Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

6 Recruitment Process Horror Stories To Keep You Up At Night

Halloween is upon us once again. There’s no better tradition than sitting around telling the spookiest stories — the creepy-crawly kind which makes your hair stand on end, sending chills down your back. 

We wanted to participate in the fun storytelling tradition. First, though, we needed to decide what scares you the most. After careful consideration, we ruled out ghosts, goblins, witches, and warlocks. No, recruiters like you need tales even more haunting. The stories of candidates gone mad or even disappearing throughout the recruitment process are what’s really terrifying.

We spoke to Bryan Zawikowski, vice president and general manager for Lucas Group, about his terrifying real-life encounters. After 25 years in the recruitment business, he has some pretty haunting recruitment stories to share. 

Gather around, turn out the lights, and get ready for six scary recruitment tales: 

1. The unmasked perfect candidate

Weeding through countless candidates is one of the scariest aspects of the recruitment process. You never know who will jump out of your talent pipeline or what revelations will be made. Even more horrifying is finding the perfect candidate, like Zawikowski did for a management position and them then turning it down for a recreational league referee role. 

“The candidate was an Army Officer who led over 50 people,” Zawikowski shared. 

Unfortunately, according to the Officer’s email, the referee position in Austin sounded like a more exciting opportunity. 

2. The case of the missing howler

Last minute interview reschedules shred your recruitment process schedule into tiny, jumbled pieces. Of course, last minute emergencies do occur. It’s those unexpected and sometimes unbelievable reschedule requests, though, that really send you for a loop. 

Like when Zawikowski received a call 15 minutes before an interview from a candidate stating their dog jumped over the fence and ran away. The good news is, the dog was found. The bad news, the candidate didn’t get the job. 

3. The viral picture outbreak

As a recruiter, there are various viral outbreaks you simply don’t want to deal with. Unfortunately, even after you place a candidate, there’s no time for a sigh of relief. 

“One candidate fell asleep in a tin bath at work and an employee took a picture of him,” Zawikowski shared. “The employee shared it with co-workers and word quickly got out.”

This was just weeks after the candidate accepted the job. Clear proof of the fact candidates have the power to haunt you forever — even post-placement.

4. The drunken hit-and-run

Some recruitment process horror stories can’t be forgotten, keeping you awake at night. For Zawikowski, the never-forget-tale is about a candidate who was caught sleeping under his desk at work, suspected of being drunk. 

The same candidate later got into a hit-and-run accident in his own employer’s parking lot. His unsafe encounters were scary enough to get him removed for Zawikowski’s candidate pool and have his record flagged, indefinitely. 

5. The heatwave shakedown

We’ve heard about the tactics criminal interrogators use to shake down criminals. One is heating up the room, making them feel nervous and uncomfortable until they crack. This type of intimidation tactic is never what recruiters have in mind, but sometimes the unexpected occurs. 

Zawikowski detailed a time when an early heat wave broke in Chicago. The hotel where interviews were being held wasn’t prepared and the HVAC system couldn’t cool the building.

“They had to bring us fans to make the rooms bearable for interviewing,” he said. 

Already nervous candidates became even more uncomfortable in this nightmare scenario. With a few improvisations, lots of bottled water, and dedicated recruiters, though, the interviewing process proceeded. 

6. The dimly lit hallway interview

The butler, in the dimly lit hallway, with the resume binder — it really does sound like a scene from Clue. Take away the butler and the implication of a crime, and you have a Dallas conference Zawikowski attended. 

“The power went off in the middle of the day. Companies had to move interviews into the hallways because the rooms were too dark,” Zawikowski told us. 

You can only imagine the distractions in a low-privacy setting with no air conditioners in Texas. There’s little more terrifying than being cooped up in a small hallway with sweating candidates. 

You’re bound to face a few crazy or creepy experiences when sourcing and screening top talent. The key to keeping your recruiting process moving forward is facing your fears, finding the humor in the most trying moments, and thinking fast on your feet. 


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Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 5,000+ customers in over 100 countries.