Recruiting is a roller-coaster: it can be thrilling, rewarding, and but most of all, it is often complicated. The candidate experience has become more and more important as the staffing landscape has changed to a buyer’s market in the cleared space over the last decade, but sometimes it’s the cleared recruiter’s recount that is more entertaining.

Here are some of our favorite cringe-worthy recruiting stories we’ve heard through the years. Every recruiter has them, no candidate wants to be them. So watch and read to learn or commiserate – but not to emulate.


Spooky Interview

I once interviewed a witch. (Self-proclaimed). She had a bracelet made of hundreds of buttons (from what appeared to be of children’s clothes). I asked her to “Tell me about herself,” and she began reciting the more than 200 year history of her family. Spooky AF. AND…. it was in person. So I had to deal with it as best I could. 😬😬😬  Pretty sure she put a spell on me later.

Natalie, Morgantown WV

Creepy Candidate is a Hard Pass

I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but the creepy candidate will forever be my recruiting horror story. I wrote a few weeks ago about someone who commented on my profile picture online after I had already submitted him to a government customer. It’s the candidates you reach out to with a professional introduction on your company, the benefits, and the position, only for them to respond with a comment on your physical appearance. Those will always be a ‘thank you, next’ in my book! And give me the heebie jeebies for the rest of the day.

Katie, Charlottesville VA

Stalking the Recruiter

My recruiting process almost always starts with an initial phone screen, usually the candidate’s resume moving to the Program Manager next, and to the government customer thereafter. We almost always don’t conduct in person interviews, generally because timelines don’t allow and most candidates working in intelligence can be deployed at the time of the phone screen. I once had a candidate I was emailing with to schedule the initial phone screen to ask a few technical questions, but mostly verify his timelines, salary requirements, and most importantly clearance. As the clock moved closer to our scheduled time for a phone call, I got my notes ready on my end and shut my office door. A few minutes later, I get a phone call at my extension, and it was the candidate informing me that he was at our office waiting for someone to unlock the front door to sign in. I had to keep my cool during an in-person interview that I was certainly not prepared for…

Jared, Chantilly VA

Scary Pick Up Lines Used on Recruiters

I once had a candidate that I was working with for a Program Management role at Quantico. Emails were professional, phone screen went well, clearance checked out, so on and so forth. It was after a few weeks that he finally commented on us coincidentally having the same last name, but instead of a ha-ha moment, it was a ‘maybe we should be married moment.’ The contract we were trying to get him on ended up losing funding any way, which was a huge relief. The most horrific part? I mentioned the story to one of my recruiting colleagues at a partner company on a few of our contracts, and he tried the creepster approach with her, too.

Michelle, Bethesda MD

Don’t Ghost the Recruiter Who Works To Get Your Clearance Sponsored

I take pride in helping my fellow vets get into positions on our teams. It feels good to help them by putting their transition or job hunt woes at ease by getting them lined up for a solid spot. There are a lot of veterans that can’t get into cleared intel jobs and I work hard and ask a lot of favors to help out our fellow vets. So, one of the most annoying and frustrating things that I have had to deal with is when I do everything needed and more to get someone’s clearance sponsored, and then they decide to “go another route”. I’ve had this happen at least 3 or 4 times and it makes my job much more difficult because hiring managers are then unwilling to do it for the next person. They get turned off from supporting sponsorship of clearances. So, if you are lucky enough to get a hiring manager to sponsor a TS/SCI security clearance and you don’t take the job when your security clearance gets approved and adjudicated, then you are likely burning the bridge with that entire company, but you’re likely also making it harder for someone in your situation to also get their clearance sponsored.

Rico, Fayetteville NC

New Hire Goes MIA

Anyone home? A candidate I had been working with for years (first worked together at one company, then tried to recruit him later) was a great fit for an intelligence lead on the FBI team I was staffing. His current location was unknown, but he said that he would be back home-bound in a week or so to pick up his stuff from his wife’s place since they were splitting up. After he was accepted by the customer, he signed the offer, and we were good to go on a start date about a month out. I checked with him a week after he signed the offer, and crickets. I texted, called, messaged and even reached out to his family. Absolutely nothing. I was terrified that something bad actually happened since the likelihood of the candidate ghosting was pretty slim since we used to work together. After his start date came and went, and there was radio silence from him and his family, I eventually stopped reaching out. About 6 months later, I saw him post something online, so sent him a message saying I was glad he was ok. He played dumb and acted like the whole situation beforehand never happened.

Kerri, Norfolk VA


Recruiting is all about people, and people can be most certainly, unpredictable. That’s what makes cleared recruiting or headhunting the thrilling experience that it is.


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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