Tales from the Recruitment Crypt

Posted in Blog on 18 Oct 2018

As it’s the month of Halloween and a time to celebrate all that’s scary, we thought we’d get in the spirit of things by sharing some horror stories from across the world of recruitment.

Like the best ghost stories, we’ve heard these tales told and retold throughout the sector, and although some of these seem utterly unbelievable, legend has it they’re all true. Hopefully they’re spine-tingling enough to inspire you to avoid such howlers.

Here’s our top 'unlucky 13' tales from the recruitment crypt…

1) He’s with me. 

Concerned about their sickness record, one candidate took a friend with them to an interview, explaining to the employer that the friend, who incidentally had no relevant experience, could cover for them during any sick-leave. The employer politely declined the 2-4-1 offer.

2) Martial status; definitely divorced. 

A particular difficult divorce became a focal point for one candidate’s CV. Details of their separation and the impact on their career filled the CV, while the ‘Personal Interests’ section noted the candidate’s new fondness for any sports not requiring a team partner and how they no longer played squash mixed doubles on a Thursday night.

3) Feeding Felix. 

Following a multi-stage selection and interview process, one company thought they’d found their perfect candidate. However, remuneration discussions took an unexpected turn when the candidate requested three-to-four breaks each day to go home to feed and stroke their cat. This gave the company paws for thought…

4) Interviewzzz. 

We still can’t believe this one. A recruiter rang a candidate to ask how an interview had gone and they explained they didn’t think they’d be invited back as they fell asleep during the interview. We could make a joke here about them sleeping on the job, except they didn’t even get close to getting the job.

5) I swear to tell the truth. 

Most people tend to spend time preparing what they’re going to say during an interview. This didn’t appear to be the case for one candidate who repeatedly swore when talking about their experience and then telling crude and inappropriate stories about their weekend. We heard that when the employer stopped the interview because of the swearing, the candidate replied with ‘are you for f**king real?’.

6) Talking the talk. 

Sticking with the theme of language, multilingual candidates often stand out in an increasingly global market during the recruitment process. Keen to boost their employability and leverage the UK’s growing business links with China, one candidate wanted to emphasise they were fluent in Mandarin Chinese. They weren’t so fluent in thinking this claim through. Their CV noted they’d attended a 15-hour course in ‘Basic Mandarin Chinese for Travellers’ and when asked to talk through their career history in the language, an awkward silence ensued before they feebly muttered a phrase in Mandarin about ‘having an upset stomach’.

7) Don’t filter those photos. 

Debate about CVs with photos often questions whether to include a photo or not. From what we’ve heard from some employers, it seems some candidates are less worried about whether to include the photo and are now more focused on what filter to use. CVs are regularly appearing with Snapchat filtered photos of candidates, but it appears the addition of tiaras or fluffy ears isn’t generating any likes from employers.

8) Exhaustive experience. 

Whilst we’re all keen for our CV to do us justice, listing outdated experience just doesn’t help. Telling prospective employers that you were a school prefect, held down a paper round for three years without missing a day (even during the winter) and achieved over 20 Scout badges is fine if you’re stepping into your first job, but just not relevant at a senior level.

9) Even more exhaustive (or is that exhausting!) experience. 

While the debate rumbles on about the perfect length of a CV, recruiters work with these candidates to hone lengthy documents down to a couple of pages that are more impactful. One recruiter had their work cut-out when they had to edit a CV of 23 pages, which included two pages of personal interests. Apparently, the candidate couldn’t understand why a prospective employer wouldn’t want to learn more about their hen that laid beautiful eggs.

10) Toilet break. 

With organisations investing in recruitment processes which can take several hours or indeed, a full day, it’s perfectly excusable to take a toilet break. What’s less excusable is the candidate, that 10 minutes into an interview, asked to use the loo and then never returned.

11) I’ve got something in my eye, nose and ears.

Interview nerves can get the better of some candidates, meaning they may play with their hair or rub their neck. One company thought this was the case when a candidate started to rub an ear. The interviewee then went on to repeatedly pick their ears, their nose and then rub sleep-dust from their eyes. Rumour has it the employer politely declined to shake the candidate’s hand at the end of the interview.

12) Google it. 

An employer became suspicious during an interview when they noticed a candidate kept looking to the ground and appeared to be messing with something under the table. They stopped the interview to find the candidate was trying to use their smartphone to find answers to difficult questions. The candidate didn’t get a call back. 

13) Will this take long? 

One interview reportedly took an unusual turn when after 30 minutes, the candidate asked how much longer the interview would take as they’d parked on a meter. Not long later, the candidate rushed out to renew their parking ticket to find they were too late and had received a parking penalty notice. They returned to the interview to demand the company reimburse them for the fine. 


For more insights and less scary tales, visit our blog.


Sign up for Touchpoint, our monthly newsletter covering what’s happening in the legal sector plus the latest trends, case studies and not to be missed interviews.

Share this post