for themselves.”

Hint, don’t oversell. In fact, sometimes it’s better to undersell and over deliver.

They Didn’t Get the job?

Was your candidate turned down? That’s OK. If you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, just don’t call. I’m sure the candidate will forget about it if you just don’t get back to them anyway. If they track you down, you can always dodge the call and send them a template email saying that you tried to call to give feedback but couldn’t get through, just a one-liner saying they were unsuccessful will be fine.

Pro tip, call your candidate every step of the way. Keep that open line of communication strong and let them know why the process is ending with poor news. Each of you has invested time and effort, so be courteous.

Mike Taback
About the Author
Michael Taback is the social media manager at Crawford Thomas Recruiting, a nationwide executive recruiting firm based in Orlando, FL., with offices in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Tampa, and Atlanta. He has extensive knowledge with recruiting in multiple industries, working directly with OEMs and independent dealerships around the country. Connect with Michael on LinkedIn or reach him at