(Even more) Terrifying recruitment stories. In 6 words!

‘Terrifying recruitment stories. In 6 words’, caught the imagination of many. 12,000 unique blog views, dozens of blog comments, and endless social media shares are testament to that.

So, this week, we reprise the concept, but this time with the best 6-word recruiter stories, from our readers! And there are some crackers here. All taken from the blog comments. Enjoy!

Our current vendors charge 8% fee.
Human resources controls the vendor list.
I’m reversing my acceptance: Won Tattslotto.
Candidate dumped Employer during High School.
Which agency are you from again?
We’re focusing on 10 new KPIs
Your candidate ate all the biscuits.
“That’s package? I was talking base”
Wife now not prepared to relocate.
I was briefed by another agency.
Best candidates only. Can we negotiate?
Second interviews will be in 6 weeks
Um, I have a non-compete clause.
“Let me ask the wife….”
This needs to go through HR.
Definite interview for a possible position.
Your candidate turned up drunk.
Someone knows your candidate and…
We are splitting your desk. Today.
Why didn’t you make your KPIs?
I’ve had a long think and…..

Are there any more? Do you have a recruitment horror story? Can you tell it in six words?
Bet you can. Let’s have it then! In the comments below please.


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Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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35 Responses to (Even more) Terrifying recruitment stories. In 6 words!

  1. Joe Self February 10, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Best “6 word” terrifying recruiting story

    “Steven showed at interview as Stephanie”

    Seriously, years ago I had a male candidate (that I had met in person prior to interview) show up to interview dressed as a woman, going by the name of Stephanie. Needless to say my client was not amused. Hiring manager was VERY unhappy with me.
    I subsequently found out a year later by the owner of the company that “Steven” was working for at the time that “Steven” was undergoing a transgender process and his then employer had a lawsuit against them for restricting him using women’s facilities at work, etc.

    truth is always stranger than fiction.


    • Shauna-Marie Wilson March 17, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

      It’s not ideal for a candidate with this personal experience to go about it this way but perhaps honestly your candidate felt that she (as she obviously subsequently identify) would not be shortlisted if her status known to the recruiter. I think it’s changing slowly from a recruiter who told me this, indications are there’s hope for the future, but used to be the case most would just flatout not shortlist #girlslikeus in Australia, except for the odd short assignment that most candidates don’t want. The key to these relationships is communication and honesty but also there has to be a culture of trust & inclusion seen to be practiced to nurture positive candidate relationships and then we can communicate openly.

  2. anon February 10, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    Average PSA margin for contractors? 5%.

  3. Patty February 10, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    My recent favorite – “That’s the only lie on my resume.”

    • Helen November 19, 2015 at 12:20 am #


  4. Simone February 10, 2015 at 10:08 am #


  5. MIchael Taplin February 10, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Another good post Greg and great to see some stories from peers; it appears sometimes we do all read from the same script! Just another couple to add which I don’t think I have seen:

    “recommended candidate applied directly to us” & “candidate left due to home sickness, but is fishing for a week before flying home” (a bit longer than 6 words but I thought it was worth adding in!).

  6. Lucas M February 10, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    “We don’t hire dark-skinned folks here.”

    • Greg Savage February 10, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

      THAT is my winner as the most horrific story ever. I have heard it myself, but not for many, many years.

      • RM February 10, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

        Sad to say I heard that in 2004 for a blue collar per role…

        Gosh, in one with that but recruiting Accountants from 2005 till 2008…

        Only send homegrown resumes
        Please send Aus, UK, NZ accountants only
        English must be their first language
        We are not racist but don’t send…

        • Freyja White February 12, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

          Many years ago an investigative journalist with a national TV station in Canada did a feature on “personnel agencies” and their tactics. Must have been around the time our Human Rights stuff was becoming law.

          A reporter called an agency in Calgary Alberta and pretended to be a VP Sales from a fortune 500 company in the USA and said he wanted to hire salespeople to set up a Canadian salesforce – and stressed he wanted to hire “Canadians”if the recruiter knew what he meant.

          The Recruiter replied “Oh you mean white and bright – sure, we can do that for you.”


  7. Chris Anderson February 10, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    A van, I can’t drive a van!

  8. Vanessa Raath February 10, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    “We can only take PDI Candidates”

    This one will ring true for all South Africans. PDI = Previously Disadvantaged Individuals meaning that the client will only look at non-white candidates for this role.

  9. Riyaadh Hassein February 10, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

    “I am awaiting feedback from Directors”

    In the Recruitment industry feedback is highly essential. it gives direction as well as highlights the urgency of the spec. Receiving feedback on CVs sent should not take longer than 48 hours!
    I feel its best to walk away with dignity and focus on other specs!

  10. Mark Bulmer February 10, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    “Tenders will be assessed primarily on cost” – so apparently the 40 pages you want us to complete regarding our quality processes are just to keep us busy?

  11. Peter Swanepoel February 10, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    “Our mistake, we meant the other guy”

    This genuinely happened to me, AFTER the contract was confirmed and signed with the agency. When they were making arrangements for me to show up at the client, the client informed them that, although they had confirmed that it was me and they had accepted my rate and terms, they actually meant the other candidate!
    A LOT of egg floating around that day, both for the agency and the client.
    Actually turned out to be a great contract, renewed twice and lasted 5 years.

