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Recruiting Horror Stories — Terrifying Tales From the Front Lines of Recruitment

Recruiting is an exciting, rewarding, and complex profession. To do it well, you have to be an effective sales person, be able to build trusting relationships quickly, and understand the complexities of each client’s business and each candidate’s experience. There are very few dull moments in this business, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Our team has nearly 80 years of combined recruiting experience—and while most of that has been spent matching incredible clients with the exceptional talent they need to grow their businesses, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. With Halloween around the corner, I asked our team to share their scariest recruiting horror stories, and they did not disappoint. 

If you’ve ever struggled with a job search (and most of us have—it can be hard out there), let these scary stories serve as your reminder that it could always be much, much worse. 

The Cursed Candidate

For most people, getting the news that you’re out of the running for a job stings at least a little bit. As much as we want to tell ourselves that it isn’t personal—rejection isn’t fun. You spend a few minutes stewing thinking that they made a horrible mistake, talk about it with people closest to you, take a few deep breaths, and then move on with your job search. It’s not personal, it’s business, and you know that the right job is out there for you. 

For one candidate, it wasn’t just news that she wouldn’t be going through to a second interview—it was incontrovertible proof of something she’d suspected all along: she was cursed. 

Apparently there had been a string of bad luck in her life, which started just after a trip to New Orleans. Thus, the most logical conclusion was that she’d been cursed during her travels (what she thought she’d done to deserve being cursed, she did not share), and needed to exorcise the demons that were following her. 

The Smug Sales Candidate

It’s important for everyone to have professional standards. We should strive to find workplaces where we fit in and feel that we’re able to do our best work, and it’s important to understand yourself enough to know what you will and won’t do for a job. That’s part of what the interview process is for—to make sure that there’s a mutual fit in the role for both sides. 

However, one candidate took things a bit too far during his initial interview. He dressed very casually, didn’t answer questions directly, and interrupted the interviewer frequently. He claimed that he was the right fit for the job because “my mother has always told me I’m unique. You’d be lucky to have me.” Not the best start, as the employer had a more formal dress code, wasn’t particularly keen on being interrupted, and was looking for qualifications unrelated to the candidate’s mother’s opinion. 

The client attempted to salvage the interview and kept going. When he opened his laptop to show the candidate the product demo (which would make up a big part of the job—selling software typically involves showing the software to clients), the candidate stopped him immediately and said: “There are 3 things I don’t do: I don’t work with children, I don’t work with animals, and I don’t do demos.” 

He did not get the job. Here’s hoping that his mother helped him find a job suitable for someone as “unique” as him. 

The Work-from-home Fraud

Working from home some or all of the time is becoming more and more common, especially for tech companies. It’s generally a win-win: employers end up saving on some of their overhead and have happier employees, and employees enjoy the increased flexibility and work/life balance that results when they are able to set their own schedules and avoid long commutes. We’ve also seen a massive increase in the availability of online tools that make collaboration and connection possible—tools for video calls, chatting apps like Slack, Google Docs, and other SaaS tools that make real-time collaboration possible from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

Of course, some bad actors view working from home as an opportunity to slack off. This was especially true in the case of a sales candidate we encountered during the height of the dot com bubble. He dazzled during the interview process with our client, was confident in his ability to sell, and had an impressive resume and countless stories of his own success. 

However, it all came tumbling down during the reference check stage of the process—the references he offered were (of course) shining, but we received a troubling message from a former colleague about the candidate. After a phone call and a bit of digging, it turned out that the candidate had utterly invented his entire work history—complete with fabricated websites for his previous “employers,” and a network of friends who acted as phoney references. 

Most egregiously, he was also triple dipping on base salaries and not doing any actual selling for his actual employers—it turned out that his “job” was convincing tech companies to hire him for work-from-home sales positions, and collecting base salaries from all of them. 

This of course begs the question: if you’re going to spin such an elaborate web of lies, and talk your way into collecting cheques from multiple organizations, why not just apply those skills to being an effective sales person? You probably have the skills to be a top-performer—if you used them for good.

The Commute-Saving Celebrator

It’s pretty reasonable to do a little celebrating when you land a new job. Job searching and interviewing are hard work, and getting a good offer can be a huge relief. 

Unfortunately, one candidate took their celebration entirely too far. They signed their offer on a Friday, grabbed their keys to the new office on a Saturday, and decided to hit the town to imbibe a few celebratory beverages that Sunday. 

In an absolute stunning lapse in judgement, he decided that since he was already downtown, it would be a waste to go all the way home and then commute all the way back for his first day (likely with a terrible hangover—it must take a lot of drinks to think this was a good idea). Instead, he used his keys to go into the office and find a cozy place to sleep it off: the coat closet. 

By the time his new team arrived Monday morning, he had managed to throw up all over the shoes he was sleeping on. He had not managed to sleep off the booze though, so he was still quite drunk when his confused co-workers discovered him. He was asked to leave immediately—after handing over his keys. 

Fortunately, these recruiting horror stories are few and far between—our team had to dig pretty deep in their (possibly repressed) memories to retrieve these horrifying stories of recruiting gone wrong. 

Do you want to take the terror out of recruiting for your growing tech company? We specialize in building high performing teams that drive revenue—and we’ll screen out the terrifying candidates so that you’re only interviewing the best of the best.