In HR, it’s rainbows, cupcakes and smiley emojis most of the time, right?
Except for the HR horror stories. And we have some doozies here for you!
Tales from the dark side of recruiting, retaining and just listening are probably a big part of the reason HR pros get burned out. Almost everyone in a Workvivo study said they’ve been burnt out at some point in the last six months.
HR horror stories roll in
Now’s the time of year for horror stories, and HR professionals have mountains of them straight out of the workplace. The irony: HR is the most feared department to work with: A Monster study found almost 25% of employees called HR the scariest!
But, when I put out a request for HR stories from hell — from funny to horrific — they rolled in. And kept rolling in.
It seems every HR pro and anyone who’s ever managed or hired people has a tale to tell!
Here are 14, mostly word for word, that will have you cringing, empathizing and laughing all at once.
A work review gone bad — really bad
From Gary C. Cooper, the executive chairman of Palmetto Infusion Services, and author of The Success Paradox: How to Surrender and Win in Business and Life:
We had a nurse who was doing a ride-along one time. She said, “Pull over.” She ran into the woods. She was gone for a while. She got back in the car with no pants on!!!! No underwear on either!!!😳
Poor thing didn’t say a word for the 20 minute ride back to the home healthcare office. She just placed her clipboard over her lap.
Imagine the awkward silence in the car. The mentor and mentee had no clue what to do or say.
As they drove up to the office, the mentee simply got out of the car, walked through the parking lot, and got in her car only to never be seen again. I guess you could say she really stunk up her interview!
Teeth fall out
Kathleen Quinn Votaw, CEO of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm, shares this from one of her team members, who had no shortage of tales to tell:
I remember a time when I was looking for data entry clerks and one of my candidate’s teeth fell out during the in-person interview. She told me she didn’t have any more denture adhesive and didn’t have time to grab it before her interview.
What not to do on Zoom
You’d think we’d be better at Zoom by now. But Nancy Maresca, VP Human Resources, meQuilibrium, has proof some job candidates aren’t:
I have joked that I could easily give a Zoom tutorial on ‘What not to do in an interview.’ I have seen some bad camera angles, but the worst was where I had a full view of a candidates’ nasal cavity.
Another candidate who interviewed for a position that required attention to detail and comprehensive organizational skills took the interview from a dorm room. The bed was unmade, and the closet door was open with hangers sticking out askew. It might not have been the candidate’s bed or closet but it was an unusual (and not the most professional) backdrop for a job interview.
Creepy thank you gift
From our colleague and expert contributor here at HRMorning, Jackie Plunkett, VP of Human Resources at Successfuel:
At a previous job, my Director of Recruiting came to me totally freaked out. He said an applicant sent him a strange thank you gift, it was a custom toaster. It looked regular but …
It made toast with his picture on it! The candidate would’ve had to pull his LinkedIn profile picture, had the toaster made and had it delivered the day after the interview.
He was disqualified for being creepy. I was speechless.
When HR is the lead in horror story!
From Farnan, who is also the author of Now Here: A Journey from Toxic Boss to Conscious Connector. She reminds us that even HR pros are guilty of the scary story. Here, she was the candidate:
Once I interviewed with a startup and the majority of their engineering team was barefoot with their feet on their desks when I did the office tour.
Another time, I went in for a group interview for a startup in San Diego where they spent a few hours showing us around their fancy office, presenting their stats on a big set of screens in a room, selling us on why we should join, only to tell us that the role we were being considered for didn’t offer any pay.
The fire-breathing candidate
Put this under the “You can’t make up this stuff” folder. The story comes from another TalenTrust team member:
One time I was interviewing someone via zoom when the fire alarms started going off in the building they were in. I told them to get themselves to safety and we could reschedule but they were insistent on staying on the call. They carried me through the building to the exit with everyone else also evacuating and the fire department rushing into the building.
HR guilty as charged
From the other side of the desk, Farnan shares these horror stories from the perspective of candidates who had less than ideal experiences with hiring pros:
I had a candidate who prepared for a few hours for a Head of Product role, only to call me after to share that the majority of the interviewers were on their phones or multitasking during her presentation.
We also worked with a Head of People who showed up 20 minutes late to a 30 minute meeting and then told us she only needed 2 minutes of our time.