Halloween Horrors: The Scariest Recruiting Stories

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After a year with a scary tough job market for companies looking for new hires, the Great Resignation, a looming recession, and anything else that could create a horrific situation for recruiters, Halloween is finally upon us. 

While most people hear horror stories from job seekers, we decided to share some stories from the other side of the recruiting process. 

Keep reading to learn about some of the scariest recruiting stories (and how you can use them as tales of warning to improve your own recruiting process). 

A Scary Situation

While the pandemic has made remote interviewing much more accessible and safe. In fact, Matthew Dey, a recruiter at GeoTek, recalled a time when he was caught in a scary situation with a candidate. 

“Back when I was working as a recruiter for a security company, I had a fellow who was waiting to interview in the lobby when he started to be obnoxious to everyone in the lobby. My boss and I confronted him and politely told him he needed to leave. 

“Sensing trouble from this guy on his way out we locked the door behind him. No sooner than we did this he attempted to turn around and force his way back in. The door was holding okay until he shattered the glass on the door. While I got on the phone with the police my boss started moving other candidates into the back of the office. When he left my boss opened the door, apologized to everyone, and allowed anyone who desired it to reschedule their interviews.”

An Accidental Poisoning

Speaking of safety, you usually wouldn’t expect the candidate you’re interviewing to almost poison one of your coworkers. However, Jared Weitz, the CEO and Founder of United Capital Source had that same experience. 

He interviewed a candidate a few years ago for an open sales position at his company. They had a solid resume and had done well during a phone interview, so he invited her to the office for a formal interview. 

“When she arrived, she came with a small plate of cookies. Our receptionist accepted the plate of cookies, and I took the candidate back to one of our offices for her interview. Within about thirty minutes, we heard some commotion in the hallway. 

“Apparently, the receptionist tried one of the cookies, not realizing that the cookies were made from almond flour which she was allergic to. She had an allergic reaction and had to go to the hospital. Thankfully, the receptionist was okay, but the candidate felt horrible and apologized profusely!

“So,word of advice: if you bring a gift with you to an interview, make sure to disclose any allergens!”

The Case of the Disappearing Candidates

Finding candidates is hard enough, and most recruiters would be frustrated when candidates they find suddenly disappear. 

Nieka Christain, a recruiter at Girard College, experienced that firsthand when she began her career. 

“I would find candidates in our company database and my coworker would steal my candidates in the portal, changing over from my name to her name. When I found out this was happening the manager gave her a slap on the wrist and told her to return all of my candidates.”

Ghosted by the Candidate

Job seekers always complain about being ghosted by recruiters, but some recruiters have similar stories of candidates as well. Linda Shaffer, the Chief People Operations Officer (CPOO) at Checkr, is one of them. 

She mentioned that one particular candidate seemed like the perfect match on paper. They had all the industry experience, excellent references, and a good education. 

“However, during the interview process, it quickly became apparent that the candidate was not a good fit for the position. They seemed inexperienced, unable to answer fundamental questions about their qualifications, and their references were terrible.

“Despite all of this, we decided to give the candidate a chance and hired them. Big mistake. The candidate accepted the job, but then never showed up for their first day of work. They never called, they never emailed, and they just vanished into thin air. It was a complete waste of time and effort, and it was a nightmare to deal with.”

A Chilling Interview

Recruiters have had their share of weird interviews. They’re used to being in uncomfortable situations and having some awkward conversations. 

But Martin Spargo at New Wave said that he interviewed a candidate who informed him that she was able to see spirits. 

“She told me that she saw an old lady standing behind me and that the old lady had been there since I walked into the room. At first, I thought she was joking, but it turned out that she wasn’t. She said that she often sees spirits in everyday situations and has even been able to communicate with them. This is not something I would expect from a candidate during an interview, but it did make for a very interesting conversation.” 

A Candidate That Was Too Good to Be True

Every recruiter has their own horror story, but one of the scariest things can be making the wrong hire. 

Adina David, HR Manager and Career Coach at JobzHut said her manager remembers searching for a new hire and thought they had found the perfect candidate for the open job description

“He was so sure that this candidate was the one, he didn’t bother to check references or do a background check. Big mistake. The new hire turned out to be a total disaster. She was lazy, constantly late, and generally made everyone’s life miserable.” 

Take this tale as a reminder to never get attached to one candidate until they have accepted the job offer and are going through the onboarding process. Recruiters need to always efficiently screen the candidate and do background checks to ensure that the candidate will be a successful hire. 

Remember that it costs about $4,700 to hire a new employee, and if you make multiple wrong hires, you could cost your company a lot of money. So while you’re in a race for talent, you must also ensure you’re taking your time and adequately vetting all of your candidates.

A Candidate’s Interesting Costume

While recruiters should try their best not to make biased opinions of candidates based on their clothes, Marina Stepikhova, Head of the HR Department at Usetech, couldn’t help but have an interesting first impression of one of her candidates. 

