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Recruiting Worst Practices

We've all been there... rejected by a potential employer... but sometimes you have to scratch your head....

Be the reason real, imagined, correct or with wild abandonment, some of us have gotten the craziest rejection letters.

So let's have some levity.  What is the craziest rejection letters (nowadays e-mails) you've receive?

I can name two.  The first where the VP of the company clearly said (and I can still quote it over 20 years later) "...our mutual objectives differ...".  I'm still puzzled by that one....

The other just makes me laugh.  In the rejection letter they said (paraphrase) "We made our decision and I'm sure you know Bob Smith, formerly of Big Toys, Inc.  Bob  has had experience...."

Why do I still laugh?  Who is Bob?  Why do I care that Bob got the job, I didn't!  And why would you go out of your way to belittle me?

Anyway, what's yours?


(Accounting Manager) |

How about this one...I was offered a job with a law firm, got the contract in the mail to sign, then, before I could return it, I received another letter telling me they had rescinded the offer. There was no communication in between the two letters. Talk about class...

Diane McAllister
Title: Partner
Company: Brown Welch McAllister, LLP
(Partner, Brown Welch McAllister, LLP) |

You are lucky ... I wish I would have had the offer rescinded. When an incoming executive didn't want your new position filled, life is miserable.

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

I think it was an application for one of my first positions. The ad said (yes - this is many years before the internet was in everyone's reach) entry level person, preferably someone interested in accounting or going to school for an accounting degree, no experience necessary. The "Thank you but" note I received indicated I was not a fit because I had no accounting experience (although I was an evening student working towards my accounting degree).

(Interim CFO) |

Rejected once, not due to skills or qualifications, but due to personality fit!
Laughed about it later with the daughter of the Boss, who reckoned I was rejected because I actually had a personality!

Sandra Snashfold
Title: Interim CFO
Company: Winunited Ltd
(Interim CFO, Winunited Ltd) |

Email read:- "we have found other cv's to be more accurate than your own."

When I questioned the sender; were they inferring that there were inaccuracies on my CV, they replied, well no, we just meant that other cv's more accurately matched the criteria requested by the potential employer.

Didn't read like that to me!!!

Samuel W Reed
Title: Cofounder and CTO
Company: BitMEX
LinkedIn Profile
(Cofounder and CTO , BitMEX) |

I received an e-mail from my contact at a contract/temp firm saying they had "decided not to represent me." The next day the office principal called and asked if I'd be interested in taking a contract with them.

Linda Chateauneuf
Title: Director, Business Services
Company: Reit Management & Research
LinkedIn Profile
(Director, Business Services, Reit Management & Research) |

First job out of grad school - received a letter saying "sorry - you didn't get the job" - then the next day, received an offer letter from the same company -- still makes me smile after all these years...

(CFO) |

As a last step in the hiring process, I had to submit a sample of my penmanship to the owner of the firm who I was told was able to determine whatever psychological makeup of the people working in the business. Needless to say, this was back in the days when everyone knew how to write in cursive. After a week or so, I received a phone call advising me that in no way shape or form would I ever be hired at that firm due to what was perceived in my handwriting sample. I never met or spoke with the owner and it was probably a good thing in hindsight.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Shades of Rod Serling.

(Director of Accounting) |

I received the typical H/R blowoff email two days after an all day, out of town interview saying they were still in the hiring process and would keep me updated. The next day that same H/R 'professional' posted on linkedin that they were looking for that position and would anyone let him know if they knew anyone. I never did receive a no thank you letter from him.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I was applying for a Director of Accounting position and made it through three interviews. The CEO called me and basically told me the job was mine, but that he wanted me to meet with the person I was replacing and her direct report for one last interview. A week later the CEO called me to stumble through what was an apology but they had to offer it to someone else. When I asked for some feedback as to anything I could do to improve my interview skills going forward he couldn't tell me what went wrong. Obviously a dislike on personality or something; the weird thing is we were laughing and joking during the interview; I left feeling like it went awesome.

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Didn't get a formal rejection letter but endured a comical 4-way interview (myself and 3 interviewers). It was for an internal audit position. One interviewer spoke about her own experience, and how she had transitioned into audit from HR (which was quite curious to me). Then she went on to insist "but you've never worked in internal audit before, right?".

On my CV it was plainly displayed that I worked at Deloitte and in the internal audit function at a Fortune 500 company. I still wonder whether it was a psychological interview or if she never bothered to read my resume.

On a separate occasion, a guy stopped in the midst of our interview and took a 15 minute phone call.

I guess this falls under "fit".

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

That's happened to me a few times (phone calls). It says lot about the person interviewing and probably the company.

(Controller) |

I have you all beat.

I received an offer letter from the CEO to start on 'x' date for a position in another town, knowing I would need to make living arrangements, drove the 250 miles, stayed in a motel overnight and reported to work on the appointed date. The CEO was out of town and had apparently not lined things up, because HR asked for the offer letter, had me do some paperwork but ultimately told me they could not process me to start work.

The ultimate outcome was that I went home and was never even reimbursed for my costs. The cause was incredibly fraught politics in the organization and I had no recourse for reasons I will not disclose because they have reached out for me to come work for them.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Here's a oldie but goodie:

Them: "Thanks for your interest in the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position at Mile Hi Foods. We have reviewed your application. Unfortunately, you are not the right fit for the position at this time."

Me: "In what way was I "lacking"?"

Them: "We actually decided not to hire a CFO and will be focusing on a Controller instead. When I closed out the job, it sent reject letters."


Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Just had a conversation with another CFO. Here's his latest story (you can't make this stuff up)...

"I [he] had an ongoing argument with a recruiter on this title, "CFO - Convenience Store Retailer and Fuel Distribution Company". The recruiter kept trying to convince me that the title implied that industry experience was required. I informed him that if I was a mind reader, I'd have the winning numbers to the $700m Powerball."

Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

"I know that the job description does NOT make sense and I agree with you that the employer is wrong about certain things......but that is what they want and I have to follow what they want because they are the ones paying me!"

(Assistant Financial Controller) |

I was recruited in the winter my senior year of college, to start an auditing position across the country. I immediately stopped other interviews, finished school and enjoying my last summer while preparing to live on my own for the first time. I was so excited and bought furniture, kitchenware, etc. Three weeks before starting I received a standard rejection letter in the mail and had a missed call from the Sr Manager. When I returned the call to find out what happened, the Sr Manager was unaware of the rejection and was only calling to get some information for the credit card they were establishing in my name. He called HR to inform them of their error.

Thank goodness I still had the job and now even years later, a funny story to tell, but it was also a quick wake up to how vulnerable I had allowed myself to be in the process.


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