Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adventures in Recruiting: Beating Up The Recruiter or Don't Shoot the Messenger

As a follow up to my recent posting on bad interview answers, I thought I would share some of the weird things that have happened to me directly.  Not necessarily bad answers, but strange happenings.

The toughest part of my job is giving candidates bad news.  But it comes with the territory since, if I send multiple candidates on an interview, only one can get the job.  Sometimes feedback from clients is less than flattering and I have a policy of only being constructive when I tell a candidate no.  If the comments about the interview are something endemic about their personality that is not correctable, I don't say anything, but if there is something within their control that can help them in the future, I tell them. Sometimes it is difficult, but I have learned to take a deep breath and dive in.  Under the category of "Don't shoot the messenger",  I once told a candidate that he got dinged because he had bad breath and rumpled clothing.  He told me it was none of my business.  Write him off my list.

I told a candidate who brought coffee on an interview that she didn’t get the job because of it and she told me that I should never call her again because I was rude and so was my client. She informed me that she always brought coffee.  I told another candidate that he didn’t get a job because he had too many short (less than one year) jobs and that the company was not satisfied with his explanation.   He yelled at me for sending him in the first place.  You can’t win for trying.

But the strangest of all was a candidate who I placed in a job.  A few months later, I gave her career advice and she completely turned on me.  It happened almost twenty-five years ago and I am still trying to figure out what happened.  She was an account executive who I placed one January.  In April she called to tell me that another recruiter had approached her about what was her dream job as an account supervisor on a cosmetics account at another agency.  It was paying considerably more than she was making and she wanted to know what I thought she do.  I told her that she was doing well where she was and she was very much liked and I thought she should stay.  She reiterated that it was her dream job.  I told her that if she was driven to work on cosmetics, she should pursue it.  I also told her that I didn't think she was ready to be an account supervisor yet, but that if it was her dream job, she should go for it.  Next thing I knew is that she called me to tell me she got the job and had resigned.  What she didn't tell me was that she told her existing boss that I was the recruiter. Huh? Her boss, whose name was on the door and a very good client, called me to ask why I was recruiting someone I had just placed.  I told him it wasn’t true, but he did not believe me.  I tried to confront the AE but she would not take my calls.  As it happened, the account executive did not leave, but I lost the account.  A year later, through a series of other events at the agency, they discovered that she had lied, not just about this, but about many things.  They fired her.  The agency then apologized to me and I got the account back.  But I am still trying to figure out why she lied about my involvement with her job offer.

And then there is this one….It happened during the first few months I was recruiting and was working out of my apartment with my wife in the other room.  A very attractive young lady was obviously flirting with me as I was interviewing her.  Suddenly, she started unbuttoning her blouse and, as she did so, said to me, “What can I do to get you to get me a job ?”  I asked her to button up and leave immediately.  True story. 

One summer I had a woman interviewing in my office.  I noticed that an inch worm was on her stocking.    I wasn’t sure I should say anything until I noticed it was crawling up under her skirt.  I told her.  She stood up, stomped her feet so the inch worm fell on the floor and then ran screaming from my office.  Wouldn't return my calls.  Never heard from her again – like I put the inch worm there.

I have had candidates who are not qualified for a job based on what a client told me they wanted.  They find out through friends that I am working on an assignment and call to request that I send them.  When I explain that their background is wrong, based on my job specs, they get really angry.  I have been threatened.  I have been cursed at.  I have been insulted.  Of course their actions do not do much to endear these candidates to me for the long term.

There are many recruiters who do not meet their candidates.  I believe that my clients want me to do so before submitting them.  If a candidate is out of town I now do interviews with Skype, which is surprisingly personal and gives me a great sense of who they are.  But if a candidate is in commuting proximity to New York, I insist on meeting them.  My clients expect it.  But then there are lots of people who tell me that they are too busy to come in.  I tell them that I cannot help them unless we meet.  Many try to compromise by having me meet them at ridiculous times like 8pm for drinks or dinner or to have breakfast in their neighborhood (I am always expected to pay).  I decided years ago that as a professional, candidates need to come to me.  Last year, I had one candidate with a good résumé tell me that he wouldn’t meet me period.  I should just submit his résumé. His line: “Other recruiters do it.  I will tell my friends not to work with you if don’t send me.”  Tough.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love what I do and these kind of incidents ultimately make me smile.  And they are rare. But they make the business interesting.


  1. There's a very entertaining and eye opening book in there.
    I appreciate the fact that there is still a recruiter who would like to meet the person, not just the resume.

  2. I suppose after decades of meeting thousands of people, you sure do encounter the full spectrum of crazy.

    You could retitle this post "Don't shoot the messenger or strip for him either."


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