Where Did You Get That Car From?

An reprint from of an article by Jasmine Crittenden entitled “Ask a recruiter: horror stories from the saddle” and published on HRM (the news site of the Australian HR Institute)

From eager mothers hoping to sit in on their children’s job interviews, to job sharing triplets. These recruitment horror stories sure are… interesting.

Ever heard the story about the candidate who asked for every Friday off – to prepare for her “big” weekends? What about the recruit who missed the first day of a new job – because her cat was wedged in her car engine? Then there’s the one who thought the ability to ‘speak Mandarin’ meant the ability to speak to mandarins.

Believe it or not, these are not tall tales. They’re true ones, straight from the mouths of recruiters that we spoke to for this story.
There’s no such thing as a dull day in the hiring industry. And some days are more interesting than others.
So far in our ‘Ask a Recruiter’ series, we’ve talked about out of the box interview questions and the surprising mistakes that hiring managers make. In part three, we speak with five recruitment specialists who share their best horror stories – and what they learnt from them.


The (possibly) accidental swimsuit model

“Having recruited over 600 professionals, I have seen some outstanding candidates – and some who stand out for the wrong reasons,” says Andrew Sullivan, managing director, Sullivan Consulting.

“I once received an application from someone who – accidentally or not – included, along with his resume for an executive position, an A4-sized photograph of himself in Speedos. This was before email was the norm, but the same is true today: always check your attachments.

“I also generally advise against including photos in an application, particularly if they are social snaps showing the candidate with glass in hand … it doesn’t go down well with employers.

“Neither does turning up to the interview tipsy or boasting about a big weekend … I think the lesson for those two examples is pretty straightforward: just don’t do it.”

Do you have a brother – or maybe two?

“We once placed a young guy in a temp warehousing admin assignment,” says Naomi Marshall, founder and director, Sprint People.

“On day two, the employer called to say he felt the temp hadn’t retained a lot of what he’d learnt on day one. On day five, the employer called again, to say the temp had had two great two days, but, on the fifth day, behaved as though it was his first day on the job. It was all very strange.
“It turned out the temp was one of three identical triplets – and they were sharing the role between them! I asked the temp, ‘How do you decide which brother goes to work on which day?’  “He said, ‘We send whoever feels like working.’”

The overprotective mother

“We’ve had more than one candidate bring their mother to the interview,” says Graham Wynn, director, Superior People Recruitment.

“On one occasion, a mother tried to sit in. She said she wanted to make sure her daughter answered the questions properly.

“I had to tell her, ‘You can’t sit in. Answering the questions is up to your daughter, not up to you!’

“We’ve also had mothers ring up and say, ‘There’s a job advertised on your website. I’d like to put my son forward’. We have to tell them, ‘If your son is interested in the job, he needs to apply. You can’t do it for him.’

“Unfortunately, this is hard to avoid. You can’t exactly ask an applicant not to bring a plus one to the interview!”

Where’d you get that flash car?

“I once recruited a candidate for an interstate position,” says Stuart Upward, director at Schward Recruit.

“The client called and said, ‘He’s settled in and is doing really well. But, tell me one thing, where did he get that flash car?’  “I said, ‘I don’t know. He said he had his own transport – I don’t usually ask candidates how they get their transport.’

“Over the following two or three months, everything was fine. The candidate was highly skilled and exceeded the client’s expectations.  “But, another two months later, I received a call. It was the candidate – and he was crying. He’d been arrested and put in the local lock-up.

“The weekend before, he’d written the ‘flash car’ off in an accident, then abandoned it. The police put two and two together and quickly identified the car as stolen. The candidate spent several months in a correctional facility.”

Gone girl

“I placed a candidate with a law firm, who was relocating from interstate,” says a Sydney-based recruiter, who wishes to remain anonymous.
“The client interviewed her three times, including twice via videoconference, then flew her up and, after meeting her in person, offered her the role.

“Six weeks later she started the job. The firm put her up in a serviced apartment for four weeks, while she looked for a permanent residence.
“Two weeks elapsed and all was going well – until I received a call from the firm to say the candidate had not come to work and was not answering her phone.

“A day later, the firm gained access to her serviced apartment, only to find she had disappeared. The phone number was subsequently disconnected. The police later discovered it was registered to someone else. None of us ever found out what happened to her. GONE GIRL.

“Clients should always conduct background checks, to verify that people are who they say they are. Surprisingly, this only happens 60-70 per cent of the time, in my experience.”


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Dr Schultz spent 22 years working in psychiatry and then went on to qualify as a lawyer. He has spent 34 years helping people solve problems and the unique combination of medicine, psychiatry, law and mediation provides a unique academic and practical approach to life's challenges.

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