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October 24, 2023

Don’t Turn Out the Lights: 10 Scary HR Stories That Will Keep You Awake At Night

hr horror stories written in a scary font

As the crisp fall breeze rolls in and the scent of pumpkin spice fills the air, it’s clear the spooky season has arrived. But before the clock strikes midnight, we’re ditching the campy slasher flicks and going straight to the source of all things scary — HR horror stories.

From the weird to the wacky, we’ve summoned ten HR tales that go bump in the night. 🕯

Whether you're an HR aficionado or a recruitment nightmare thrill-seeker, these chilling accounts of hiring gone ghastly will have you sleeping with the lights on. So grab a flashlight, check under your desk, and brace yourself for ten spine-tingling HR horror stories.

10 creepy crawly HR horror stories

  1. The case of the corporate con artist
  2. Attack of the killer potatoes
  3. Parable of the phony freelancer
  4. Tale of the tipsy troublemaker
  5. Curse of the clueless candidate
  6. Mystery of the secret superstar
  7. Departure of the disappearing trainer
  8. The stalker-candidate caper
  9. Secret of the sham resume
  10. Wizarding world of interviews

1. The case of the corporate con artist

Janelle Owens, Human Resources Director at language learning platform Guide2Fluency, had a near-miss with a known scammer.

“We made an offer to an individual who turned out to be a notorious scammer. This individual passed all the initial sniff tests. He was well-spoken, nailed all the interview questions, and his resume somehow checked out,” Janelle recalls.

But the employment paperwork revealed a terrifying secret. This candidate was a known scammer who had embezzled money from not one, but two different companies in the past. 

Lucky for Janelle, the corporate con artist used the same social security each time, tipping off the Employment Security Division. Thankfully, the HR team was able to avoid a bad hire and a known thief, but this tale of lurking larceny should make us all want to double down on the background checks.

“Long story short, our HR team got very lucky. We were extremely close to hiring and helping someone who likely would have stolen from our company.”

2. Attack of the killer potatoes

Things got weird when Sarah Jameson, Marketing Director of construction consulting company Green Building Elements, interviewed an applicant who showed up as… a potato?

Initially, everything seemed fine. The applicant aced his talent assessment tests, cranked out a killer sample article, and seemed like a good fit. But when it came to the Zoom interview, things got bizarre.

“As soon as the interview started, I was flabbergasted to see him as a potato. While I was amused at first — it was certainly a unique first impression — it quickly became distracting,” Sarah explains. “When I tried to ask him to remove the filter, he declined, saying that he did not want to be seen. This struck me as odd, especially considering that he has a photo on his CV. But upon looking at it again, it was very blurry.”

When Sarah asked the candidate to remove the filter a second time, he refused again. His reasoning? Since the job would be fully remote, seeing his face just wasn’t necessary. 

Understandably, Sarah decided to (politely) end the interview right then and there.

3. Parable of the phony freelancer

Carly Hill, Operations Manager at Virtual Holiday Party, had a brush with the bogus when one freelance candidate turned in an oddly familiar test assignment.

“When hiring freelance writers, we do a paid writing assignment with candidates to test out their writing skills before committing to a contract. Once, one of my colleagues was screening submissions when suddenly, the text felt very familiar — because she had originally written it!”

The audacity is truly terrifying. 💀

The candidate had plagiarized word for word from the very site they were applying to write for — and the hiring manager was the original author,” Carly explains.

Needless to say, Carly did not pay out for the sample assignment.

4. Tale of the tipsy troublemaker

John Ross, CEO of online education company Test Prep Insight, saw red when faced with unbelievably inappropriate behavior from a new hire.

“On this new hire's first day, we took him out to lunch at a sushi restaurant with four or five members from our team. The first thing that raised eyebrows was when he ordered a beer. Then a second. No one does that on their first day.”

After a few ill-advised lunch drinks, things took a sharp turn for the worse.

“He then proceeded to get slightly tipsy, and on the way out, he slapped a young female team member right on the butt. It was actually more of a full-hand squeeze. It was the most egregious thing I have ever seen at a work-related event, and the worst new-hire experience I have ever been part of.”

The young woman was understandably furious. John stepped in and fired the offender before they even left the restaurant.

5. Curse of the clueless candidate

Michael Nemeroff, CEO and Co-founder of Rush Order Tees, thought he’d take a chance on an inexperienced but eager candidate.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before he realized just how much on-the-job learning would be required.

