July 17, 2018

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The Candidate’s “Evil Twin”

There’s one phenomenon pertaining to candidates which, although it occurs infrequently, happens consistently enough to earn its own label. I call it the “Evil Twin Syndrome.”

If we were to perform an anatomy of the “Evil Twin” syndrome it usually unfolds as follows:

  1. Recruiter pre-screens/interviews a candidate either by phone or in person.

  2. Recruiter observes candidate’s professional demeanor, good skill set and sets up initial interview with decision maker.

  3. Candidate is equally liked by all company managers and is invited for second interview. All along candidate is thankful and professional to the recruiter and displays excellent social and business etiquette to hiring managers.

  4. At some point, either immediately after the second interview or just prior, the candidate’s “Evil Twin” surfaces in the form of “alter-ego”. This “Evil Twin” is a mean-spirited, combative, angry individual who reveals their fangs and begins to turn the tables of authority, set their own rules for proceeding and perhaps even belittle the recruiter as his/her demands are set forth.

  5. The “Evil Twin” personality appears only to the recruiter, as if it is a phantom the hiring managers cannot “see.” Company managers see the “hirable personality” and are about to make an offer to someone who is beginning to display schizophrenic-like, diametrically opposed personalities.

  6. This situation presents a conundrum to the recruiter. What is the source of this “ill-will?” Does the recruiter try to appease the candidate to secure the fee and “Hyde” Jekyll’s presence from the client (sorry about the pun)? Or do you reveal what is going on at once to the manager knowing it will kill the deal?

Sound familiar?

What would you do? Do you go for the fee (if you are on contingency)? Or advise your client they may be pursuing the wrong candidate and reveal your observations regarding the now-exposed demonic-side this candidate possesses?

The good news is that candidates with “Evil Twins” don’t come around often. To each 100 or so interviews this may manifest itself only twice or three times. With a three percent realization ratio, this symptom is easily forgotten until it resurfaces again months later only to be unrecognized when it does because you forgot the pattern.

Candidates that turn from civil and courteous appreciators of recruiters' efforts to nasty, combative, and hostile individuals at the late stages, do so for one reason only:

They really DO NOT want the job. Period!

But to “morph” into an evil twin the following criteria must also co-exist:

  1. Candidate is highly desired by company hiring managers (You know this for a fact).

  2. Candidate is aware of item #1 above and that you are aware of item #1.

  3. Despite items #1 and #2, Candidate has secretly decided against accepting an offer.
  4. Candidate knows or suspects there’s a fee at stake for recruiter.

Here lies the rub: Rather than be sincere and tell you they don’t want the job they choose to continue the motions with the recruiter! This can range for reasons of pure entertainment (they wish to see a recruiter squeal and squirm trying to salvage a deal) or to satisfy other agendas (they may just want to practice what they can get away with on your time).

To the untrained recruiter who gets drawn into trying to appease this type of candidate and do everything possible to “save the deal,” you are only feeding the demon more. After all, recruiters are forever the optimists and highly confident they can over-come any objection, so the candidate feeds the recruiter’s ego with challenges. The recruiter then acts as he/she is trained with knee-jerk reactions to save the deal at all costs.

The more you try to invent clever solutions the more the candidate has you over the barrel creating taller and taller steeples for you to chase! If you succeed in jumping the rapidly growing hedgerows, the taller they become! What happens next can be compared to riding an out of control bucking bronco or one of those runaway mine train rides at the amusement park.

Tally-Ho Anyone?

Here’s how to identify if you’re dealing with the real candidate, or the newly emerged “Evil Twin” who has become a pseudo candidate:

  1. Ask the candidate to perform simple tasks according to your exact instructions. Such as to call and not email. If the candidate continues to email, and tells you “my requirements require we email one another” ignoring your rules … you have identified a potential manifestation of the evil twin.

  2. Candidate’s salary requirement suddenly jumps well beyond a reasonable 5-10% differential and is now asking for a salary 20-30% more of what was originally sought in initial pre-screening discussions.

  3. Candidate who was previously cooperative stops returning calls, or requires you make repeated calls in order to get one returned (sincerely interested candidates will call back usually within a few hours or at most one day later).

  4. Candidate cannot be “closed” regardless of what method you use. They use carefully scripted language full of “loop holes” and loose ended verbiage (such as “perhaps I would consider $65k if this, that and the other thing were all in place”). Simple yes or no answers should suffice with sincere candidates. Evil twins will not permit yes or no replies to be had and send you in circles.

  5. In some cases, candidate may use semi-threatening language pertaining to how they will report you to the company hiring managers until they get their way, etc. “If you try to say anything about this conversation, I will … (blow this deal … rat you out … tell them about how lousy you are … etc. etc).”

I’ve learned that when the “Evil Twin” surfaces there’s only one solution for prompt extermination of this demonic phantom that will drive you nuts:

You must remove the candidate from contention and invest efforts in the next candidate.

End of story.

It’s simple, but it goes completely against the competitive nature of a recruiter. And since Evil Twin candidates are usually Street Smart and know they’re dealing with competitively rigged personalities that will never, ever quit prematurely, they now have you as they say in Chess,“Check”.

One way to test if your candidate has morphed is as follows:

“Jeff I detect you are no longer interested in this position. Your attitude has changed and I do not sense the desire I initially saw in you. I suggest you allow me to keep you in mind for other positions (if the relationship has not gone down the tube yet) that might be of more benefit. I would like to advise the manager we look at other candidates for this particular position”.

Now gauge the reaction. If the “Evil Twin” doesn’t back down without kicking and screaming, you may have to remove their name from contention yourself regardless of what he/she thinks or agree to. If you sense they are interested go back to steps 1- 5. If things are still too loosey-goosey then its time to clamp down.

