June 25, 2018

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Headhunter Reality Stories

Someday I envision a “Headhunter T.V.” channel on cable. When that happens call me as I promise to deliver the recruiter version of Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” show on CNBC.

I often tell business friends and business acquaintances that we in the recruiting profession are truly blessed (tongue in cheek style).

Blessed because we get to enjoy a mind-stimulating and lucrative career while simultaneously having an endless source of comedic relief and entertainment during the course of each and every day at our desks.

I ask you: Who needs television sitcoms and soap operas when the best real-world reality entertainment is that which we encounter with our candidates and clients during our daily recruiting activities?!

Not only is this a great career, but it saves me lots of money on cable movie channel subscriptions as nothing can be as entertaining as the fits and starts, about-faces, shenanigans, internal conflicts, behavior irregularities, lies, deceit and manipulation our sometimes prospective clients and candidates endear us with.

Among some of my all time most notable stories follow. These are funny looking back ten years later, but they weren’t quite so at the time:

Funny Story #1

A managerial candidate from a familiar company called desperately seeking help to “get out” of her current situation. After meeting at a hotel and making certain she was committed and not just having a “blue day” I took on the project of representing her to a select group of presidents I knew would have interest. She was professional in her appearance, articulate and the resume complimented the person … but I had that little voice deep inside that said “beware” as she was too perfect in some aspects and a bit too scripted.

In about four weeks we had an interview which led to a second and third meeting and to an eventual six-figure offer with a multi-thousand dollar sign on bonus. Everything came in precisely at the price point she had stated she required on multiple occasions to accept the offer.

She accepted and resigned. My first “red flag” was when I found out she gave a five-week resignation notice. Five weeks! And no she wasn’t quite that important in her current role.

On the Tuesday after the Monday she was to begin her new job I received a call from the president’s office of the new employer. “We assume you’ve heard what happened right Frank?”

I replied, “No. Why would anyone think of informing me of anything?” sarcastically.

“She called here Friday,” the company manager continued “leaving a confusing message about a counteroffer and that she’d call back but she never called back and never showed up yesterday” he explained.

In calling the candidate I found out this was not her first counteroffer acceptance. But she did not reveal this … I had a co-worker reveal her past history to me.

In fact it was not the second counteroffer acceptance.

No. Indeed I discovered this was the third time she accepted a counteroffer with the same employer within a five year period she was working there! This garnered her significant salary increases, a larger office, and enhanced staff and working conditions or a combination thereof each and every time!

This was one of those rare cases the company loved being manipulated and this person had the process down to a science.

I know what you must be thinking: Frank didn’t prep his candidate.

Nope. If you’re thinking we didn’t prep on the whole counteroffer thing trust me I went through this discussion ad-nauseum just as Byrne, Bruno, Finkel and all the great recruiting trainers and past and present have taught us to do. I even became sick of hearing myself enforce the “counteroffer pitfalls” to the candidate during her resignation period.

It turns out the employer in this instance, contrary to the majority of cases that contribute to the statistics, actually raised this person’s salary and enhanced her job duties each and every time she resigned! It was a marriage of bi-lateral abuse and each party loved being abused as if stuck in an abusive marriage.

The candidate had the company grasped firmly by their chicken nuggets and knew exactly when and how firmly to yank on them to manipulate her employer repeatedly to her personal advantage. I was clearly duped and taken advantage of when I discovered I had been exploited to benefit someone’s current financial status. (I did get some revenge later in due time but that’s another story).

Scary Story #2

Every now and then we come across a client that loves our first candidate so much … they decide to take over the entire finalization of the interview process. These are the guys or gals that feel “they know darn well” how to extend an offer and no longer need us.


This is not so bad if it’s a professional, well-trained and knowledgeable large corporation completing the hiring process and knowing how to properly extend an offer, etc. It’s not bad if you’re on retainer it doesn’t matter how the second interview/offer is handled as you get paid regardless.

It does matter if your license is on the line, you’re working in a state with high Errors and Omissions insurance premiums (like New Jersey) and the company is a less than one hundred entrepreneurial firm that needs to be monitored closely so as to protect the candidate from prematurely resigning without having a written official offer in hand.