“They took ‘learning on the job’ a bit too literally. We weren't even halfway through the interview, but I'd already given them a class on the difference between laser fabric printing and printing on paper with an inkjet,” says Michael. 

We’re all for skill sharing, but an interview is an awkward time for an impromptu masterclass.

6. Mystery of the secret superstar

Ryan Carrigan, CEO and Founder of relocation information site moveBuddha, was tempted to judge a book by its cover when a potential programmer showed up late to his interview wearing a truly perplexing outfit.

“After waiting for around an hour, a 5.8-foot guy, wearing shorts and a basketball vest, with a laptop, walked into the room. He did not greet us and sat down in an empty chair. For 10 minutes, he said nothing, and it was truly shocking to us.”

But then, something even weirder happened.

“We conducted an interview, and he proved very knowledgeable about programming. He was the perfect fit for the position,” says Ryan.

The biggest jump scare of all? Ryan and the team learned that first impressions aren’t always the best indicator of whether a candidate will make a great team member.

Now, Ryan and his team let the candidate’s skills (not their outfits) do the talking.

7. Departure of the disappearing trainer

Derek Bruce, First Aid Training Director of Skills Training Group, hired a highly recommended candidate for a key trainer role.

Little did he know this candidate was perfecting his disappearing act. 👻

“His resume was impeccable, and the interview went brilliantly. However, within his first week, he seemed disinterested, frequently arriving late and leaving early. By the second week, he'd vanish for hours, leaving his trainees puzzled. To top it off, he quit abruptly after just three weeks, citing a ‘better opportunity.’”

Jarred by the rapid resignation, the team had to scramble to cover his sessions and reassure clients. Since then, Derek has learned to assess commitment, not just skills.

8. The stalker-candidate caper

Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager at Ling App, had an unsettling candidate experience when an excitable contact turned creepy.

“I've experienced this to some degree a few times, but never like ‘Jerry.’ He found me across social networks and inundated me with messages,” Jarir explains.

And while the messages seemed innocuous at first, things started to get weird. Fast.

“He got too specific and personal, congratulating me for things he shouldn't know about or care about, commenting on family members' special occasions and such. Of course, when he didn't get a positive response from these or the job role, his comments turned dark and somewhat threatening.”

Naturally, Jarir blocked Jerry on every platform he could, but to this day he still gets mysterious messages that could be Jerry under a pseudonym. 😈

9. Secret of the sham resume

Once upon a time, Anastasiia Khlopova thought she had found a diamond candidate for her open recruiter role. With a shiny resume and proven track record, she seemed too good to be true. Anastasiia and her team decided to skip the reference check and snap up the candidate ASAP.

But after onboarding, things started to feel a little… fishy.

“We noticed that she did not understand the work process, could not communicate with clients and candidates and was very worried,” says Anastasiia.

That’s when she decided to take a referral from the candidate’s previous manager, and the truth came out.

“[We found out that] she had been fired for not following through on plans,” Anastasiia explains, “Everything she had said in the interview was untrue. We talked to her, and she confirmed everything and said that she wrote a lie in her resume and lied at the interview because she was afraid she wouldn't be hired.”

Now a recruiter at Jooble, Anastasiia has learned her lesson: NEVER skip your reference checks.

10. Wizarding world of interviews

Maria Opre, the Lead Writer at resource discovery platform EarthWeb, has assisted countless brands in the talent search. She’s learned that some applicants will go above and beyond to stand out.

“An applicant arrived dressed as a wizard. Yes, a wand-wielding, robe-donning wizard!” says Maria. Why a wizard?

He wanted to ‘cast a spell’ on the interviewers. While many may argue that it's essential to stand out, it's equally essential to gauge the room. This may have worked for a role in a theater group but for a corporate position…Maybe not so much.”

We’re all for standing out. But when it comes to the job interview, it’s probably better to save the costumes for your office Halloween party. 🧙🏽‍♂️

Don’t get spooked by bad hiring processes

At Breezy, we know hiring isn’t for the faint of heart.

These hair-raising HR horror stories remind us that while the supernatural may not be real, the challenges of finding the perfect candidate certainly are.

When you’re ready to sage your hiring process and get rid of the bad recruitment juju, Breezy’s got you covered. Breezy is the candidate-friendly applicant tracking system that automatically posts your open roles to all the top job boards, helps you build a custom careers page to attract awesome applicants, and even uses AI to identify your best candidates faster. 

Try Breezy free for 14 days and banish your hiring nightmares for good.