You know the drill. You get all excited about a great new candidate that you sent to your client for an interview. He or she seems perfect – matching all the requirements and even having a little more experience than what was necessary – and then you get the call: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

What happened? You ask what was wrong and you get told that they don’t hire people who drive SUVs. That wasn’t in the requirements! Frustrating, right?

We polled a number of staffing specialists and asked for some of the most unbelievable reasons why their candidate wasn’t hired. Some of the more common stories were that the company didn’t hire the unemployed or people who smoke.

Some are understandable, but some are just plain absurd, if not illegal. Believe it or not, all of these are true stories.

10. The candidate was thirsty.

It’s common to be asked by an interviewer before starting if you’d like something to drink. But your candidate should probably refuse. A former corporate recruiter told me, “I worked in an HR department where one of my superiors would turn down a client if they asked for coffee instead of water during the interview. She hated people who made her go out of her way.” So if your candidate needs a little caffeine pick-me-up, they should stop at Starbucks or Caribou beforehand.

9. The candidate couldn’t afford a mani-pedi.

“One recruiter I knew was absolutely obsessed with people having clean and clipped fingernails, and if it was a woman, she had to have a pedicure if she wore open-toed shoes,” a former recruiter told me. Why anyone would wear open-toed shoes to a job interview is beyond me, but it goes without saying: be well-groomed.

8. The candidate is overweight, so they’ll presumably be too lazy to be productive.

A longtime recruiter in the Great White North told me, “A person almost got rejected because she was overweight. She was interviewed for an office job, where her size wouldn’t have been a hindrance or a problem. “It turned out they associated being overweight with being lazy, and that was why they wanted to reject her.” Fortunately for this candidate, the other recruiters convinced the interviewer of her stellar qualities, and she was hired, and turned out to be a fantastic employee.

7. The candidate’s résumé hasn’t been “dumbed down.”

Unfortunately, this one is all too common. Your candidate’s professional experience costs them a job because the company assumes they’ll want a bigger salary. “This one must happen all the time – the client rejected the candidate because they felt threatened, and thought the candidate would want to take their job,” said one recruiter. In this story, there really is no particular moral. Use your best judgment. Most of you probably do this for your candidate. If not, you better start doing it now.

6. They drive an SUV.

An HR specialist said people who drive ozone-destroying vehicles like Avalanche SUVs aren’t going to get a job from him. “If you’re too stupid to pay attention to Planet Earth … if you’re too stupid to buy a car that won’t fit in a parking spot … if you drive a car that weighs more than 6,000 lbs., you’re not going to get hired by me,” he said. “You’re too clueless. I hear oil companies are hiring.”

5. They have no sense of boundaries.

Every candidate says they’re good with people. But some feel they have to show, not tell. A staffing company president told me he had an HR manager interview a “highly peculiar” candidate who chewed gum throughout the entire process. A bit rude, but that wasn’t what made the manager throw his résumé into the circular file. At the end of the interview, “he gave her [the manager] a hug and a big kiss.” There’s a thing called moving too fast. It’s not a first date. A handshake will suffice.

4. The candidate seeks the advice of a spiritual power, mid-interview.

Many people pray they’ll get the job. But this usually happens before the initial interview, not in the middle of it. A former staffing agency worker recalls a woman who paused right in the middle of the interview and appeared to be trying to communicate with an otherworldly being. A few moments later, the woman said, “My husband just doesn’t think this is the best opportunity.” Her husband had died eight years before. And he was right – she didn’t get a job offer that day.

3. The candidate likes donkeys, but the hiring manager prefers elephants (or vice versa).

Your candidate should never, never, ever bring political beliefs into the interview. A woman applied for a receptionist job. When asked what she was currently doing, she said she wanted to work in social services because she loves helping people and is a Democrat. “As soon as she said she is a Democrat the look on my boss’s face was like, ‘WHAT? Did she just say that?’ ” the former staffing specialist who sat in on the interview told me. The liberal candidate almost didn’t get hired, but the specialist convinced a different manager to give her a second interview.

2. The candidate’s spouse stalks them.

Back in the days of voice beepers, a male candidate was being interviewed by a staffing specialist when his beeper went off. It was his wife, asking, “Honey, when are you going to be home?” The candidate ignored it, but she kept paging him, asking where he was. It progressed into an all-out tirade: “I know you’re with that [expletive]! Don’t come home ever again!” Your candidate should always turn off their cell phones or other mobile electronic devices off during an interview. There are other ways to resolve marital issues.

1. They’re bad at games.

This one is my favorite. A young former staffing specialist told me a guy interviewing for a software engineer position was asked to solve a Rubik’s cube in under five minutes. When he couldn’t perform, he was denied the job; told that engineers should be able to solve basic algorithms. There are websites for this. Better safe than sorry.


Have a crazy story of your own? E-mail us at guest@ or leave your story in the comments below! Let’s have some fun with this!

Tags: Business, Rubik's cube, SUV, Caribou, Starbucks