This is the second part of our Halloween series. Last week we shared ‘Mistakes Job Seekers Make That Scare Away Recruiters. Today we are going to share some recruiting horror stories and some insights on how not to scare away your job seekers.

Recruiters are the brand ambassadors of their employers. They are the front end facing, customer-focused stewards who can help shape a candidate’s opinion of the organization from the first touch point onwards. But if the candidates receive a bad/poor experience during their job search process, like having gone through a lengthy interview and yet not getting a response from the recruiter for weeks or months etc, it will make them drop out faster than you think. Here are some negative experiences shared by candidates and some insights on how things should have handled differently.

When reaching out/interviewing your candidates don’t make the following mistakes:


Asking the obvious question: 

As a recruiter, you want the candidates to come prepared for the interview, so do they. Asking an obvious question on where did you graduate, who was your last employer etc will be a waste of time when it was clearly mentioned in their resume. This makes the candidates think- you didn’t even go through their resume at all or show interest in their candidacy.

Solution: Spend a few minutes to read through the resume and list down the questions that you want to ask and or double check before you call/meet with a candidate. Asking the details that are not clearly mentioned in the resume will help you make good use of your time with the candidate. This will help you probe deeper and dive into their previous experiences and how they can relate to the job and to the organization.

Incorporate behavioral questions like 'Describe a time when you had to...and how did you...' This will help you understand the past behavior of the candidate and how he/she reacted to certain situations and predict how the candidate will act in the future under given circumstances.


You do all the talk:

 Some recruiters love to hear themselves talk and all they do is one-sided talk. Not giving an opportunity to the candidate to open up, ask questions and learn more about the job will be a turn off for your candidates.

Solution: As a recruiter, you want the candidate to be interested in the job and the company. That doesn’t mean that in your first call itself you should narrate on the history of the company, how the culture evolved and great benefits etc. It will bore them down. Make it short and simple, like your introduction pitch. And let your candidates get involved in the conversation, ask questions etc.

Start with a question may be- ‘What excites you about this position and why do you want to work with us?’ This will let the candidate talk and help you assess the homework that the candidate did in researching more about your company and you see their motivation to join you.


Asking for a date: 

It is creepy when you flirt or even ask for a date. This will surely scare away your candidate and they will withdraw their application. Don’t ever use comments like - ‘You look so attractive, Your outfit is so sexy on you’.

Solution: Be professional always and there is no compromise on that. Asking personal information or trying to intrude on the privacy of your candidates is not acceptable.


Eating while interviewing: 

A candidate shared her story of entering into the interview room where the recruiter was sitting so relaxed and leaning against the backrest, keeping his legs crossed on the table, taking a bite of his sandwich, and with his mouth full of food talking to the candidate. First of all, this is so unprofessional. And even gross when somebody is eating and talking and spraying food all over. Yikes!

Solution: I have hiring managers who schedule interviews during lunchtime depending on what works for them and for the candidates. It’s been a practice to take the candidate out for lunch when the interviews are done. But it is certainly not respectful if you sit unprofessionally, eat during the interview and not even offer the candidate to join you on your lunch. It is also not acceptable when a recruiter tries to eat and talk over the phone. All your candidates hear is your munching and chewing sound and it is so annoying.


Unusual Hug: 

Hugging is a practice to greet someone you know. But corporate hugging is different and certainly not a good practice if it is with someone you don’t know, your interviewee and if it is more than the one-second rule with hands being below the shoulders. Don’t invade into the personal space of your candidates.

Solution: The answer is simple! Don’t hug your candidates. Respect their personal space. Keep a practice of giving a good handshake that is not too strong and not too weak. Do you want to be respectful? Walk your candidate into the interview room and walk them out to the lobby and thank them for coming and interviewing with you.


Disrespecting candidates: 

Not making a good eye contact with your candidates, always checking your phone during the interview, not starting the interview on time as informed, keeping your candidates waiting at the lobby for a long time, always taking notes during the interview and not talking or asking questions are some common reasons that I have heard why candidates feel disrespected. But I heard of one instance when a recruiter imitated the accent of a candidate and made a joke of the country she is from. While the organization promoted great diversity on their website,  this single act by the recruiter caused the candidate to drop out and additionally, caused the candidate to question the truthfulness of the company as it was apparent that the content on their website was a lie.

Solution: Respect the culture and background of your candidates. Don’t make a joke of the accent, nationality, a person’s look, the dress code or food of the nation they are from. You might be trying to incorporate a joke and get the candidate to relax but always be wary of what is an acceptable joke. If you are in doubt don’t try to test it on a candidate.


Asking illegal questions: 

This is not acceptable. Asking illegal questions like, Are you a US citizen? What country are your parents from? Are you married? Are you single? Do you have any children? etc.Nowadays candidates know very clearly what questions recruiters are allowed to ask and what not. So don’t take any chances knowingly or unknowingly. If you don’t know what are the legal/illegal questions then check out U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website to learn more.

Solution: According to the EEOC, It Is Illegal to ask questions about candidate’s Race, Color, or National Origin, Religion, Sex, Gender Identity, or Sexual Orientation, Pregnancy status, Disability, Age or Genetic Information, Citizenship, Marital Status or Number of Children. Below are some examples:

  • Illegal Question - Are you a US citizen? What country are your parents from?
  • Legal Question - Are you legally eligible to work in the United States? Can you show proof of citizenship/visa/alien registration if we decide to hire you?
  • Illegal Question - Are you married? Are you single? Do you have any children?
  • Legal Question - Do you have any commitments that might prevent you from working the expected hours/shifts?
  • Illegal Question - Are you pregnant?
  • Legal Question - Describe the job and then ask if your candidate can perform all functions.
  • Illegal Question - Do you have a disability? Have you ever filed a workers compensation claim? Have you ever suffered a workplace injury?
  • Legal Question - Describe the job and the expectations and then ask the candidate if they can perform all of the functions.
  • Illegal Question - Any question about color and race.
  • Legal Question - Almost always not acceptable unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification.


What are some recruiting/interviewing horror stories you have heard/had to go through in your career?

For more recruiting and interview insights, join us in San Francisco this January 30 - February 1, 2019, at #SRSC where talent acquisition leaders connect to leverage emerging recruiting practices.

Nisha Raghavan is the Talent Attraction and Employer Branding Specialist at the American Heart Association. Prior to this, she worked in the telecommunications and media industry to help attract, engage and retain talent. She writes about her Global HR experiences at her blog Your HR Buddy!! Connect with her on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @TheHrbuddy