Candidates Still Do the Craziest Things…


One of my colleagues constantly admonishes - “people are an unstable product” – and in my experience, truer words have never been spoken.

It’s worth re-emphasizing that while the executive search business is one of the best ways to meet and work with fascinating, high-achieving individuals, there is never a shortage of encounters that leave you questioning the basic comprehension, courtesy, and common-sense of your fellow humans – especially when they are sending emails.

Like most people, I receive hundreds of unsolicited emails requesting *something* (not counting the exiled-royal-family-member-needing-urgent-financial-assistance-type), including those which have obviously been blind-copied to a massive group. One of my all-time favorites, though, was from a “professional ghost-writer” who not only neglected to BCC his group email list, but began:

Dear Recruiters,

I received your e-mail addresses from xxx. He knows some of you personally;
some of you only by reputation

Nothing makes me more energized to respond than being commoditized and lumped in with a group I have no association with (except through visible email address inclusion – thanks!), and informed that some other person may or may not, know me personally.

For those who did have the personal connection, how special they must have felt! I should mention there were only eight email addresses in the group; clearly it would have taken far too long to write to each individually.

The only thing worse than this person categorically demonstrating his career wasn’t worth the effort to write fewer than eight targeted messages was that he was ostensibly displaying his skills as a communications professional!

Fortunately, not every executive leadership role requires those “professional ghost-writer” caliber communication skills. But if writing is not your strength, then common sense should dictate. Don’t overwrite. Especially if it’s clear that you took a first draft, hit, and selected the synonym with the most syllables. From another e-mail:

Vigorously accustomed to xxx, I am now well-postured for a leadership role in yyy.

No – I have no idea what that means either.    

We’ve all received the holiday emails that consist of a quick “Happy Holidays” greeting, and then devolve into a 10,000 word, epic personal newsletter/update in excruciating detail. The runner-up to the most amazing email I’ve ever received was of similar length and came from an individual seeking advice on telecommunications leadership opportunities. After two generic sentences on his background, the email degenerated into a single-spaced, stream of consciousness rant about the unscrupulous collusion and consolidation of the industry, with multi-colored, LARGE FONT BOLDED ALL CAPS randomly scattered for emphasis, and the final sign-off:

…anyway, thanks for the ear.



But even that email paled in comparison to the greatest of all. Professionally, long-form addressed in the body of the email with my full name, contact information, date, and formal block-heading, it began:

Dear Mr. Lepiesza:

The car screeched to a halt, tires skidding along the highway asphalt. The child, unrestrained in the back seat, was thrown headlong through the front windshield, crashing onto the pavement thirty yards away. Paramedics who rushed to the scene doubted he would survive through the night.

He did.

I know because I am that child.

45 years later, I am now the Chief Operations Officer for a highly successful xxx 

It continued on in breezy fashion after that...I lament that I will never see its equal.

Lastly, one unrelated interview encounter that needs to be recorded for posterity:

When a colleague arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule to meet Candidate A at the agreed meeting point in the hotel lobby, she was surprised to find Candidate B – whom she would be interviewing three hours later – there instead. She was even more surprised when Candidate B informed her that since he was a few hours early, he would “grab a seat nearby so I can watch you in action.” Unsurprisingly, Candidate B, who was shooed away before Candidate A arrived, turned out to be a Candidate “F.”




January 22, 2013 AT 3:40 PM CST

Anonymous wrote:

funny but a little frightening.
keep 'em coming

January 22, 2013 AT 3:40 PM CST

Wes Morgan wrote:

Thanks so much for sharing those communications vignettes. I have been guilty of commoditizing and lumping - hoping for efficiency and strength in numbers. I know - bad idea. It's dog-eat-dog out there. Maybe we all just need to take a few deep breaths and think before we act.

January 22, 2013 AT 3:40 PM CST

Mike S. wrote:

Thanks for the morning humor!

January 22, 2013 AT 3:40 PM CST

Skip Newman wrote:

What many people (both those working and those in transition) do not realize is that at the only thing any of us have is our good name and reputation. I have a large network of business associates and friends (and business associates who are also friends!) that I've built over a long period of time. Each one of them knows me personally, as do I of each of them. I like to think that each friend knows that I'm a good person, honest, fair, thoughtful and intelligent. When I introduce one friend to another, each of them knows that it will be a meaningful new relationship for both of them.

I laugh (privately) at the unsolicited LinkedIn requests and other forms of spam that ignore this basic truth.

Take care.


January 22, 2013 AT 3:40 PM CST

Carl Dombek wrote:

Fun reading! My favorite is one directed to TripAdvisor by a gent who was pitching the company on hiring him and his wife. As you'll see, his incompetence existed on many levels...

My name is -----. My wife, ----- and I really enjoy the trip advisor website.
We truly believe Trip Advisor needs a family face (see contradiction in next graph) to its brand name and we have just the ticket.

We are highly passionate about becoming the Mystery Travelers ("Mystery" people don't HAVE public faces; the point is their identity is a MYSTERY) and Marketing Guru's (That should be "Gurus" without an apostrophe, as it's plural, not possessive. A "guru", being an expert, would have known this.) of the Travel Industry ("travel industry" should not be capitalized). I.E. [i.e. should be lower case and means, "In other words." The abbreviation you wanted was “e.g.,” which means "for example".], Martha Stewart of cooking, Jim Kramer of Stocks ("stocks" should not be capitalized), Rachel (she spells it "Rachael") Ray of Food TV (It's the "Food Network") etc. We feel there is a need for an all American couple (what exactly is an "all American" couple?) that is loving and passionate about the Travel Industry (again with the initial capitals...) that can give tips by going to destinations and giving formal reviews and reports on where to stay for vacations, business trips and the such. (Americans want to relate)(We relate better to people who use correct English, grammar, and punctuation ... like periods at the end of sentences.) Our plan came up ("came up?" Really? This sounds either nauseous or lewd...) while traveling and since then we have been narrowing it down to a company that has this same vision for consumers.
No doubt passion is what one really needs to be great of something (that would be "great AT something") and this is our calling. (No, I think you're being called to go back to school for remedial English...) We have high interest already and would love to set down (that would be "sit down", unless yer frum the deep south...) and talk to (the/your) CEO and VP of Sales and Marketing.

I have a background in E-commerce, Sales and Marketing with some Extensive International Travel (AGAIN with the initial capitals! STOP IT!) like Africa Safari's to Greece. ["Africa Safari's to Greece..." Lessee... would that be "African Safaris (no apostrophe here either, as it's plural and not possessive) and Greece," or do the safaris make their way all around the Mediterranean and actually wind up in Greece?] My wife ----- has some extensive ("some extensive" seems contradictory; is it "some" or is it "extensive"?) international travel as well with a background as an Attorney, FBI Agent in terrorism, School Teacher, and Fraud Investigator. (If your wife was a school teacher, she probably should have been the one to write this letter...)

We look forward to hearing from you. (Don't hold your breath.)

January 22, 2013 AT 3:40 PM CST

Adrian Ornik wrote:

I can certainly appreciate the variety of unusual experiences you encountered having hired close to 20 people in the past 18 months with over 100 interviews conducted. One of the candidates I interviewed actually arrived 40 minutes late (it was snowing so the benefit of the doubt on that one) but never acknowledged the fact that she was late and came to the interview in jeans. I made it to the office on time and in a suit so I was a little surprised by how cavalier she was towards being late and her informal attire. She concluded the interview by telling me that I would pretty much be an idiot if I didn’t hire her because she clearly met all of the position requirements. As you might expect, she wasn’t hired.

Tell us what you think!