A List of Hiring Horror Stories

2023-10-29 12:00:00
Erika Rykun
Original 1157
Summary : Discover spine-chilling hiring horror stories just in time for Halloween. From Frankenstein-like candidates with fabricated work histories to zombie interviewees who lack basic hygiene, these tales are sure to make your hair stand on end. Dive into the haunted house of recruiter nightmares and learn valuable lessons from each bone-chilling experience.


Your hiring monsters have come for you!

Let’s stir you up at this spookiest time with bone-chilling recruitment stories!

Halloween is coming, and we recall creeptastic tales about zombies, ghouls, poltergeists, and other deadly creatures.

Have you met any of those during the hiring process?

Sometimes, they visit interviews, do frightening things, and make HR’s hair stand on end. Feel their cold breath tickling your neck in these true HR horror stories from business leaders and hiring managers.

They open the door for you to the house of HR horrors.

The Haunted House of Recruiter Nightmares

Be brave, go inside, and receive both a trick (horror story) and a treat (takeaway lesson) in every room to bury your HR fears in the cemetery of your mind and help you protect your recruitment in the future.

1. The Room of HR’s Scares: Frankenstein

Image Source: Book Marks

Our series of HR horror tales begins with Frankenstein.

As you may know, Frankenstein is a person who invents something that goes out of control and destroys the creator. This meaning originates from Frankenstein, the novel by Mary Shelley. In her tale, Victor Frankenstein, a scientist, makes a sapient creature by stitching the dead body pieces.

No dead bodies appear in this story from Jim Pendergast, Senior Vice President at altLINE Sobanco. But! The job applicant used other materials to craft something else.


“It was the final interview stage, the third round. We wanted to gather more in-depth information about the candidate’s work experience at other financial institutions to evaluate their fit for a job. One of the requirements was a minimum of five years of transportation factoring experience in either an Operations or Account Management position.

The candidate was smart enough to create a believable legend about working at different well-known companies for seven years. It went out of control when one of our employees (who had also worked at the same place before) started asking questions about the company. The myth got busted. It was terrifying to know we had been fooled for two interview rounds and wasted so much time.”


The candidate had a high talent quotient towards storytelling and stitched pieces together, just like Frankenstein once did. However, they couldn’t confirm their work experience. Dishonesty can take many forms. Actually, four in five people (a whopping 81%) lie in job interviews.

The teaching point: when hiring a new team member, requesting references from previous employers is always beneficial.

2. The Hallway of HR’s Dread: Zombie from the Coffin

How about a horrifying interview story?

Get it from Stephan Baldwin, Founder of Assisted Living. It may be one of the scary stories healthcare professionals tell their kids to behave. You’ll understand why after reading it.


“One of the senior living facilities needed a nursing assistant. Among all job applicants, one person made the whole hiring team cringe with disgust. They had a pack of dirt mixed with grass under their fingernails and looked like someone who had just crawled out of the grave. To crown it all, they had an unpleasant odor and constantly coughed.

It’s strange, but some people still don’t understand that hand hygiene is a dogma among healthcare workers, particularly nurses. It’s the primary protective measure against the transmission of infections for healthcare professionals and those receiving the care they provide.”


Poor personal hygiene still remains one of the workplace safety issues. That is why HR managers should pay attention to it when hiring new people to build a healthy team in the office. You wouldn’t like to breed ground for germs spreading infections among your staff.

3. The Chamber of HR’s Terror: The Sticky-Fingered Heart-Ripper

Image Source: Career Addict

Ready for even more nightmarish hiring stories?

Here’s another about the candidate who won the heart of Shawn Plummer, CEO at The Annuity Expert, and later “ripped it out” with sticky fingers.


“Normally, I don’t rely on first impressions, but it was a strikingly outstanding experience of interviewing a job applicant for the role of an insurance agent. Our communication was flawless. The candidate had all the necessary skills and background to fill the open position.

When we said our goodbyes, I didn’t have the slightest doubt the person was a perfect match for the vacancy.

However, we noticed office supplies were missing after their first day at work. We checked the security cameras. And bingo. Our new hire turned out to be a thief!

It was such a disappointment… This incident left me speechless…”


Is it possible to avoid such soul-crushing and heart-ripping moments?

In fact, I have bad news for you and shocking employee theft statistics. 68.2% of employees admit to stealing at least once from their employers.

The most common items stolen from work are:

  • Sticky notes
  • Pencils/pens
  • Highlighters
  • Notepads
  • Coffee
  • Cash
  • Toilet paper, etc.

4. The Library of Resurrected Spirits: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Image Source: M00NKEY / GETTY IMAGES

After one particular interview, the phrase I Know What You Did Last Summer leaves Ryan Hammill, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Ancient Language Institute, in hysterical laughter.


