Stupid Reasons for Not Hiring: Issue 1 – Too Attractive

Over the course of my career, I have encountered a number of really stupid reasons for not hiring qualified candidates. I am not talking here about illegal reasons; I am focused on stupid reasons.

For example, when a company says they will not hire someone who has only worked as a consultant, you may not like it, but it is neither illegal nor stupid. The employer is concerned that the candidate will not be able to cope with daily supervision, a 9-to-5 schedule, working closely with colleagues, and dealing with office politics. These are valid points.

What I am talking about are reasons that you would have to bend over backwards to try and justify.

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of topics on the subject. Please share your examples as comments. I’ll be happy to “steal” your ideas. For the record, #2 in the series will be on not hiring the unemployed. (And, yes, I know, some states are trying to me it an illegal practice.)

But for now, let’s focus on the attractive.

I am going to use a female candidate as the example. The reason is, I have seen attractive women not being hired because of their looks for the reasons that I am about to explain. It may very well also happen with male candidates. I’ve just never seen it.

A very attractive, totally qualified woman applies for the position of Executive Assistant for a married, male CEO. Hands down, no argument, no debate, nothing to discuss, she is the best candidate. So why does the CEO not hire her? “My wife would kill me!”

A very attractive, totally qualified woman applies for a job. The boss does not want her because he (or she – it goes both ways!) is afraid that the men in the office will find her a distraction.

This, too, was something I experienced first-hand, kind of. (I witnessed it, I was not the “victim.” For whatever reason, the women I have worked with have been able to control themselves and they never congregated around my desk…)

A young woman, fresh out of college, with a good resume (she had a couple of impressive internships) came to me because, while she was getting interviews, she was not getting any job offers. I got to know her and then we did a mock interview based on the job description for the previous position for which she had been interviewed.

To my mind, she did nothing wrong. But I had a feeling.

I told her that I was going to tell her something that might sound strange. The story went like this:

When you walk into an office for an interview, the women all look at you and start talking among themselves in a whisper, glancing in your direction. The men do the same. And when you had your internships, the guys in the office would find excuses to congregate around your desk.

At this point, she had a weird expression on her face. She stopped and said: That’s exactly what happens and what happened! How did you know?

I told her about what I had seen when I had office jobs. These things are not new. They happen all the time and with every generation. Sadly, as a species, we have not advanced much!

Then we did another mock interview. This time I told her what she had to say in her next interview.

First, I warned her not to say “Because I am so attractive…,” because that sounds pompous. You have to be modest. So, in response to the appropriate question or opportunity I told her to say the following:

For whatever reason, some guys find me attractive. When I had my first internship they would find excuses to come to my desk. I was always polite but I told them that I was there to work and learn, not to date. Most accepted that but in one or two cases, they would not stop. So I went to my supervisor and she stopped it. I tell you this because I want you to know how I deal with difficult situations and that I keep my private life out of the office.

Of course, I told her she could only say it if it were true. She smiled and told me that it was true for her second internship, but not the first. She was used to guys hanging around her and didn’t realize that it was inappropriate. (Ah, to be young again…) So her boss called her into his office and educated her. Then he called the guys into his office and read them the Riot Act.

I suggested that she include that in her answer. She made a mistake. Had a good boss who corrected her behavior and that of her male colleagues. She learned from the experience.

About a month later she called me to say that she had an interview. We did a mock interview. After the real interview, she called to say she had gotten the job. After she met with HR, the person who would be supervising her and some of her potential colleagues, the owner came into the room. He had one question, “What should I know about you?” She told about the office flirting and learning from her mistake. She also complimented her former boss and said that he was her role-model for dealing with difficult situations. He smiled, shook her hand, and said two words, “You’re hired!”

Don’t forget to share your examples of stupidity!


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 350,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website,, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements. Follow him on Twitter at @HurwitzStaffing.