how can I tell a job applicant that her behavior is inappropriate?

A reader writes:

I’ve been hiring for a few different positions since mid-summer and have one applicant who I now recognize by name, as she applies for every position. However, she just isn’t qualified and I’m starting to get a bit irritated, especially when her emails come to me with statements like these in them: “This is my fourth time applying and I really believe I’m the best person for the job and I won’t stop trying! Please give me the chance to wow you!”

She has also called me a couple times and once stopped by to visit during an inconvenient time without an appointment and waited for an hour while I was in a meeting.

I do feel a bit bad for her, as she seems new to the field and possibly just misguided job-search-advise-wise. I feel she’s doing herself a great disservice by being so persistent. I would really like to give her feedback in a kind way to tell her this isn’t an appropriate way to land a job. What are your thoughts?

You’d absolutely be doing a service by giving her feedback, as long as you do it in a kind way.

I might say something like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve applied for quite a few positions with us and I wondered if it would be helpful for me to give you some feedback about your application. I’d be glad to set up a time for a phone call if you’d find it useful.”

If she takes you up on it, you could then let her know that (a) you’re generally looking for qualifications X, Y, and Z when you hire, and that you don’t typically consider candidates without that; (b) she’s making her cover letters less effective when she cites how many times she’s applied and says that she won’t stop; and (c) showing up without an appointment will alienate far more employers than it will please.

By the way, be prepared for some defensiveness, which isn’t an uncommon reaction to feedback in this context — but trust that even if you encounter defensiveness, your feedback may sink in and make a difference later. It’s still a kind thing to do, even if it seems unappreciated in the moment.

One last point: Don’t be irritated. This applicant is probably frustrated and maybe a little desperate, and simply doesn’t understand how this stuff works. Yes, her behavior is inappropriate (especially the stopping by without an appointment), but not knowing how to job search appropriately isn’t exactly a character flaw like dishonesty or jerkiness. Give her some help if you’re willing, but either way, don’t let it irk you.

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