Hiring Horror Stories

There are few things more rewarding than recruiting the perfect person for a job. But as any recruiter will tell you, talent acquisition is never boring.

And sometimes, it can be downright scary.

Along with the rewards of talent acquisition comes a lot of hard work and perseverance. Recruiters tend to be master coordinators, negotiators, trust-builders and networkers. All-in-all, they are consummate professionals and they know how to handle themselves in just about any interview – or situation – they’re thrown into. With that in mind – and with Hallowe’en nearly upon us – we’d like to share some of our scariest and just plain weirdest interview encounters.

These are the ones that took even us by surprise.

(And just so we know we’re not alone – we’d love to hear your stories, too. Please share them in the comments section below.)

· Quit Bugging Me. One of our Cleveland-based colleagues was interviewing a candidate in an office that had a small flying bug infestation, thanks to some over-watered plants. Throughout the entire interview, one of the insects relentlessly buzzed the candidate's face and mouth – almost, but not quite, getting swallowed in the process. The interview team managed to keep it together, but the fate of that candidate is a mystery.

“We suspect they may have been put off by the bug situation,” she tells us.

· Let’s Go Crazy. One of our Lead Recruiters in Boston shares the story of the candidate who decided to ‘stand out’ by arriving at the interview dressed in a purple suit and carrying a guitar. While Prince-lite definitely made an impression, he unfortunately did not get the job.

· Would You Like Fries with That Interview? It’s not always candidates who stand out for their odd behavior. A Senior Manager in our Client Services team reports that a candidate told her about a hiring manager who ate his lunch – cheeseburger, fries, pickles, ketchup and soda – throughout the meeting. We could possibly forgive this kind of behavior if the burger came from Whalburgers – the chain started by two of Boston’s favorite sons, Mark and Donnie Wahlberg – but we don’t endorse this approach to making a good first impression on a candidate.

· Take That! At the opposite end of the appetizing spectrum, a Lead Recruiter in our Boston Delivery Center reports that a candidate stayed calm, cool and collected as a hiring manager ‘took care of’ a pesky mouse in the office. While we’re certain the candidate’s qualifications and experience were more relevant, the poise they showed during the rodent eradication was actually a contributing factor to being offered the job.

· Grace Under Pressure. Further proof that a calm exterior makes a good impression comes from one of our Denver-based Lead Sourcers. She was being interviewed for a job a few years ago when a spider fell from the ceiling, mid-conversation. Very Hallowe’en-esque! She let out a blood-curdling scream and, in case there was any doubt remaining that spiders aren’t her favorite creature, she jumped up on a chair.

Fortunately, Sevenstep’s Denver Service Center is a spider-free zone and her interviews with us were much more fruitful.

· Wakey-Wakey. One of our Boston-based Senior Recruiters tells us of the candidate who flew from Texas to Atlanta for an interview and completely missed the meeting. “We called and texted over and over again to find out what happened, but we couldn’t get ahold of her. Finally, she called us back to explain that she fell asleep – for four hours! – at the airport.”

· Wearing the Pre-Game Meal. Our next nightmare story comes from one of our Client Services Managers in Boston – and it tells the story of his own interview with Sevenstep a few years ago.

“I grabbed a slice of pizza with my brother next door to the office and managed to make it through lunch without getting any on my shirt,” he says. “Just as we were joking around about how lucky I was, a gust of wind caught the plate and planted it – right on my chest. Fortunately, it stained my shirt underneath my tie and I was able to make it through the interview without anyone noticing.”

And yes, we have confirmed – no-one noticed!

· Nice Save! A Manager – first name “Eamon” – on our Client Services team reports having exchanged multiple emails with a candidate who, apparently not conversant with Irish names, continually addressed him as “ma’am.” After a few days, they spoke on the phone – and Eamon even lowered his voice to see what kind of reaction it might bring.

“To his credit, it didn’t rattle him one bit, but when I asked him at the end of our conversation if he had any questions, he said, ‘no sir, but I did want to apologize for addressing you as ma’am in every email leading up to this conversation,’” Eamon tells us. “He played it like a champ – one of my favorite moments talking to a candidate.”

Oh, and he progressed to the next stage in the hiring process.

· #MaryMaryItsActuallyGary. In another case of mistaken identity, one of our Senior Managers in the Client Services team was working with a candidate for a potential position at a healthcare company. Over the course of about five phone calls, the candidate kept praising the work of a ‘nice young lady named Mary’ who he’d been talking to before. After asking around, our Senior Manager – named Gary – realized that he was the only person who’d spoken to the candidate.

“Finally, I was unable to live with my secret double life, and I had to tell her that it was just little old me with a high-pitched voice the entire time,” Gary reports. “Happy ending though – she got the job!”

· What’s Wrong with Ducks? Returning to Cleveland, one of our Client Service Senior Managers tells us the cringeworthy story of the hiring manager who asked him, ‘if you could be any animal, what would it be?’ His answer? A duck, so that he could both swim and fly.

Not bad, right? Well, not good enough for this potential employer, who proceeded to tell him all about the eloquent answer she’d given when asked the same question, and then asked if he wanted to give a different answer.

“I said, ‘no, still duck,’” he reports. “I didn’t get the job. I didn’t want the job.”

· Can You Spare a Square? Here’s a quick one: One of our Boston-based Senior Recruiters tells us of an epidemic of candidates who couldn’t wait until they were off the phone to flush the toilet they (presumably) had just used.

Here’s some free advice: plan ahead – bathroom breaks included.

· Flashback to ‘The Devil Wears Prada’: Shortly after graduating college, one of our Client Services Managers moved to New York to begin her career. While the job market was nowhere near as robust as it is today, she did snag plenty of interviews, including one with a boutique PR firm whose president was, let’s just say, a piece of work.

“She was very condescending throughout the interview and told me all the reasons why she wouldn’t hire me. It was quite humbling and by the end, I was actually fighting back tears,” she tells us. “Then the CEO closed the interview by pointing out a tiny grammatical error on my resume, and I just started to laugh. When she asked me what was so funny, I told her it was the fact that she pointed out something so small that I’d done wrong, yet she had sat through the entire interview with her shirt inside-out.”

The heroine of our story actually got a call the next day for a follow-up interview – which she happily declined.

So there you have it – a Hallowe’en perspective on the sometimes strange goings-on behind the scenes in talent acquisition. Again, we’d love to hear your stories of the wild, wacky, perhaps even scary interview experiences you’ve had during your career. Leave us a comment below!