weird job applicants

The recruiters here at SpareFoot will review more than 7,000 résumés this year. This means they’ll come into contact, in some form or fashion, with more than 7,000 job applicants. And that translates into more than 7,000 different personalities.

Any recruiter or hiring manager will tell you that if you’re sorting through that many job applicants (and personalities), you’re bound to come across a few, uh, interesting ones.

“We definitely embrace creative and unique applications, and as a nontraditional company, we do invite some quirkiness in résumés and cover letters. When you go through this many applications, being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Rachel Morse, one of the recruiters at SpareFoot.

However, not every quirky résumé or cover letter makes the cut at SpareFoot or other employers. There’s got to be a balance between peculiar and professional.

In 2012, nearly 2,300 hiring managers surveyed for CareerBuilder offered up some examples of peculiar behavior on the part of job applicants (who most likely didn’t get hired). Here are three of the best ones:

  • A job candidate called himself a genius and invited the hiring manager to interview him at his apartment.
  • A job candidate specified that her résumé was designed to be sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch.”
  • A job candidate’s cover letter cited her family’s ties to organized crime.

We invited hiring managers, recruiters and others to tell us about the wackiest job candidate they’ve ever come across. Here are five of their stories. Perhaps you can commiserate with them.


The Dog Barker

We are a very dog-friendly office. In every interview we have, the dogs run up to the meeting room and greet the new guest. In most cases, the person being interviewed is very comfortable with this and loves that we have such a great office culture. But there was one interview where the candidate did the oddest thing. He stopped the interview and asked if he could bark at our dogs.

We just sat there, not really knowing how to respond, so he just started barking at them. We asked him what he was doing, and he said it was to show his dominance. We were holding back our laughter and couldn’t believe what we were seeing and hearing. We quickly knew he was not a fit and cut the interview short.

Raad Mobrem, co-founder and CEO, Lettuce, a Venice, CA-based provider of inventory management software

solar eclipse

A Ray of Sunshine

At a previous job, I was interviewing someone for an IT systems administrator
 position. It just so happened that the day of an interview there was to be a solar 
eclipse. The eclipse was due about an hour into the interview. The candidate excused himself after 45 minutes of talking with me and
 started to rummage around the garbage cans in the office. He pulled out a cardboard box, a sheet of paper and a gum wrapper. He 
then asked for some tape.

With these items, he made an eclipse-watching
 box, and we went outside to view the eclipse. I figured that anyone who was that creative would make a great systems
 administrator, and I hired him immediately.

Ira Chayut, vice president of engineer, Adaptive Sound Technologies, a Campbell, CA-based developer of sleep therapy systems

anonymous letter

Sending a Not-So-Clear Message

I do quite a bit of consulting on hiring. The most bizarre job-hunting
 strategy I’ve ever encountered came from a man who’d heard about an opening 
for a marketing and PR person at a local charity and decided to demonstrate
 his expertise at grabbing people’s attention. He went to the charity’s website and found the names and business contact 
info for everyone on their board–the people he figured would be making the
 final decision on the hiring.

Cutting out letters from a newspaper, he 
then sent each board member a series of letters. The first had just his first 
name, “John.” The second read “John Smith.” Then “John Smith Is,” “John
 Smith Is Going,” “John Smith Is Going to” and “John Smith Is Going to

Then, apparently thinking he was clever enough to avoid creating a problem 
message, the next letter added two words rather than one. It read: “John
 Smith Is Going to Blow You Away!” Which is when the police showed up at his door—before he had the chance to send out the next letter with his résumé 
that explained just how his expertise was, in fact, going to blow everyone 

Barry Maher, author and speaker, Corona, CA

stalking cat

Too Close for Comfort

I’ve been an agency recruiter for close to 20 years. Usually the most 
desperate potential candidates are not folks I can assist. The line that 
must be walked is a fine one—between properly enthusiastic and trying too 

I once had a local candidate track me down and leave me notes on my car for 
a week—once at a restaurant where I was having lunch. During a job search, boundaries are important. Bending social norms to be noticed is fine—I myself have done some pretty 
wacky things. Just don’t cross that line.

Lisa Rokusek, managing partner, ARG – AgentHR Recruiting Group, St. Louis 

tattoo artist

Taking Branding to Another Level

While I’ve certainly seen a lot of creative job seekers try interesting things to get attention as a hiring manager and recruiter, the wackiest one of all has to be the time I was running a startup in the health and fitness space, and a candidate came in with a well-done tattoo of the company logo on his arm.

The job seeker was looking for a position in sales and marketing, and I have to admit that the tattoo did certainly catch my attention. Mind you, this was a pure startup, so the logo was not well-known or in any way recognizable. In fact, I’m sure we switched logos about five times that first year.

As I recall, the interview went fairly well, but later that night I remember wondering whether this candidate was tremendously dedicated to our vision or just completely insane. Ultimately, the candidate didn’t get the job because there were other more qualified applicants. While I can’t recommend taking the corporate tattoo route, it certainly did make one hell of a lasting impression. 

Bob Myhal, CEO, NextHire, a Boston-based recruiting startup that serves small and midsize businesses