Recruiting horror stories – we all have them while we’re in the cleared recruitment trenches. There are great candidates you hope to snag and there are candidates that make your eyes roll to the back of your head.

Here are three types of candidates that you may want to put on your ‘do not hire list’ and avoid wasting your time on.


We all know the rules of engagement on different recruiting platforms. If you’re sourcing candidates on a professional network, you’d hope that messages back and forth with your candidate will remain professional. Most of the time they do.

But there are a few who raise a red flag initially. The creepy candidate getting fresh with you when you’re discussing a position’s salary probably won’t be a great cohabitant within a team’s cubicle farm if they’re hired.

I once had a closet creepy candidate though… One that jumped out and frightened the recruiting team once a letter of intent (LOI) was signed for a proposal effort. After pushing him through the hiring process, we included his resume in an Request for Proposal (RFP) we were responding to. He fit in very well with the Program Management requirements. After the proposal submission, he connected with me on social media and said something along the lines of “If I would’ve seen your profile picture sooner, I would’ve signed the LOI immediately.” Gross.


Now, differences in personalities can create an excellent team dynamic, but some teams are just comprised of a single type (i.e. introverts for a development team or extroverts for sales), and sometimes that works best.

But if you’re staffing a team that works in a high stress environment where potential candidates will be interfacing with customers or other team liaisons, you will want to avoid the zombie type: the candidate that has one word, monotone answers, that may just keep repeating themselves when asked a clarifying question.

Or candidates that grunt or scoff at you, reminiscent of an episode of The Walking Dead. Not professional.


Working in the Department of Defense as a contractor or directly for the government is usually high stress. Critical missions, work to be done, and ever-changing requirements can be the norm, but during the interview process, you put on a face, and don’t let the trials of your day ruin a first impression with a new candidate or potential employer.

Some candidates will absolutely argue and lose their cool. Avoid these.

I had a candidate I was interviewing for a language / OSINT contract that needed to be staffed quickly. After the initial phone screen, I took down his social security number to verify his clearance in JPAS. To my dismay, his clearance had expired since he hadn’t been working in the cleared space for a little over 2 years.

Usually with these candidates, I will keep them informed of future opportunities that allow for the timeline of sponsoring clearances, but this candidate started to argue with me about the status of his JPAS record. Even after politely explaining that I checked with my FSO, I believe he called me dumb (let’s just say not knowledgeable about the clearance process). Thank you – next.


As always, we’ll end with the recruiting golden rule: treat candidates as you would like to be treated, as you’ll find horror stories where both sides could be the antagonist.

But to save you time to work on your own recruiting best practices toward candidates, just avoid these types at all costs.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 7+ 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! 🇺🇸