“How much do you weigh?”, “Do you mind if we call you Grandma?”… These recruiters who go too far


Ghosting, endless processes, inappropriate questions… Some recruiters strain candidates’ patience, at the risk of discouraging them in their quest for the ideal job, and damaging their self-esteem.

“What animal would you be?”, “What is your worst flaw?” or “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” It is difficult to escape the disarming questions that sometimes arise during a job interview. Christel de Foucault, speaker and trainer on job search techniques, is regularly confronted with this type of story. Over the years, the author of Avoid recruiter traps (1) saw a good number of destabilized candidates parade through his office. One of the seniors that she supports in her efforts heard her declare, in the course of an exchange with a potential employer and in a very serious tone: “Our team is young; If I hire you, do you mind if we call you Grandma?” Another was questioned about her overweight, the company worrying about having to pay for two plane seats for her business trips…

Lose everything “in a very short time”

These situations, although ubiquitous, would be on the rise. According to an Ifop study, the proportion of employees who have already been victims of discrimination when looking for a job has risen from 12% in 2001 to 21% in 2021. An additional thorn in the side of candidates, already faced with many obstacles in their search for the ideal job. Between inappropriate questions, endless processes and ghosting, some recruiters are straining the patience of their future employees, scratching their self-esteem in the process. “I’ve seen people lose everything in a very short time, especially their self-confidence”, summarizes Christel de Foucault.

A configuration that is all the more frustrating as the candidates very often have no control over these discriminating questions. “When they have a job interview, young people are told that they lack experience, deplores Christel de Foucault. They just want to scream, “Let me get some!”

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The age of (un)reason

For their part, seniors are no better off. Only 1 company out of 5 now declares itself ready to employ senior managers over the age of 45. And only 1 in 2 working people over the age of 55 is employed. Charles *, 55, himself suffered multiple refusals. Recently contacted by a recruitment firm, this candidate in the agri-food sector discovers, delighted, the description of a position for which he “ticks all the boxes”.

“All but one,” retorts the firm. Our client wants to hire someone under the age of 45.” This excluding criterion, which was not mentioned in the job offer, is punishable by a fine of 45,000 euros and three years in prison, according to the Penal Code. Charles, he emerged from the experience demoralized, at the dawn of a potential pension reform. “I want to work for at least ten more years, and I feel like I’ve failed for reasons that don’t even depend on me,” he breathes.

A deafening silence

Risky selection, job offers with vague contours, sexism… For candidates, the sources of discouragement are multiple. Many of them have also been confronted with ghosting, this deafening silence from the employer, which persists despite reminders. According to a survey of 1,500 workers, in 2022, by Greenhouse Software – an American company that offers recruitment software for companies – 75% of candidates have already been ghosted after an interview.

In January 2022, Lucile Gelebart-Caitucoli, 47, saw her hopes dashed by an editor. After reading the synopsis of her manuscript, the latter invites her to lunch, then offers to contact her again to refine her project. A year later, she still has not responded to (many) requests from Lucile. With hindsight, the author criticizes the “perverse effects” of this radio silence. “There is something to totally lose self-confidence, she says. Nothing beats courtesy, a polite refusal.”

In the space of a few months, Antoine*, 25, a newly converted web developer, has accumulated disappointments. “I notably had two interviews for a position, with the same person, relates the twenty-something. Each time, the interview ended on a positive note. Then I had a third interview, this time with a colder person. Who did not give me any negative feedback. No return at all, by the way, despite his promise to call him back. Antoine, annoyed, reproached him by email, before changing his mind and apologizing to him.

Serious consequences

According to Christel de Foucault, these bad practices of recruiters have, most of the time, nothing to do with any sadism. “They have goals to complete as quickly as possible,” she recalls. Their errors would therefore be, above all, the result of pressure… and a lack of training. “Finally, there are very few certifying training courses related to HR, points out the expert. A bit like assuming that you just have to ask questions to hire someone.”

It’s a shame, when you know that recruitment remains one of the most complex arts of corporate life. And that some candidates are playing big (moving, returning to their parents’ house…) and cannot afford the luxury of being left in abeyance. To avoid these pitfalls, Quentin de Beaufort, director at Robert Half, a recruitment firm specializing in IT, marketing and sales, advises recruiters to give quick, fluid and honest feedback to applicants. “You shouldn’t be afraid to say no,” he insists. This can be useful for candidates to position themselves within the framework of another process.

Transparency and fluidity

Another clumsiness: the lack of transparency on the salary, a regular “point of friction” between employers and candidates, even though the question of remuneration remains in France “the first reason for wanting to change jobs”. Quentin de Beaufort therefore recommends that employers “revalidate the remuneration part with the candidate at each stage of the process”.

red flags

These measures are all the more structural in that a rejected applicant can permanently alter the image of a company, also known as the “employer brand”. “Each candidate is a potential ambassador, even a potential influencer,” warns Christel de Foucault. To identify the “red flags» in a recruiter – these deterrent signals that presage a bad experience – the speaker also invites you to watch for the surreal job advertisements relayed on social networks.

One of them, shared by the Twitter account @cpastibo on Monday January 23, required candidates to make a video, go through four interviews and organize three exchanges with former managers, in order to hope to land the job in question. The publication has accumulated no less than 3 million views on the social network – and it was not good publicity…

Candidate ghosting

For recruiters, caution is therefore in order. Not to mention that candidates can also ghost their future employer. According to a survey conducted by Indeed, a job posting platform, 28% of employees have already ghosted recruiters in 2021, compared to 18% in 2019. According to Christel de Foucault, this is the result of a social phenomenon.

“The new generations have seen their parents get fired like messy people, suffer from burnout or be abused by narcissistic perverts,” she explains. A scenario that they intend to avoid at all costs. These more committed candidates, particularly in favor of ecology, hope to find a job in line with their ideas. “We must take into account these generations for whom values ​​matter, insists Christel de Foucault. They are the ones who have influenced this market where we meet more demanding candidates.” Hence the importance of keeping this point in mind: any balance of power can be reversed.

(1) Avoid recruiter traps, by Christel de Foucault, published on March 17, 2016, Ed. Eyrolles, 178 pages, €18.00
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*Names have been changed


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