One night, she had a very late interview. The candidate said he was on his way home from work, and Stepikhova accommodated his schedule. However, she was not prepared for what happened next. 

“At 9 p.m., a tall guy in a robe, covered with chains, wearing ankle boots, with an unnaturally white face and a six-meter-long heavy sword walked into the office. He placed the sword on the reception desk and asked in a friendly manner when it was his time. 

“For the first few seconds everyone was in shock and the only wish was to just leave quietly. A little later it turned out that the applicant worked in the field of game design, and on that very day they had a big release with a broadcast from the company’s office on Twitch for the entire community, and all the developers were asked to dress up thematically as close to the characters from the game as possible.” 

She said this happened three years ago, but the developer still works for them at Usetech! While recruiters need to use as much information as possible to assess whether a candidate will be a good fit for a role, this is an excellent reminder that sometimes first impressions won’t indicate whether or not a candidate will be a great employee. You could end up pleasantly surprised! 

An Interview Bail Out

While Stepikhova was surprised after the first impression of a candidate, Debbie Winkelbauer, CEO of Surf Search, had a much different experience. 

A few years ago, she interviewed a candidate who seemed like the perfect match for a role. She had a flawless resume, went to an elite college, and had experience working for a popular startup. She was a unicorn candidate. 

This candidate was great, even during the phone interview. When Winklebauer met the candidate in person, she was “put-together, friendly, and made a great impression.”

Winkelbauer believed she had found the right candidate for the position, so she scheduled the first round of interviews. The candidate even impressed her in the first and second rounds of interviews. 

However, the candidate never showed up for the final round of interviews.

“I finished speaking with the client when an unrecognized number came through on my phone. 

“The candidate was texting me from jail. She’d been arrested for a fairly serious crime and wanted to know if the company she’d been interviewing at would mind posting her bail!”

A Mistaken Identity

If you enjoy spending Halloween watching slasher or thriller movies, this story will surely leave you scared. 

Piotrek Sosnowski, the Chief People and Culture Officer at LifeandMyFinances, has worked in the HR industry for over fifteen years. However, she still remembers the one candidate who scared her. 

She had just finished up her last interview for the day, and she was finished with work a little bit earlier.

“Afterward, I was on my way down to my car to leave, and once I got in, I sat for a minute or so to sort myself out. While going through my phone quickly, I heard the back door open. 

“When I whipped my head around, I saw that same candidate get into my car and sit at the back with a smile on his face and a loud, ‘Hello!’

“To clarify, this was in a dark underground parking garage, I was startled. When the man looked up and saw my face, he went pale and started apologizing profusely, saying he got into the wrong car and left in a haste. Safe to say, I got a heart attack and did not speak to the candidate again.”

This story is just one more reason to be thankful for remote interviews. 

An Eerie Dream

Recruiters have one of the most stressful jobs, especially after the past few years of dealing with the rollercoaster of a job market. Some are so stressed that they may even bring their work into their dreams. 

Karolina Kijowska, the head of People at PhotoAiD, had a similar experience. 

“One night, I had a very strange dream. In this dream, I visited a lovely and colorful candy shop, but when I was picking sweets, all the candies started to sing with thin, high-pitched voices. It was so weird I screamed. Right away, I turned around and left the shop. The last thing I noticed was the smiling face of a strange man standing behind the counter.”

While this might seem like a standard, odd dream, she started her remote work the next day. As the morning went on, she forgot about her nightmare until she had an interview scheduled with a candidate. 

“I couldn’t believe it – he was the guy from my dream! Close to breaking the call, I got a grip on myself and tried to handle this meeting as professionally as possible, but it was my worst interview ever. Luckily, this man didn’t land the job, and I still hope it wasn’t my fault.”

Double Trouble

Some recruiters have trouble finding candidates and successfully getting them through the pipeline to where they accept the job. However, Lydia German, Marketing and Outreach Team Leader for Tao Digital Marketing, had the opposite issue. 

Years ago, she was trying to recruit a financial controller position for an engineering business. She had two strong candidates who were in the running.  

“Unfortunately, the Financial Director at the engineering company wasn’t able to interview both, so asked his counterpart to assist – they interviewed one candidate each. Both candidates performed so well that they were both offered the job in their interview!”

This is just one example of how vital a recruiter can be to the entire recruiting process.  Recruiters can’t intervene and consult with candidates when something like this happens. This could end up damaging employer branding

“Thankfully, the situation was rectified; however, I don’t think that second candidate would ever consider working for the said client again!” said German.

If you want to ensure that none of these recruiting mistakes happen at your company, then Recruiter.com is here to help you. We have on-demand recruiters that can handle your entire recruiting process and do their best to ensure you won’t experience your own recruiting horror story. 

Contact us today to learn more about how our recruiters can help you hire great talent. 



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By Alyssa Harmon