Because (Spoiler alert!) he literally participated in a spiritual resurrection séance.

And it’s indeed one of the scariest hiring stories ever told.


“During the summer, we sought a project manager to take over one of our Latin courses. Several candidates showed up for an interview. One of them caught my attention immediately, holding a book, namely Virgil’s collection of Latin poems. There was something else, but I couldn’t tell what it was.

The interviewing process started with a greeting and a short chat about Virgil. But everything went eerie when the candidate told me they wanted to resurrect the spirit of Virgil by casting Latin spells. The other thing in their hands was a tiny Ouija board, a spirit board with letters and numbers.

The funniest thing about it? When they pronounced some words, not a single one was in Latin! At that moment, it was far from funny, however. It felt so creepy.

When they got a rejection, they became disgruntled. I tried to courteously explain the reason, avoiding anything that sounded sarcastic or insulting.”


Spell casting and spirit summoning are definitely not the qualities of a successful project manager.

It would help if you also strived to find the best way to reject candidates gracefully and tell them they don’t make it through. It’s always better to kill their anger with kindness and patience.

5. The Sinister Hideaway: Skeletons Under the Floorboards

Looks like a perfect resume?

Don’t rush into scheduling an interview just yet.

In her hiring horror story, Linda Shaffer, Chief People Operations Officer at Checkr, warns you about the possible skeletons in the closet and under the floorboards.


“Once, we had a good peek at the dark side of HR. One job applicant lied both on the CV and in the interview.

How did we know?

After interviewing, we performed background screening. The candidate indicated fake education and fake courses. It wasn’t the worst thing, though. Two misdemeanors showed up in the criminal record check.

Lying on the resume and trying to hide the ghoulish past cost this candidate a job. As for us, we learned the lesson: perform background checks before interviews, not after.”


You can now see why background screening is a must, no matter whether you hire for an in-office or remote team.

With a background check, you can review the following:

  • Criminal records
  • Academic background
  • Employment verification
  • Driving reports
  • Civil court history, etc.

6. The Basement of HR’s Panic: Who You Gonna Call?

Image Source: Shutterstock

Watch out!

Your workplace may become full of unleashed demons and paranormal manifestations. Your new hire can release evil spirits from your employees and provoke an avalanche of team conflicts. Such an onboarding nightmare happened with Alex Milligan, Co-founder & CMO of NuggMD.


“We were so glad to have a new surety bond specialist on our team. The onboarding only started; perhaps it was too soon to celebrate. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, as they say.

The mess in our team the newbie created in just two weeks was horrible. It became a demonic office as if all the vices incident to humanity gathered in one place.

The person behaved like a mischievous green poltergeist from the Ghostbusters movie: firing up conflicts, gossiping, and turning people against each other. What’s worse, the new employee indulged in propaganda of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.”


Ghostbusters won’t help you here.

Onboarding is a delicate period for your “oldies” and “newbies.” It’s necessary to establish effective workplace communication, collect employee feedback, and monitor the pulse of your company continuously.

7. The Cell of HR’s Phobias: I, Robot

Image Source: Sodexo

Do you remember those horrific films where artificial intelligence (AI) went awry?

Take Skynet from Terminator or Agents from The Matrix, for example.

While many people fear AI can take over the world, candidates already use it to ace job interviews (and it isn’t comforting!). AI nearly passed the interview at Popl. Gerald Lombardo, Head of Growth at the company, shares this HR’s tale of horror about hiring for a software testing job.


“We’ll never forget this case with the technical recruitment of a test engineer for our Popl app.

The candidate received a take-home technical test with several problematic questions and tasks. They turned it in after only 20 minutes, although the assignment required at least 2–3 hours to be completed. So, we decided to check it with an AI detection tool.

As you may have guessed, all the answers were created by AI. The Aha moment, however, came later.

After running all other messages from our chat through the AI detector, we made an alarming discovery: we had been communicating with artificial intelligence! The candidate must have asked AI to answer our questions and then copy-pasted the answers into the chat.”


Giving take-home assignments when hiring software testers or test engineers for Agile projects is one of the most common HR mistakes in IT. Instead, ask your job candidates to perform real-time technical tests on platforms with monitoring capabilities.

Also, try to mix the interviewing methods:

  • Texting
  • Real-time test platform (Codility, CodeSignal, Evalground, etc.)
  • Video (Jobma, Skype, Google Meet, etc.)
  • Phone call
  • Face-to-face meeting

Exit: This Way to Get Out When Hiring Goes Wrong

You won’t have to pay a monstrous price ever again to recruit the best talent.

Taking the morals from these hair-raising HR tales of terror, you can make a potion against potential recruitment disasters.

Ahem… Do you also need help brewing up your projects?

No hocus-pocus is necessary – just one magic cauldron. ZenTao is an open-source project management tool made for software development teams.

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