Monday, August 23, 2010

Adventures in Recruiting: My Shortest Placement

About twenty years ago, when the wonderful agency, Wells, Rich, Greene, had the Continental Airlines account, I had an assignment to find an account supervisor.

I met and interviewed an account person who met the job specs.  His name was Ralph.  He had retail; he was passionate about creative and maybe even had a little airline experience. He was nice looking, tall, well built – about six feet, maybe 190 pounds. At the end of the interview I asked him something I generally ask people I meet: Is there anything else I should know about you?

His answer was interesting. He told me he was formerly a morbidly obese person who during the past year or so had lost over 200 pounds. I told him I thought that was wonderful and sent him to Wells with no discussion about his weight.  My client at WRG was a wonderful EVP named Jim Lawrence.  Ralph was quickly hired and scheduled to start in two weeks.

The week prior to his start date, Jim called me and told me that an important client meeting had been scheduled for the day my candidate started. Jim did not want to have a new person walk into the room not knowing anyone on his first day. He asked me if the candidate could start the previous Friday so that he could get his paperwork finished, meet the entire team, and be able to meet the client at 10am on Monday. I arranged it.

My candidate went to Wells on Friday morning to start his first day. At about 2pm Jim called me. “We have a problem.” I couldn’t imagine what the issue could be so soon. Jim went on to say, “You know Wells, when he arrived this morning his office was not ready and so I couldn’t show him where he was going to sit. He threw his stuff in my office and off we went. Ralph spent the morning meeting and greeting everyone. We took him out to lunch. After lunch, I brought him into his office and introduced him to his officemate. Paul, he actually turned around and, right in front of the other person, looked at me and said, ‘I cannot accept this office. I must have my own space.’”

I never had a candidate before or since refuse an office.

The candidate went on to explain to Jim Lawrence that he had lost all this weight and, that as part of his therapy, he did primal screams several times a day. Jim didn’t know what a primal scream was and asked the guy about it. Right there, standing in the hallway he let out this primal shriek. It was deafening. People came out of their offices to see what was going on. Jim was completely nonplussed. That’s when he called me wanting to know what to do.

I told him to let the guy go. He lasted at wells from about 9am until 2pm.  Wells paid him for the day and I found someone else.

You can’t make this stuff up.

I would love to hear other weird stories of people who didn’t last long at a company. Please send them to me so I can share with my readers.


  1. I remember a planner years ago, who walked around barefoot constantly. He didn't last long either. Not because of his feet but uh...I'm sure that didn't help matters.

  2. He thought it was important to share with his headhunter that he'd dropped 200 lbs, but didn't think the primal scream thing warranted a mention? I suspect 12 of those pounds dropped directly off his brain. ;)

  3. I worked in ad sales, but this story actually came from the editorial side. (One of my best friends was the editor of a mag I used to work for and this happened at a sister pub.)

    The editorial staff was in need of a new creative director, as their well-loved one had moved on. They hired a new guy who, I guess, seemed okay. For two weeks, all was well.

    And then, one Friday, he did not show up for work. He did not call, he did not email. None of the editorial staff at this magazine were the confrontational type, and so although there was much talk of what could be wrong or what to do, no outreach was made.

    On Monday morning, the guy shows up, sits down to work and acts as though nothing has happened. The staff eye each other but no one says anything, and the day passes uneventfully.

    Another 2 weeks goes by, it happens again, except this time he's out for 2 days. Again, no one says anything and again, when he shows up he offers no explanation. Work moves on.

    A week later, he again fails to show up for work one day. And the next day. And the next. And the next.

    For FIVE DAYS, a full workweek, the guy is a total no-show, and he does not call in either. The editors are completely perplexed. The managing editor calls the guy's house, there is no answer. They're not sure what to do - should they call the police? Past experience has shown that the guy usually shows up, but what to make of this?

    Then on the Monday after the weekend, he shows up, clearly the worse for wear, and it becomes obvious - the guy has gone on a bender that involved way more than just alcohol. He shows up to work around 10, walks past the Monday morning editorial staff meeting, sits at his desk and begins to work.

    After the meeting, the managing editor walks into his cubicle asking to have a word. He shouts back: "Look, I don't have the TIME to DEAL with this right now - can't you see I have a lot of WORK to do?"

    Needless to say, by the end of the day, he didn't.

  4. Amazing...you really cannot make this stuff up. Though not as funny, this really happened. Many years ago I hired a seemingly well-qualified, experienced AE for one of our biggest clients. She proceeded to rearrange our filing system, pulling everything out that she needed, and then some, stacking all relevant material on and around her desk. She insisted she was "reorganizing". Needing something urgently was not an option. She kept insisting she 'was working on it'.At the end of 10 days she had become almost invisible behind the growing stack of papers, slides, layouts...and chaos ruled. Needless to say, we made an instant decision not to take her up on her reorganization offer. It took us another 2-3 weeks and 2 assistants to find and file everything.

  5. I headed a creative group at a non-profit. We hired a mature and lovely woman to be our secretary. Everyone went out of their way to be especially charming; at the end of the day there were mutual expressions of happiness. We said we looked forward to seeing her the next day -- she said she "couldn't wait." We never saw or heard from her again.

  6. Thanks for the post about Wells Rich Greene. I worked there in the mid 80's when Mary's "The Queen is in " flag still flew over the GM building. Jim Lawrence and brother State were there.

    There were a lot of characters at the agency. I'm surprised in a way that the primal scream experience wasn't followed up with a request for other 'acts' :)

  7. I hired an account supervisor who lasted one day.

    She seemed perfect for the job, had recently moved from Texas, and wowed everyone who met her. She came in the first day, did her orientation, and jumped in. We had little interaction that day (I had a busy schedule), but I told her we'd sit the next day and get more specific about projects and expectations.

    The next day, 9AM rolls around and she's not there. 10AM, still not there. At 11AM, I called her apartment and left this message:

    "Really glad we got off to such a good start yesterday, but I was hoping that this could be an on-going thing. Like, every day. Where are you?"

    She called me back around 5PM and told me that "she didn't think it was going to work out."

    "Are you breaking up with me?" I asked.

    "Well..., I..."

    "But I can change," I said. "Just give me another chance!"


    I then hung up, never heard from her again.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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