  12. Nicky Farmer February 10, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

    Your candidate told us he was fired ??

    Still hurts!

  13. Eva February 10, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    After chasing a client for weeks regarding a second interview he confirmed after the first interview (said it would happen within 2 weeks) –
    ‘Second interviews will be in 3-6 months!!’
    Aaaarrgggghhh!! Then after waiting 4 months – ‘We’ve offered role to an internal candidate’
    Worst client EVER!!

  14. Paige February 11, 2015 at 1:38 am #

    “Offer is totally unacceptable!” – 1 week before the candidate was due to start, 3 months’ after he accepted the offer!
    He wanted them to put him in a hotel for an undefined period while he found a house, they offered to put him up for 1 month!

  15. Craig Burton February 11, 2015 at 2:49 am #

    His wife left him for me..

  16. Sue February 11, 2015 at 7:23 am #

    “Interviewer asked if I was dating anyone”

  17. Kirstie Whitehead February 14, 2015 at 1:01 am #

    I have been a recruiter for over 20 years and have never come across the following that happened today at 2nd interview stage “my wife wishes to attend the interview” !!!

    Realizing very soon in my career that often the wife/partner wears the pants and many placements have fallen through due to the candidates partner not being on board.

    Never have i known a wife to attend an interview that’s a first!

  18. Dan February 14, 2015 at 5:42 am #

    Nice, Greg! There’s Never a dull moment in recruiting. Here are a few:

    – He called the interviewer “dude”
    (…and “bro” not once, but many times.)

    – Rejected candidate due to speech accent
    (This happened with several rare tech candidates who had minimal accent.)

    – Candidate accepted counter-counter-counter offer
    (This was also the 3rd candidate to get a counter offer and back out of the same job opening with the same company.)

  19. Brett February 17, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    Terrifying job-hunter story in 4 words…

    ‘Unfortunately on this occasion…’
    The file on these stories is overflowing because it appears the current recruiters’ systems of selecting suitable candidates is too rigid and tick-box orientated.

    As a result, recruiters never even get to meet the outstanding superstar candidates let alone place them in a role.

  20. Miguel February 24, 2015 at 2:48 am #

    Client: “Candidate must be very presentable. Do you know what I mean?”

  21. Rhiannon February 25, 2015 at 1:24 am #

    Candidate on day of interview…

    “Family emergency! Will call to reschedule…”

    You’ll never hear from them again!

  22. Justin March 24, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    I was hiring a candidate for a Service Delivery Manager’s role within a highly pressurized political project. Before I had joined the Hiring Manager had tried on multiple occasions to find in conjunction with HR this individual hire.

    I joined and re started the hiring process; shortlisted post telescreen to interview:

    Candidate number 1 – Sorry he is too senior
    Candidate number 2 – Yes I like him, let’s proceed
    Candidate number 3 – Yes I like him, let’s proceed

    We get to offer management, and please don’t think that the relevant question were not asked during the first round of interviews, such as qualifications, criminal record checks etc.

    First offer I asked for a copy of his degree, it turns out he doesn’t have one. Second offer to candidate number 2 working in a FS institution handling back office security of millions of dollars daily turns out to have a criminal record as long as your arm. False prescriptions, assaulting a police officer, dealing in class A drugs amongst a few ever so trivial things that when asked have you had any previous criminal charges the answer was no. The irony was that candidate number one would have gotten the job without a degree. This was a 180k role. It just beggars belief the length some will go to in a “cover up.” Never assume anything. Anyhow thankfully the next round we found the perfect hire.

  23. Melinda Goodrich November 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    My client calls & says “Candidate did magic tricks during interview!”

  24. Sumit Anand February 11, 2016 at 4:22 am #

    When clients say very sweetly – ” actually the position has been put on hold ”

    Reason? Only God knows !!!!!

  25. Anna-Maria April 14, 2016 at 7:14 am #

    “Necessary skills required?” “Blonde, busty, pretty”

    Needless to say I did not accept any roles to recruit for him. When I advised, very politely, I did not want our company to be associated with his, he was exceptionally offended and then made the comment “you can’t even speak your mind anymore yet you charge the earth to find me people, by the way I like blonde white girls, whatever culture you are you are very well put together and I found you pleasing to look at during our meeting”

    I felt liked I needed a shower!!!!!!

    • Greg Savage April 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

      That is an extraordinary story Anna-Maria, something you might expect from 2 or 3 decades ago. May I ask, where did this conversation take place? (What country)

      • Anna-Maria April 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

        I have just emailed you. Apologies your email went to my junk mail!! NZ, Christchurch.

  26. Nick October 6, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    Client and HR quit during searching

  27. Aarohi Shetty October 6, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    No Offer Letter…Only hand-shake :I

  28. Rohan Monis November 20, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    “Awaiting feedback from the Technical Panel”

    – It becomes a horror story when the candidate has been constantly following up and there’s still no feedback (Especially if you are a agency recruiter)

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