a recruiter used my dad’s death to try to get me to accept a job offer

A reader writes:

I was contacted by a recruiter about a job opening in my field. I wasn’t actively looking to leave my current position, but the new role would be a step up in responsibility and one that wasn’t available at my current company.

I made it to the final round of interviews and was told a decision would be made soon. The next week, my dad passed away in front of me. It was traumatic and I was off work on bereavement leave for the next five days. During this time, the recruiter emailed and called me to say I had been offered the job. I wasn’t checking any email or voicemail for a few days and I know it’s my fault for not getting back to her immediately. I responded a few days later letting her know what happened and that because of the situation I wouldn’t be able to accept the job offer.

The recruiter asked if she could call and I said yes. During our conversation, she told me how much the company really wanted me and that this new position was something “my dad would have wanted for me” and asked me to think about it. I was so shocked she brought up my dad that I agreed to take some time to think. After a few hours, I emailed and said I just wasn’t in a position right now to accept the offer.

She emailed back saying it was highly unprofessional of me to not respond right away when she notified me of the offer initially and I shouldn’t have gotten her and the company’s hopes up that I would think about it only to turn it down a few hours later. She said the recruiting industry is small and word of my unprofessionalism would get around. I did not respond to this last email.

I was stunned and at first really thought I had done something wrong. About a month removed from this situation, however, I’m angry and disgusted that she used my dad’s death to try to get me to take a job and she did it so she could get commission. Is there anything I can or should do in this situation? Should I email the recruiting company and let them know my experience or would it make things worse? Was my behavior unprofessional and if so what could I have done differently?


It’s “highly unprofessional” of you not to respond to someone when your parent just died? Nooo. That’s offensive, and an incredibly self-centered and jerky thing for that recruiter to say.

You shouldn’t have “gotten the company’s hopes up” since you ended up turning down the offer a few hours later? Nooo. Asking to think over an offer in no way obligates you to accept it, or to think it over for some specific period of time that the company considers sufficient. (And really, most companies would want to know your answer as soon as possible, not have you sit on it for a day or two for appearances’ sake.)

But as bad as those things are, they pale in comparison to her utterly inappropriate, manipulative, and baseless statement that your recently deceased father — who one presumes she didn’t know — would have wanted this job for you. That’s stomach-turning in its obvious, crass attempt to exploit your grief.

Your behavior was not unprofessional. Hers was unprofessional and worse.

That said, will reporting it to the recruiting company matter? Maybe, but probably not. Recruiting companies often put serious pressure on their recruiters to get candidates into jobs, and a lot of them don’t care a whole lot about what tactics their recruiters use to do that. But someone who might care more is the hiring manager who that recruiter was working for — and who almost certainly didn’t want her representing their company the way she did.

I’m sorry about your dad.

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer*

    Yes, please report this person when you’re able. There is no excuse for how she behaved. The recruiting agency may not care but I bet the hiring manager will. I’d report it to both just in case. I’m normally not a “let me speak to the manager” kind of person, but this definitely is an exception. She is the worst kind of person.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

    1. Tata*

      +10000000000 please let the hiring manager at the company know! horrible. I’m sad to hear of your loss.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed 1000%.

      I’d also leave a Glass Door review about it. That recruiter has zero people skills and should not be a recruiter.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Came here to say this too, and call out the recruiter by name (there may be others on staff who are professional). She was horrible to treat you like that on top of your grief.

        I’m sorry for your loss.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Agree with all of this. This is definitely a “name and shame” situation- tell the hiring manager and post it on Glassdoor at least. I’m so sorry for your loss.

          1. gbca*

            Eh I wouldn’t necessarily post on Glassdoor without first reporting to the company and seeing what their reaction is. As a hiring manager I’d be horrified and sever the relationship with that recruiter (I’m assuming they’re external – internal recruiters are generally not so pushy).