Such was the case when I found out on a Friday a few years ago, that the candidate I had sent in the Friday before, was invited back in for a second interview the following Wednesday (without my knowledge or notification) and offered the job on the spot by the president.

Great. I thought. Less work for me – same fee rate.

I called the president’s executive assistant to find out what the official start date was for final billing.

She could not tell me. “Why’s that?” I asked.

“Because the candidate is getting back to us next week after “…working thing out with her current company.”

After multiple calls to candidate’s cell and home number I began getting worried when by the following Wednesday, one week after she supposedly received her offer … I still could not reach her. This was a case of over-indulgence in arrogance and self-confidence where both candidate and employer felt “they had everything under control."

They didn’t.

I finally I called her at work which I was instructed to not do as I had no other choice.

That morning the president of the company stated, “If she can’t start by the fifteenth, (which was two weeks from the Wednesday she had accepted the offer on) then I’m rescinding the offer!”

I nearly blew a gasket and scolded him for circumventing our services and extending the verbal offer directly without my guidance and consulting. I explained had he clued me in to the intended verbal offer I would have advised her to not resign until we both knew she could accommodate your start date requirements.

Had we been included in the decision making process I told him … I would have avoided this problem by making sure she had a written offer letter first before resigning and that we had pre-anticipated potential start dates before reaching this point.

Here we had a candidate who resigned from her job a week ago … and still did not know which Monday she’d be able to start (whether she needed two weeks or had to wait until the third week to begin the new job).

The president was not pleased, as he was traveling to Europe on the third week and insisted the candidate start in two weeks flat and not in three weeks.

Obviously, we were not fond of doing business with this particular company again so we sent in a new contract with substantially higher rates so as to curtail having to hear from them unless it became well worth it.

This candidate was almost caught in job limbo as she decided on her own to resign based on a wishy-washy verbal offer which lacked a firm start date agreement. Had she come to us for guidance and advised us of the second interview (company is also to blame) we would have consulted otherwise.

We now use this story repeatedly to impress upon candidates why it is imperative for them to have the company deal with us and not accept direct offers. We now convince them better than ever before we have their interests at mind and not just the company’s.

Funny Story #3

It was around the year 2000 when a certain insurance industry person came to me to assist with his new job search. As usual, I waved my magic wand, called industry hiring contacts, and within a month or so had him on interviews which led to the job he described as his “dream job” he had always wanted.


He started on a Monday. That Friday of the same week the department manager called around 4 pm.

“Frank," he said, "Might you know what happened to Joe? He told us he was leaving for lunch around noon and we never heard back from him.

If he quit … which is what it's starting to look like, we were wondering if he’d at least inform you as to what happened."

I made calls that day.

I made calls the rest of the following week.

“Joe” (name changed to protect and conceal his extraordinary stupidity and lack of business etiquette) never called.

About two months went by when I decided to call his former employer.

Sure enough Joe had gone back to his previous employer.

For the next few years the inside joke was, “You’re not sending us another ‘Joe’ are you Frank?," when referring to the experience of this vanished candidate.

After four years Joe had the audacity and block-headedness to actually call me back. He sent his resume stating “he was having a tough time with his divorce” and noted “other personal problems” and decided a new job was something he could not stand.

Having been suckered into these games before, I told him “Sorry, Joe but you only get once chance with IRES … you had yours.”

I’m glad I passed on him.

He then contacted a recruiter of ours in our Albany location. And yet another recruiter in Philadelphia.

I sent a mass email out so everyone representing IRES knew to not represent Joe and why.

It was a good thing I did. We found out weeks later yet he was under investigation for possessing a handgun and working in the insurance industry forging coverages and selling policies without proper licensing.

We never heard back from Joe again.

The legacy of “Joe” spread with the client company I was working with from offices from coast to coast.

When in need of laugh … or when someone feels like sticking it in my ribs … to this day they bring up old “Joe”.

- Frank Risalvato