Bizarre Tales from the Job Bazaar: The Reluctant Recruiter

If you read last week’s post (highly recommended and categorized under Never Fail to Amaze), you’ll know that I’ve reentered the job market. It seems that the company I work for is on the “block” for imminent sale to a competitor. I just knew that my foray into the search for new employment would spawn a vast array of stories. It didn’t take long!

I received a call on Friday from a recruiter in response to a bevy of resumes that I had E-mailed during the previous two weeks. The recruiter had been retained by a mid-sized privately held company that manufactured and distributed aftermarket products. Neither the company nor the industry is important here. The firm was looking for a seasoned and mature financial manager. They had retained a professional recruiter for this search as it was the third highest position in the enterprise and the principal could not entrust this process to their normal HR staff.

The recruiter stated that he found my education and experience quite impressive and really honed in on my years of experience. We discussed my technical qualifications and the requirements of the position. It was a very detailed and professional interview. The recruiter was very knowledgeable about the company and provided a good deal of information about the business and the industry. I did notice that he continually returned to questions about my experience and particularly about my human relations skills, temperament and ability to cope with stress. I sensed that there was more to the story than he was letting on. After a very pleasant hour or so of questions and answers, he finally got to the point of asking me if I would like to pursue the position further and actually come to the company for an interview. On the surface, it sounded like a reasonably good opportunity and so I replied in the affirmative.

There was distinct moment of silence after my reply. The recruiter cleared his throat and then began his “confession” with the following statement, “I might be cutting my own throat here, but in the spirit of full disclosure and professional ethics, there are few things you need to know before making a final decision to commit to a face–to-face interview with the principal.” UH OH! “Tell me more,” I suspiciously replied.

Constant throat clearings, “Um’s and Er’s” and a general hesitancy to go on punctuated the recruiter’s “disclosure”. I could sense that he was honestly telling tales out of school. His level of discomfort and embarrassment was more than obvious as he related the following facts: It seemed that the company had been founded and nurtured to a successful enterprise by an intelligent and hard working fellow. The gentleman had recently retired and entrusted the firm to his son who was now the full charge CEO. The recruiter then went into a reporting of the traits, characteristics and behaviors of the son. According to the recruiter, the lad had grown up the company and was as intelligent and even more passionate about the business than his father. In fact, he was so passionate that he was prone to throwing fits and tantrums when things did not go his way or meet his expectations. This occurred quite frequently. His tantrums were legendary and would include throwing things around the plant and office, publicly debasing managers and employees, screaming and using crude and foul language. Due to his childish antics, the turnover of managers and employees was quite high. The recruiter then asked me how I would feel about working under those circumstances.

Now I was silent for a moment. “Sounds like a pretty immature kid to me,” I said. “Well, he really doesn’t mean to act this way. It’s just that he’s so passionate about the business that sometimes it gets the best of him,“ came the less than believable and sugar coated reply. My response was quite succinct, “Passionate? Sounds like a spoiled brat!” I then asked to whom the position in question would report. The recruiter replied that the son was in full charge. I thanked him for his honesty, told him that I would take a pass, and wished him luck. When the conversation ended, I sensed that we had both breathed a long sigh of relief.

What could the father of this jerk have been thinking? No wonder the recruiter was hesitant and embarrassed. Thank goodness for his honesty. There was no way that I was going to get involved with anything like that again. Years ago, I had briefly worked for a spoiled maniacal punk like that in a very similar situation and had to quickly extricate myself from it after discovering what was really going on there. Thank God I didn’t have to be interviewed by the FBI, as were others. In fact, the story of that horrific and terrorizing experience will be the theme of another book that I’m writing about family owned and operated businesses. Had the recruiter who roped me into that mess been honest, it would have saved me a lot of grief.

It’s good to know that there are some ethical folks out there in the recruiting world. I suspect that the situation at this company is a whole lot worse than this recruiter let on. I hope that he received a large and nonrefundable retainer. He’ll earn it.

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