Recruitment Horror Stories

Hiring Managers Recruitment Agencies
Recruitment Horror Stories

Halloween is upon us, and what greater tradition than a few horror stories? Well, horror stories don’t have to be ghostly tales, especially in the world of recruitment. We’ve all had our fair share of bad interviews, whether that be as a candidate or as a recruiter – so to get into the spooky spirit, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite recruitment horror stories from the web.

  1. Mother Cupboard:

“My mum’s story is better: she went for an interview at a prestigious law firm. All went well and she was confident she’d given her best and so shook the interviewers’ hands and exited the room. Only, she hadn’t exited the room, she had walked into a small utility cupboard. Instead of just popping back out and laughing it off my mum decided to stay in there!

“Quite clearly the three interviewers had watched her walk in there. It took a few minutes (probably as the interviewers expected her to emerge) until they opened the door and asked if she was okay. Instead of admitted her mistake at that point, she instead stuttered: ‘I was exploring my potential new company’ and then bolted out of the real exit. She got the job, too!”  (Source)

  1. Always be nice to your Mum:

“One of our clients told us that their candidates ended up swearing at their Mum during a video interview! The candidate apparently answered the question they were asked, then their Mum (who was sitting in the room while the candidate recorded their interview) helpfully chimed in with “Well I wouldn’t have said that” before the candidate stopped the recording. The candidate’s reaction, while still recording, was to call their Mum a few things that you’d certainly not expect them to call their mother!”


  1. 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.’” (Source)

  1. Day drinking:

“Mid-interview I thought I had the perfect candidate for the position. As I was about to extend the job offer, he began to sweat profusely. I offered water, turned the air conditioner to a lower temperature as he began to mumble. He excused himself to go to the restroom but didn’t return after 15 minutes. I asked a male staff member to enter the men’s restroom to check on him. The door was somehow locked and barricaded. The applicant wouldn’t answer our calls to open the door but began rambling aloud. I called the fire department and after another 20 minutes the applicant emerged totally intoxicated (empty bottle in hand). The next day his wife called me requesting to know when his start date would be.” (Source)

  1. You know what they say about karma:

“It certainly came back to bite one interviewee! After telling someone to f*** off on the train, imagine their horror when they arrived at their interview to find the man they’d sworn at was their interviewer. It doesn’t get much worse than that – #awkward” (Source)

  1. An “oops” moment:

“I had booked in a candidate for interview one morning and 20 minutes had passed since they were supposed to arrive, I finally got in touch with them and the following happened: Me: Hello, why haven’t you attended your interview? Candidate: I am not going to lie to you I had an accident. Me: Oh right, as in a car accident or a fall or? Candidate: No, I am on my way home now to change my pants I don’t think my tea agreed with me. Me: *lost for words* Oh right, well once you have changed your pants give me a call back. Certainly wasn’t what I was expecting”. (Source)

  1. The parenting emergency:

“It was one of those multi-hour onsite interviews and I noticed a faint vibrating going off every few minutes. My phone. I thought I’d silenced it. The calls kept coming, which was definitely unusual because most people who’d actually call me knew I was at an interview. While I had a few moments between interviewers, I checked my phone and saw I had 3 voicemails from my son’s pre-school. The next interviewer walked in right as the message began playing: ‘Please call us back, there’s been an incident. Your son seems to have the stomach flu. Please pick him up ASAP and bring new pants.’ The guy looked at me and just back peddled out of the room and said he’d go get the recruiter.”  (Source)

Recruitment will always be full of surprises, for recruiters and for candidates. It’s always best to know how to deal with an awkward situation, so you know how to get past interview hiccups. As you can tell from these stories, sometimes it can’t be predicted what can go wrong – we just have to take each as a learning experience and hope for an improvement next time!

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