              1. Lauren*

                OP may not get to the hiring manager, so I’d put the Glassdoor review on the company that gave the offer naming the ‘recruiting firm / first name of recruiter’. Someone will check those and not let it go like with a recruiting firm glassdoor page. No one is checking those. They do check the final company one though.

    3. Veronica Mars*

      Yes, definitely let the company know, since presumably they’d be horrified to know they were represented in this way.

      As far as reporting recruiters… it can make a difference, sometimes. I did this once when a recruiter had a nasty habit of calling 3 times in a row without leaving a message, so I’d assume it was an emergency and run out of meetings to take the call (and continued even after I told him to never ever call me more than once in a row gain). I called to report him, and it was taken incredibly seriously, including a call from a VP assuring me it wouldn’t happen again.

      1. dlwrojas*

        But even the worst recruiting firm would likely apologize if you were still interviewing or in the process of considering an offer.

    4. Triumphant Fox*

      Yes, and this is such an easy thing to bring up after a month. Explain that you appreciated the job offer but experienced a traumatic loss and that though the timing wasn’t right, you might have accepted under different circumstances (if you want to keep the connection and not have the recruiter badmouthing you). Then explain what happened and how it really gives you pause about working with them in the future, but that you hope it’s not a reflection on the company but rather one recruiter. I would want to know in this situation, and I think being able to recover (a little) from what happened and get some distance is totally understandable.

      I’m sorry for your loss and I don’t know anyone who would recommend a massive change like a new job when you’ve just experienced what you have.

      1. AKchic*

        And make it very clear that the recruiter personally has soured you, not the agency as a whole; and that their blatant attempt to use your father’s death to manipulate you for their own financial gain, their open insult (“you’re unprofessional!”) and their threat to badmouth you to the rest of the recruiting community has left a very foul odor in the air that you’re not sure if there’s anything this agency can do to repair the damage done if that’s the caliber of staffing they have.
        This was how that person thought they should behave towards a freshly grieving person. Imagine how they act towards someone in a better position.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          They may actually act *better* toward someone in a less vulnerable position. This recruiter is a predator and a ghoul.

        1. OhNoYouDidn't*

          I echo all of this. And, I hope we get to read an update on this, because it’s really beyond the pale of terrible.

    5. kittymommy*

      Yeah. I would let both he recruiting company know as well as the hiring manager/company know. This is something that where I work would make people take notice, and not in a good way.

      I’m not going to address the actual recruiter’s actions as I don’t think I could do so and be allowed to remain on this site.

    6. RNL*

      OMG yes, I’m not even in charge of recruiting and if I learned an agency we had used did this I would make it my business to make sure we never used them again. Like go out of my way, use my precious time business.

      OP, I’m so sorry for your loss and for this horrible experience.

    7. Just a frog sitting on a log sipping tea*

      Also, (if you’re in the USA), report it to the Better Business Bureaus. What this recruiter did was beyond the pale and just plain disgusting.

      I am so sorry for your loss and my heart goes out to you and your family.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        FWIW, the BBB isn’t a government agency (it’s a private nonprofit) and couldn’t do much about this.

        1. Artitchotchke heart*

          The BBB won’t be able to do much about this but people in check their listings when doing due diligence (whether for hiring, job searching, compiling a company profile, etc.) No one said it was a government agency. The BBB exists in Canada, too.

    8. pentamom*

      Absolutely tell the hiring manager. That’s the first thing I thought of, before I got to the end of the letter. The hiring manager needs to know never to use this recruiter again, unless for some reason they don’t care about something like this. But most people would.

  2. Professional yeller about civil rights*

    LW, I’m so sorry for your loss and that this happened on top of all that. Absolutely forward this exchange to the hiring manager. Also, it’s ok to say you are forwarding this but don’t want to talk about it further with them!

  3. Horrified*

    Just a thought with no experience to back it up… Any chance the LW could write to the BBB and report them for bad business practices?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Won’t matter. The BBB is toothless, even if they have anything about the recruiting company. Plenty of people don’t bother checking BBB anymore.

    2. Picard*

      Nobody cares. The BBB is just a marketing company with no regulatory power whatsoever. Its our grandparents version of Yelp.

      1. AKchic*

        “our grandparents version of Yelp” is the most accurate description of the BBB I have ever heard.

      2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        Ding ding ding, we have a winner! I used to get a lot of BBB information when I worked in credit card disputes, and it never, ever made a difference in the end.

    3. Horrified*

      Got it, I’ve never actually used it or reported anything, so wasn’t sure if it meant anything… apparently not!

    4. Veronica Mars*

      I think a bad Glassdoor review of the recruiting company would make a much bigger splash, since a lot of people filter out by companies with bad reviews during job searches. Theoretically 1 bad review could mean that people aren’t even looking at the recruiter’s postings anymore.

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      BBB is more for customer reports not for potential employees. I think she should contact the company (that would have hired her) because I’m sure they don’t want canidates treated like this. Plus it could put you off of that company if you choose to change jobs later.

    6. Jdc*

      The BBB isn’t what people think anymore. It’s an agency you pay to have a good rating. Frankly they bully and attempt to manipulate businesses to pay for an A rating and if they don’t it’s an automatic C. I finally told them where to shove it after months of harassing callas and emails.

      They also are shady saying “hi can you verify your business address” then send bills saying you signed up. No, me taking a call and verifying my address isn’t committing to pay anything. Didn’t even say who they were, I just assumed a customer as it’s not an absurd call to receive.

  4. Czhorat*

    I usually have a much less negative view of recruiters than many of my peers; they have a tough job to do and likely don’t make any money if they don’t successfully place candidates. It has to be exhausting.

    That said, this crosses the line far enough that I’d talk to their employer and let my colleagues know about this experience. It’s shockingly thoughtless and hurtful.

  5. Atalanta sans apples*

    Yes, oh my gosh, please let the hiring manager know. If a candidate told me this about our recruiter, I would take it very seriously and almost certainly cut ties with that recruiter. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and sorry about your dad, too.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is actually a really good point.

      OP, do you know if this was an internal or external recruiter? If internal, you should report to the hiring manager and HR. If external, I’d say contact the hiring manager and the manager at the outside agency.

      1. OP*

        It was an external recruiter who had reached out to me on LinkedIn about the position. I think contacting both the hiring manager and agency is the way to go.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          Just wanted to say that I am very sorry for your loss. You did absolutely nothing wrong. The recruiter citing unprofessional behavior on your part is so very out of line. She has no power to affect your professional reputation. None.

          1. Coffee Bean*

            And one more thing to add. If, by chance, this recruiter talks to other recruiters, it will make her look beyond unprofessional and crass in their eyes. Sorry to say, the recruiter is unkind and lacking in perception. Not a good combination.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      Yes, please tell the hiring manager! You also want to make sure that the bad recruiter explained what the real situation was to the hiring manager instead of making up some bogus lie about you being unprofessional. And in talking with the hiring manager, you’re also gently keeping the door open to being considered for a future role there. Any hiring manager, nay, any person with a sense of humanity is absolutely going to want to know that all this happened and will fall over themselves reassuring you that you are NOT unprofessional in the least. And if it was me, I’d fire that recruiter so fast as well.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m seconding Iris. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m sorry this manipulative person tried to weaponize your grief against you. You’ve got all our good wishes.

  6. voluptuousfire*

    Email the HM and put up a Glassdoor review. I can also assure you that the recruiting industry isn’t that small. You won’t be blackballed for “unprofessional behavior” (WTH???) by any stretch of the imagination. This recruiter is a ghoul and needs to be brought to task to try to emotionally manipulate you into taking a role.

    This is most likely an agency person. No in-house recruiter would do that. It’s very damaging to their employer’s brand! This person was likely super desperate for their commission. The largest part of the recruitment world is relationship building. She burned the one she built with to the ground with a flamethrower and salted the earth after it quit burning.

    1. 867-5309*

      Before going to Glassdoor, I would see how the company handles OP’s feedback. If the hiring manager is mortified and apologetic, then it’s being handled and no need to penalize the entire organization for one crappy person, especially if said person doesn’t work for the company.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think most of the Glassdoor people are thinking of reviewing the recruiter/agency the recruiter works for – not the company that OP was interviewing at. At least that was my read on their comment.

    2. Lucia Pacciola*

      I can’t pretend to speak for every career, but my impression is also that the recruiting industry isn’t very small. Quite the opposite: The job-seeker community can tarnish the reputation of a recruiting agency much more easily than the agency can tarnish the reputation of a job-seeker. There are agencies I will not work with, and that I will vehemently warn others off from, due to my negative experiences with them. I don’t think I’ve ever had the opposite happen (though I guess I might not ever know, huh).

      1. Fergus*

        After 8 phone calls from a recruiter I sent an email to the CEO of the company if I got one more phone call I would have the state police at their front door. I never got another call.

      2. cmcinnyc*

        Seconding this. What, recruiters are running around bad mouthing candidates that were offered jobs but didn’t take them? All that tells their fellow recruiters is that the candidate made it all the way to offer. That’s not a negative. But yeah. Agencies that behave like jackals can be dropped. At least in this city, there are lots to choose from and we don’t need to work with anyone who is actively awful.

      3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Yes. I’ve seen many stinky recruiting agencies, from the ones who love ghosting potential candidates to the ones that cling to a super outdated resume/CV with skills you haven’t used in years, posts fake job openings to lure vict-I mean candidates, or those who cold call you to the point you want to turn your phone off.

      1. Random IT person*

        And yet, this is an insult to all the innocent ghouls out there.
        Evil ambulatory genetic material would work :)

  7. in a fog*

    This is sickening, LW. Massive hugs to you.

    I would absolutely report this recruiter, and the temptation to put them on blast on social media would be a tough one to resist…as “unprofessional” as that might be.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh this has *so* much viral potential. I don’t think I’d actually go through with that temptation myself, being afraid it would splash back on me, but I would email her and her bosses with something like “You should be thanking your lucky stars I haven’t just made you Justine Sacco-level famous.”

  8. Stormy Weather*

    The recruiting industry is huge, and they don’t all talk to each other. If they did I would haven’t have seven recruiters call me about the same position once.

    This recruiter was over the line. I hope you escalate.

    1. Lyudie*

      LOL That’s an excellent point. I’ve had multiple recruiters at the same agency contact me about a position.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        These were from different agencies. I had interviewed for the job–aced the phone interview, but the president of the company who handled the in-person was dead-set against me. It was like talking to a wall. My then-boss had even written him a letter of recommendation for me.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Any company that uses SEVEN different recruitment agencies to fill the same position has something going on with them – they certainly look desperate to have that many agents in the market.. Sounds like you dodged some kind of bullet.

          1. Yvette*

            Not necessarily, what often happens, at least in tech, a company will post a job, or a big name recruiting company will post a job. Then, lesser known recruiters will see the posting and try to find someone that they can put into the position. Some big name recruiters will farm out the search process to smaller recruiters.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I’ve been going through the same for the past year. Funny thing is, they already turned me down once, so the company is clearly hiring multiple recruiting agencies who search and reach the same people at the same time.

    3. Renata Ricotta*

      They also seem to ignore/forget about almost all relevant facts about you and your career, so even if they hear this totally professional story about you, they’re unlikely to remember it or make any decisions based on it.

      Otherwise I wouldn’t constantly get emails and cold calls about jobs located across the country where I’m unlicensed, and that I very obviously have zero experience or background for, based on my detailed public website bio.

      1. Julia*

        This. I get so many recruiting calls for jobs outside my field, in different countries, or including languages I don’t speak. I actually wish I’d been firmer when I first started getting contacted by recruiters, because some of them were awful and deserved to be told off.

  9. DecorativeCacti*

    That recruiter not only poked at a very fresh wound, but then proceeded to threaten future job prospects. Gross. So gross.

  10. Elm*

    It is ASTOUNDING how often people assume what a deceased loved one–especially a parent–would have wanted for you. Even people who never met them! My dad died when I was a kid, and I’ve had all sorts of folks use that line to try to manipulate me.

    They don’t appreciate it when I bust out laughing for some reason.

    I would have a very hard time not responding to this person with “I am so sorry that I inconvenienced you, especially since–as you said–my dad would have wanted this for me. I had forgotten about your close friendship with him. Maybe if you remind me, in detail, about how well you knew him and can speak to his desires, I’ll change my mind and join you!”

    (Or, if you want to take the high road, find out who this person’s boss is and tell them what they said, both via email and over the phone. I’m not one to typically say you should risk someone’s job, but imagine what they might be saying to other people if they’re willing to sink to this level!)

    1. Leela*

      After my grandfather died, my mother was extremely manipulative with “I think granda really would have liked it if you’d (insert thing she wanted me to do for her own benefit and I’d already said no here)

    2. BadWolf*

      Them: “But what would your father have thought about Thing?!?!”

      Me: “He wouldn’t have cared.”

    3. Sarah-tonin*

      my dad died a few years ago. I don’t drive. my mom said, a couple times, that he would have wanted me to drive, as a way to manipulate me into driving. (she also used my dad’s death as a way to get me to get more presents for my younger cousins that christmas, since he wasn’t here to give them anything. I was so depressed that I spent a little extra.)

      I’m sure he did, but he also respected my wishes not to. he never brought up the issue of my driving with me.

      I didn’t want my dad dead before he was 60 due to alcoholism but we can’t always get what we want.

      1. Former Employee*

        I’m so sorry for your loss.

        It sounds like your dad was a good guy with a serious problem he couldn’t solve.

        Without knowing him, from what you’ve said, I imagine that what he would have wanted was to live longer so he could spend more time with you.

  11. Annie o Mous*

    Sorry if I missed it, but I can’t tell if the recruiter works for the company they wanted OP to take the job at or if it was an outside firm. Either way I would report this person immediately. What she did was highly unprofessional and unethical. Call the head of HR at the company you were offered the job at OP and speak to them about this immediately. They need to know this ASAP. I sincerely hope they cease any relationship, with an outside firm over this and if this person is internal they need some serious training on professionalism or to be fired.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yes – this so needs reported – start with the hiring manager at the company and that should help with an external recruiter (and more than should cover an internal recruiter).

      OP, sorry for your loss.

  12. Ryn*

    I am so sorry. One of the worst elements of work-people being shitty about family deaths (at least IME) is that it can become really tied to the memory of the death of that person. Very different stakes, but I know that whenever I think of my grandma’s passing four years ago, I still feel a small bit of white hot rage at the boss who tried to convince me not to fly out and see her before she died. I hope you’re able to compartmentalize those memories and not let this cruel person take up anymore space in your head. You have my sympathies.

    1. Everdene*

      This is so true. One of the memories from the time my grandmother died is my boss telling me I couldn’t have time off for the funeral because it wasn’t a “close relative”. I was livid. Quit that job a few days later with nothing to go to (yet). But I’m pretty sure that’s what she would have wanted as my righteous fury appears gentic!

      OP, I am so sorry for your loss and that this excuse for a human made a difficult time even more difficult. I hope you are getting all the support you need.

      1. London Calling*

        Yes, I was given that line by my manager as well when my grandfather died. No, I couldn’t leave work, a grandfather isn’t a close relative, even though he and I were very close and he was a second father when mine died. Unfortunately for that manager my husband worked for the same company and was drinking buddies and best friends with the manager’s VP. Two phonecalls and I was on my way to the family home. :)

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          My workplace recently updated their sick and bereavement leave policy, and it includes basically every relative a person could potentially have, including step, foster, in-law, and “any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” It really goes a long way toward making an employee feel valued to let them have the time they need to care for and honor their family.

          1. Everdene*

            What a great policy to have. You closeness with someone is not necessarily defined by the official familial relationship. When Oak’s friend died suddenly he was devastated but tried to go into work as usual- his manager sent him home for as long as needed as it was abundantly clear how affected he was by this loss. That compassion and understanding went a huge way, not just with Oak but his colleagues who witnessed the kindness with which the situation was handled.

      2. Nina Bee*

        That policy is so bizarre.. it’s basically saying anyone that isn’t your immediate relative is not someone you can ever have any kind of bond with or mourn. What??

        1. blackcat*

          I think it’s somewhat standard (if cold) to limit bereavement leave to spouse, siblings, children, parents, and possibly parents-in-law.

          And people can the super judgey about grief. My in-laws legit gave me grief about being “unreasonably sad” when my step-grandfather passed away. In their book, he was a grandparent, and also only a “step” grandparent at that, so how close could we have been? My relationship with them never recovered. (And, for the record, bio-grandpa was a real asshole. Other bio-grandfather died when I was young. Step-grandfather was the grandfather who played games, read stories, and, in my young adulthood, had a mini book club with myself and one of my cousins. I loved him dearly.)

          1. Random IT person*

            You weren’t perhaps a grandchild of his blood, but for sure a grandchild of his heart.
            (Paraphrased from a song).

            The heart connections – the ones we choose – will always be stronger than those that ‘have to’ be because of a blood relation.

          2. Epiphyta*

            This is me. I have three grandparent trees on Ancestry: one with the “paperwork” lineage, a private one with the DNA lineage (“not parent expected” events FTW! /sarcasm), and the one I’ve sunk the most work into, tracing back my beloved grandpap’s family history. I still say rude words when the “stepgrandparent” ID pops up: he was the man who gave me my first science fiction book, taught me to swim, and did not rat me out when I snuck out of bed to watch Star Trek: TOS from behind his chair. He died of cancer at 58, and I miss him every day.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Right on, Ryn, in regard to crappy work-person getting tied to the memory of a loved one’s death.

      OP, as a person who had my own version of something, I hope I can encourage you to take a moment, pull some thoughts together and decide on your next steps here. It’s worth the effort, because then you can forever remember, “Yeah, crappy thing happened, but I stood up for me.”

      My boss pulled me in the office to ask, “When are you going to wrap up this thing with your father dying and get back to work?”

      Hell hath no fury like what I had that day, OP. I cannot believe how angry I got, I was kind of ashamed about that level of anger.

      I took a minute (days). And I talked to well chosen people (like you are doing here). I picked a plan from the advice I gathered. I called HR ( which fit with my setting for my problem). It RAINED on the boss involved, it absolutely rained.

      It’s been a long time, OP. But standing up for me helped me in the long run, because the story does not end with the crappy thing the boss said. My story ends with I took well chosen action and got the support I needed.
      We can’t undo something that has been said, but we can hold people accountable for their words.

      It was so very hard to do at that time but I am so glad I did it.

        1. London Calling*

          Indeed. Mine wasn’t as bad but it was along the lines of ‘your mother died THREE MONTHS ago, aren’t you over it yet?’

          1. Not So NewReader*

            New flash for your person. Many people NEVER get “over” it. Grief changes costume but in many instances it never fully leaves us. Three months is very close to NO time at all. At the three month mark there are still plenty of days that can feel like “sea legs” and a person can still be looking to get their “land legs” back.
            I am very sorry about your encounter here, LC.

            1. London Calling*

              Thank you, NSNR. I didn’t answer because I was so taken aback at the lack of empathy, (and figured that with that level of ignorance there wasn’t much point anyway) but after three months it had barely hit me that mum was dead.

              So true about never getting over it, as well. I still miss my father who died in 1967, and relatives who died decades ago. It’s the price you pay for loving them, isn’t it?

      1. Random IT person*

        This actually makes a lot of sense.
        You choose your own end of the sorry tale, and if you can close this chapter with a positive note, that is almost medicinal.

      2. OP*

        Thank for for sharing this. I’d definitely like the memory tied to this be me standing up for myself and not just the recruiter’s behavior.

  13. 867-5309*

    I am currently hiring a recruiting agency and as the “client,” I would want this information. If the recruiter is internal, contact their head of HR or the hiring manager with whom you interviewed.

    OP, sorry about your dad and the added anger you had to deal with here.

  14. Leela*

    Oof this was hard to read. I’m really sorry for your loss!

    All I can say is that the recruiter acted terribly, and I’m going to guess that she was just intensely stressed out because as Alison said, recruiting agencies put *extreme* pressure on recruiters to close deals and get the omissions to the agency, and she may have quotas that she’s now not going to hit and could face losing her job.

    Not that that in any way excuses her behavior here! It doesn’t. And I’d be absolutely floored if she actually talked to other recruiters about you, but floored beyond that if any of them would even listen to her, it would just be an incredibly odd thing for another recruiter to tell me and it wouldn’t really carry any weight. If they said something like “FYI this person wound up stealing from the company, harassing employees, etc” that’s stuff I’d listen to, but not ultimately accepting a job offer? That’s just a very, VERY regular thing and while it does suck a lot for the recruiter who has so much riding on it, that’s not something that job seekers take into account nor should they. They should be as professional as possible but ultimately make the right calls for their own situations and careers. All she’s done here is ensure that you probably wouldn’t work with this company again, I might go so far as to forward this to their boss or HR if you have any means of contacting them, not that you’d have to. This just really was an egregious overstep on the recruiter’s part.

  15. Smithy*

    I was once offered a position that I interviewed for through a recruiting firm. I was feeling ambivalent about the job for a number of reasons, including the fact that I would have had to relocate and had just received a medical diagnosis that I was working through. When I ultimately declined the offer and stated that this was not a good time for me to relocate, in part based on a new medical diagnosis and working through treatment with my doctors – the response I received was “Job is in a city with great doctors – that’s hardly a reason not to move”.

    As jarring and upsetting as the entire conversation was, while that recruiter has never worked with me again – the company has and regularly. Once your CV/profile gets into a recruiting company’s system, the same pressure that the current recruiter is under to get someone to take an offered job – another recruiter will be under in the future to fill a position.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      I don’t know why the idea of this being their first day as a human struck me as so funny, but it did.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      No, unfortunately that was an incredibly human thing that the recruiter did. Animals don’t pull that sort of stunt.

      1. Mongrel*

        I think people forget cats can be right bastards…

        Especially when it comes to small birds & mammals or delicate objects on the coffee table

      2. Oranges*

        I’m sorry but I hate this stuff. Nature has only given animals one directive: survive. A lot of animals are “mean” as anything but we never talk about it. Like when they lay their eggs inside other animals which get eaten from the inside out. Or when they purposefully make other animals think there’s a predator so they can steal food. Or when they kill offspring that aren’t theirs. Or a million other animal behaviors.

        I don’t know why this bugs me. But it really really does.

  16. Arctic*

    I’m never a “may I speak to your manager?!?!” type. And I think it’s true that many (not all or most but many) recruiters are encouraged to be borderline unethical by bosses.

    But I would report this. It’s way over the line.

    1. Sparrow*

      Same, but I consider this to be in such a completely different category of behavior that it didn’t even occur to me to compare it to a “I want to speak to your manager” move! (Which is to say: I think reporting it is the right thing to do.)

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      “May I speak to your manager” is sometimes justified, and this is one of those times if there ever was one.

    3. Ryn*

      “May I speak to your manager?!?!” becomes problematic when a person with privilege and power (usually a white upper middle class person) uses that privilege to exert that power over someone (usually a service industry worker) and potentially jeopardize what is already a tenuous livelihood over a usually banal nonissue. When someone is actively using their job to harm people, that’s when it’s justified to escalate. eg, I would never escalate if a sales clerk was curt with me, but I would absolutely escalate if they said something transphobic to me.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I am a person that will sometimes ask for a manager, but I’m asking for them so I can compliment the Amazing service I’ve been given by their team. I’ve done my time in customer service, when I see awesome I want to make sure the manager knows how awesome their team is.

        However, this recruiter was breathtakingly horrid – and yeah I would be making sure the manager also knew about their threats. That was just beyond he pale.

  17. BigGlasses*

    The line “the recruiting industry is small and word of [your] unprofessionalism would get around” is pretty absurd. In a recruiting scenario, you are the *product*, and the recruiters are salespeople in direct competition to sell you. If you’re a fit for the job, no recruiter is going to choose not to make that sale because of hearsay from a competitor.

    1. irene adler*

      I would imagine that, down the line, even this recruiter would reach out again should a position open up with OP’s skill set. People like that recruiter have no shame.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      Ha, good point. And if this recruiter shares their story, they’ll just make themselves sound horrible. It won’t reflect on the poor letter writer at all.

  18. A Kate*

    The recruiting world IS small, and word DOES get around, which is why I might want to reply with a bunch of other recruiters on CC something to the effect of “My father just died, and you’re trying to leverage that into a commission? You can f**k all the way off.”

  19. AKchic*

    I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

    If you are feeling up to it, go scorched earth on this recruiter. Let the hiring manager know, personally, why you turned the job down (because I’m sure the recruiter did not), and let them know of the strong-arm tactics of the recruiter and that if they have any openings in the future, you’d be happy to discuss it with them independently of the recruiter.
    Let the higher-ups at the recruiting agency know what happened. Whether it’s Glassdoor or not is up to you. I’d even write a Glassdoor review in addition to letting the agency know, but I’m the go big or go home kind of person when it comes to outing bad things. Air out the bull, and don’t let anyone hide it. That recruiter can’t justify trying to leverage a freshly lost parent for their monetary gain, nor can they justify insulting someone they want to place or the threats (yes, telling you that they will badmouth you to the rest of the recruiting community IS a threat, as it could potentially damage your career advancement).

    Save your emails and name names if you do choose to make any complaints.

    1. Random IT person*

      Go big or go home? Why not both!

      But, yes, I agree – take every road to (politely, and professionally) inform the company, the recruiters boss about what happened.
      i`m not sure about review sites (in my experience, many reviews can be faked) or if they have any actual value – but nevertheless – make it known.

      The only thing i would probably not do is make a social media post about this – as these could backfire at a later time (but that can be personal paranoia too.. )

  20. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    The entire world is “small” in reality.

    But I bet that other recruiters know that this woman is so extra and wouldn’t bother to take her opinion of anything seriously.

    It’s also just the sales industry in general, in recruiting they’re just selling jobs/employees tbh. I’d complain for the sake of getting it off my chest but wouldn’t expect anything to come of it.

  21. LogicalOne*

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I am deeply, deeply sorry.

    This response by the employer is disgusting and inhumane. I think you are avoiding a world of headaches and a nightmare by not accepting the offer based on their response of you declining their job offer. Who knows how they would behave in future instances or not being able to complete a job or whatever happens. How do they treat situations…how do they react?
    Can you bring this to a lawyer? Post on Glassdoor and alert future applicants of their behavior? This is unprofessional and it baffles me how people in this world react.

    1. Elenna*

      It was a response from the recruiter, not the company, so it’s perfectly possible that the company is full of sane people who have no idea the recruiter is acting like this and would be horrified if they knew.
      But yes, that response was completely ridiculous and over the line.

    2. Observer*

      Please, there is nothing a lawyer could do here. