Job-Seekers v Recruiters (Job-Seekers Gone Wild)

Recruiters and job-seekers are kind of like Tom and Jerry or Newman and Jerry Seinfeld or Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner – it is truly a love / hate relationship and one could not survive the other. Over the next couple of posts we will look at that relationship  (both positive and negative) from the eyes of people in the trenches.

To start things off I have asked several corporate, contingent, and retained recruiter friends (if you are not familiar with those terms read our previous post that explains them here) to share some of their experiences of job-seekers doing them dirty (I think this might be an eye-opener to some of you who only hear about job-seekers being done wrong).


It always amazes me that recruiters get such a bad reputation for not calling back. If I had a penny for every time a candidate did not return my phone call Bill Gates would envy my bank account.


I once recruited a Treasurer for the company I worked for. Our company relocation package was fairly comprehensive, but things such as boats weren’t covered. Our candidate had a fairly large (27-or 28-foot) boat on a trailer, but no truck to haul it to the new location. Being the good guy that I am, I took a Saturday and drove my own truck the 250 miles to where the boat was stored, hauled it back and put it in storage for him.  

The Friday afternoon before he was scheduled to start on the following Monday, the candidate called to inform me that he had accepted a very generous counter offer from his present employer, and that he would not be joining us after all. On top of that he had the b*lls to tell me that I needed to bring his boat back! I don’t know what ever happened to that boat, but our candidate’s resume was all over the job boards within a few months, no longer with the company that had countered him.    


I once had a candidate whom I was checking a background on after we hired him.   When I went to verify his Bachelor’s degree I was unable too.  He told me that the records building of a very large university had burnt down so he had no record of graduation.  He created a fake note from the President of the university saying that this was fact.  I had to speak with the university and verify that No there in fact was never any fire, his offer was rescinded!    


I recently had a candidate call and cuss me out because he missed his interview and it was somehow my fault. Needless to say he was then statused accordingly.


Many years ago when I was still new to the healthcare recruiting arena, a very experienced RN approached me about a potential job.  After an interview and much research, I discovered that she was a candidate that had no business working for my company and probably no business being in patient care.  For the following six months, she persisted on applying for jobs and contacting me directly and I explained, rather honestly, why she was not a fit for my organization.     

One Monday morning shortly thereafter, my weekend charge nurse came to my office to inform me of a bizarre patient that was admitted to the Emergency Room over the weekend.  After going through triage and assigned a room, the patient specifically requested to see the Director of the Emergency Room.  Happily obliging and wondering what could be the problem, my ER Director visited the patient.  As he asked about her concerns and what he could do to help, she informed him that there was no condition that had actually warranted her visit to the ER day save this: she could find no other way to get an interview with the Director because the Director of Recruiting (me) refused to submit her resume to him for review.  He kindly discharged her.    


I had a Design Engineer show up for his first day of employment in full Indian Chief gear because he was on call for Medicine Doctor duties at the tribe in northern Michigan.


I always love it when we schedule an interview with a client and the candidate doesn’t show up or shows up dressed inappropriately and/or smelling like smoke


A senior vice-president level candidate (200K level) accepted a job with my company, had the moving van in the front yard, and his wife pitches a fit because he won’t relocate the pool boy.    He declines the job on the day he is supposed to start and I got no plan b.       

 Yes, I said pool boy.       


How many times have you told your candidates that the hiring company drug screens and then when the deal has been made and they show up for the day of the test the day before they should report to work and then they FAIL the drug test. I normally tell candidates that the company drug screens at least 4 -5 times during the process, and if there is any reason that they don’t want to proceed, to just tell me and that’s fine – no questions asked, no explanations needed.

It’s particularly annoying when it has been a long search, with multiple interview process by the hiring company. Aggghhh! When that happens we waste the applicants time, the client’s time (and it lessons your credibility with the client since they then think you are a moron for showing them a candidate and not fully screening them), and of course it’s a waste of my, the recruiter’s time. 

I once had a guy whose process took about 3 months of hiring process with about 4 company interviews, plus mine. They thought he walked on water, and then he failed a drug test for cocaine…    


I’m always (tactfully) honest with candidates that we are not going pursue them after my initial phone conversation, however, I run into candidates who do not like this feedback.  So, they decide that their best bet is to go find someone in an exec role to “sell” themselves to.  I’ve never had a candidate get hired using this approach…I do know what my managers are looking for.  In a few rare instances the candidate has tried tell my execs that I don’t know what I’m doing because there’s no way I should have overlooked them.  This is totally classless and a poor reflection on them…not me.


I recruit positions that typically fall in the 75-100k range and I have lost count of the number of candidates who no-show for both in-person and phone interviews even though I speak to them the morning of or the evening before with promises of them being ready and excited    


One time I had an out-of-town candidate neglect to tell me that he preferred being a ‘she’ until the night before an in-person interview with the client. He had been through probably five phone interviews with my team and the client and failed to mention that on any of them.    


I always love it when a candidate sends you his resume, says he is desperate for a job and then never returns your call.


I always love it when a candidate sends you a resume saying they are desperate for a job and you call them back, leave a message for them and they never call back    


A potential candidate for an executive search I was about to start, tried to go around our retained search firm and contact the client directly after confidentially finding out about the search right after we  landed it.  We were at the beginning of our search process, but he was nearing the end of his prolonged personal search for employment so he desired a quick decision.  

He was not fully honest with me, nor did he disclose that he’d received an offer or that he’d accepted it, and when the client found out he tried to throw me under the bus for not informing them since he claimed to have let me know.  He burned a bridge with both me and this client forever since I shared the truth with them, and they trusted me!  Not a good thing in this economy, and small town!    


I once had a person I was interviewing with take a call from his wife in middle of my interview as she was out buying a car. He proceeded to talk in front of me for five minutes. I offered to step outside or asked if he would like to reschedule. Made for a very uncomfortable interview and waste of time interviewing that day .    


We had a candidate accept a job, start, and then two weeks later quit unexpectedly. When we asked her about it she said that she never quit her first job (although she said she had), she just took two weeks vacation to ‘try’ this new one out and it wasn’t to her liking.


If you are looking for a job right now I hope this gives some sort of perspective on why recruiters as a whole are a jaded bunch – I could have added 20-30 more snippets on here but decided to try to keep it short.


I have had several instances where a candidate goes all the way through the interview process, gets an offer that is in or above  HIS RANGE, and then disappears and never calls back to accept or decline.


I had a candidate go into the client’s break room to grab a drink of water between a break in interviews and came out with a piece of cake and was eating it. According to the interviewer he had cake all over his face.


To get the most out of the relationship with any recruiter you come across please keep in mind some of the things he might be dealing with (like OTHER candidates that do him dirty). Next time we will hear from job-seekers on things recruiters have done to them.





As we close, if you are reading this and outside of Nashville, TN and have not heard about the flooding that happened here over the weekend of May 1 – 2 please watch the following videos and read this article to find out more.





I could not be more proud of the way my city has responded. In most areas people sit around and wait for help to come after a disaster but all across the Nashville area neighbors were (and are) helping neighbors and strangers were (and are) helping strangers.


Until next time – please keep the Nashville area and those affected by the floods in your prayers.




18 responses to “Job-Seekers v Recruiters (Job-Seekers Gone Wild)

  1. Wow. That’s about all I can say. People never cease to amaze me. The “pool boy” story was the best by far!

  2. Matt – Great insights into the world of recruiters. Unfortunately, employers can tell the same type of stories. Guess that’s why courses in professionalism and etiquette at companies are gaining popularity.

  3. I recently went for an interview with Grant Thornton and after 2 minutes into the interview, the team lead, the team manager and myself realised that I was sent in for the wrong position.

    The manager had me wait for a while and then the recruiter came in and apologised to me when walking me out.

    I lost my a day’s leave and my preparation time was a waste.

    Two days later this recruiter had the b–ls to send me a mail saying he was sorry that there was confusion at my end.

    Before scheduling the interview he did send me a mail saying he verified my resume with the manager and they wanted to talk to me.

    I am sorry that I have to write it here and this long…

    Other thatn this I never had any bad experiences with recruiters nad most of them acted professionally.

  4. Amazing stories Matthew! Just goes to show you when you are dealing with the “human element” on both sides of the equation, you can never accurately predict what may happen. People listen to the radio station WIIFM way too much (What’s In It For Me?). Thanks so much for sharing… the boat story takes the cake!

  5. Jfrenchvitet

    The ER story had me in hysterics … these are great. There are always multiple sides to recruiting stories and for every ‘bad’ we all have (hopefully) many, many great ones. Thanks for sharing – I think we can all add a few to these!

  6. Here is something about the candidate’s complaint:

    I just got a phone call from an agency, as a passive candidate:

    – The “recruiter” (probably a low-level admin support staff though) did not read my resume, asked me numerous questions that are already answered (e.g. “what applications have you used for project management?”)

    – The person admitted that she has access to my dice and monster accounts, then asks me what my salary needs are … (I am thinking, “do your homework first! I am not here to help you with trivial things like that; you get paid to do it!”)

    – The person checked her company’s internal information system AFTER the entire call, then realizes that I have spoken with 2 other people in her recruiting company before already, and the same info has been captured

    – Upon my request, she finally tells me that the position is a low level position, which would not have suited me anyways, but “She is just calling to put information in her personal database” — what about checking her COMPANY’s system first? Why would she use a personal database that duplicates two of her co-worker’s captured data already? And why approach me about a position that I am obviously not going to apply for?

    In summary, I don’t think I will ever respect this company again, to have ability or professionalism to represent me. Is it just lack of work experience for this admin staff, or a bigger problem of systematic inefficiency in this “staffing firm”? I am sure that she is just doing what she is told … and there are justifications why she would need to collect up-to-date information (my needs and situations do change) … but perhaps the firm can send a more senior recruiter to talk to me rather than someone that sounds like a fresh college grad >_<

    Anyways, Matt, when you are ready to create that "candidate's horror story" list, let me know if I can help … ^_^

  7. Gina Cleo Bloome

    Let’s face it, it is a crap shoot. Both sides can list endless examples of bad, inconsiderate or just plain boneheaded behavior on the part of each other.

    I will admit that I saw the incidence of candidates failing to start go up about 10 years ago. But I also see a high incidence of companies and recruiters treating candidates as fodder and so they don’t foster loyalty or consideration from the candidate.

    This job has never been easy…because we deal with the most unstable product there is ….people. And at the end of the day, no one can force someone to live up to how you want them to behave…can’t do it with our kids, spouse, friends, why do we think total strangers ( candidates, companies, headhunters) will fall under our spell any more easily?

    As for a candidate horror story list…here is my submission for today.

    My outplacement firm gave me a list of headhunters specializing in HR who registered with them. I sent my resume (Director Talent Acquisition) to all of them. One writes back ” You have great background, let me know when you land as we really should stay connected!”

    I suppose the fact that they could actually place me in a senior HR role first and then maybe I could use them was too much of a stretch. Did they think I was just saying hello?

    Bottom line, it is like dating…if they are not into you, don’t expect them to call.

  8. I just do not understand why it’s so difficult for me to find employment in securities operations. I lost my job 9 months ago and have been looking for a job. I answered more than 100 ads, but all I got was a few rejection emails. Most of the employers did not even bother to send me a rejection email. Some of the job requirements advertized were almost like mirror image of my experience, but I still got “not a match” reply.

    Can someone give some tips of how to find a job? My employment insurance will be exhausted in 2 months.

    • Hey Ryan –

      Check out for some thoughts and ideas.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Ryan, make sure you are incorporating the exact key words from the job description into each customized resume you use to apply for them. If you’re describing yourself as a perfect match, but aren’t using their specific terminology, you won’t be found when they do a keyword search of their online applicant tracking database.

  9. William J. Meuleners

    I would like to see how many people boycott certain companies products due to bad experiences with HR practices. I certainly do and I wonder if CEO’s and Marketing executives would change company HR policies if they knew how they can affect sales?

    • Regarding the above comment about people boycott certain companies due to HR practices, I for one, while not boycoting will not recommend a comopany or for that matter would want to work for them due to how I was treated while I was a candidate

  10. This article is an effective and unfortunately credible piece. The society of me has not missed job seekers. I am saddened that the relationship between HR, recruiters and job seekers has devolved to this level. I am seeking an executive position in Toxicology and my method is to be professional, kind and courteous, recognizing the the hiring group has more than one person or task to work on during their day. How soon do we job seekers forget what it is like to have multiple priorities and changing deadlines to meet. I too would have pulled the boat for the man, because that is what I would do for a co-worker or friend. When slapped in the face, I believe that the boat may need a flood to float it back to the inconsiderate new hire. The lesson is that of treating all others as you would like to be treated, without regard to how they treat you. Thank you for your insightful and informative posting.


  11. Pingback: Job-Seekers v Recruiters (Job-Seekers Strike Back) « A Recruiters Guide to the Universe

  12. These sound like some decent recruiters; only one that I dealt with is like this. I wish I could hook up with some of these.


    • Steve

      I have to agree with you — better than 80% of the recruiters I have dealt with (my email list has more than 250 recruiters) are no more than mattress salesmen.

      What really gets me is when somebody I have worked with (on numerous projects) and have created a relationship with for more than 10 years, all of a sudden gets promoted and then tells me his ‘people’ will call me. The call I got was three weeks late and came from a person in her first job and who has graduated from college with a sociology degree (I am a 25 year experienced engineer) just 3 months prior. This person was totally incapable of discussing the technical aspects on my resume. Insulting to say the least. Needless to say, that company is off my list.

      What some of these ‘talent acquisition specialists’ (hahahaha) don’t understand is that senior people normally land in decision making positions and then their bridges are burnt.

      I do have a few specialized people who I can respect and appreciate since they respect and appreciate my worth.

      Just my 2c worth.


  13. Pingback: Job-Seekers v Recruiters (Singing in Perfect Harmony) « A Recruiters Guide to the Universe

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