The reasons a candidate will feign continued interest can vary. Here are a few reasons as well as a glimpse of what the candidate may be thinking:

  1. Pure Entertainment – Candidate thinks: Don’t I just love watching this recruiter squirm and fight for a fee that is being lost! Gosh this is better than watching “The Apprentice” on TV! I’m going to have fun milking this the whole way.

  2. Interviewing Skill – Candidate thinks: Since I don’t care about this job, let me throw a bunch of stuff out and see what I could get away with for practicing purposes. Maybe I can sharpen my skills on this recruiter’s time. I always wondered what the limits of negotiating were.

  3. I could use this offer – Candidate thinks: I could use the offer but not the job. I would LOVE to have this offer! Especially one at the ridiculously higher rate I’m now ballsy enough to ask for. Imagine if this could be obtained in writing … preferably on company stationary! I could run to the other company I met last week and show them how much I’m really worth! I could also use this for negotiation leverage against a promotion here at my current job! I might even be able to buy a house using this as collateral. Gosh what a peachy position I happen to be in … I’m finally in control!

Most candidates ought to disclose they do not seek the position and be candid. This is particularly true if the recruiter/candidate rapport is decent. Regardless of rapport, a few small percentage will not be sincere and play their hand until they break the bank. But while they are saying one thing to you their underlying intent rests somewhere between items 1-3 listed above.

This is precisely why using a recruiter specialist is so valuable!!

Only those companies using a recruiting service will ever have a chance of uncovering such potential “ticking time-bomb” candidates. If they reveal an unpleasant aspect of their personality to a recruiter won’t it resurface with the company’s clients', co-workers or vendors at some point? Yes. In fact this type of candidate can become the most viscous hire in years the company has ever had. She may even give her new boss a run for his money as he is forced to fight to keep his job. It will be the same “M.O.” this person approaches the job with.

It is precisely this type of situation that enhances and underscores the value of a third party recruiter. Yet many recruiters blow their opportunity to prove their unique worth to the company just at the time they are most able to prove your value as a recruiter.

Instead of revealing what is going on and sharing your unique observations by consulting the client accordingly some opt to protect the fee at all costs. What you receive in the end is neither the fee nor the respect from the client or candidate.

Trying so save this deal will result in a perfect Loose/Loose situation for all three parties.

I had such a situation where the company became forever loyal to me when I disclosed the abrasive, mean, angry, shouting tone of voice a controller applicant had begun using during the final stages. The CFO stated he was impressed I would do such a thing in light of the fee at take. “You were about to receive a significant fee, Frank and gave me advice sparing me unknown costs I would have had later. You will always be the first and only recruiter I ever call from now on.” He was too. I may have delayed our fee a few weeks. But we found another candidate and made the placement. I also boxed in a loyal-to-the-death client for many years (sadly, Marty really did pass away while on the job.)

After reasons #1, and #2, the next most likely reason a candidate is apt to “turn on you” is that they want the offer (not the job) to prop up another position they are more interested in accepting a position with.

This is why I never permit offers to be extended unless a candidate has pre-committed to me at what level they will accept at. It saves all parties time and prevents drawn out delays in making a decision.

The way to uncover this is simple. Ask “Confidentially, between you and I, at what salary level would you definitely accept a position at?”

The reply should be any quantifiable figure. If instead you get something like this:

“Let’s first see what they come to us with and I’ll take it from there.” You have identified your problem. Whenever someone starts with the “Let’s see” sentence they have never accepted the offer regardless of amount later. We need to put the horse in front of the cart again.

“We won’t get to that position unless I know what the acceptable figure is. If you are not able to provide me with a figure, especially now that you have had (# of interviews such as 2, 3, 4 etc.), this leads me to conclude you are not interested in this position. If you are not interested let’s move on and I will withdraw your name from contention. ”

It’s the old “take it way” technique. Yes its painful, but no pain, no gain. It hurts to say goodbye to a fee and to know you may have to re-initiate the search from scratch but better now than after agonizing weekends not knowing if the candidate will accept an offer they have been sitting on for days.

Of course, you will also have eliminated the “evil twin” and will not be better positioned to refocus on finding a candidate with ernest interest in your position.

If you wish to take smaller ‘baby steps’ first, then look at the list of the four items “empowering” the Evil Twin cited earlier in this article. Start peeling those items away one at a time.

To make the Evil Twin instantly vanish: Simply remove the candidate from contention.

Example: “John your attitude has degraded into an abrasive dialogue. I do not feel I deserve this as I have been upfront and very professional throughout. I can no longer represent you and feel comfortable I’m doing right by our client. I have notified management, forwarded your last email and have recommended removing you from contention as we are focusing on another individual.”

Poof! You have become Merlin the Wizard again. Candidate now squirms instead.

Entire problem is now gone along with the candidate’s abrasive, cocky attitude. It’s now “Check & Mate” and recruiter wins.

Just make sure the company is aware of how and why you must take the drastic action you are about to take and be sure to discuss any disturbing patterns of dialogue before hand so they were forewarned and not surprised. You should also get full credit for sparing them the agony of a poor future hire. That’s the least you can get in return should it impact a fee temporarily.

-Frank Risalvato, CPC

Risalvato has appeared on numerous radio and TV business segments and has been considered a nationally respected authority on hiring and staffing trends since 1987. He has written countless articles on the subject of careers, job searching, recruiting & more since founding IRES, Inc. in 1991 · Visit and get two of his books for the price of just one through January, 2005 · Main Tel: (973) 300-1010 · Email: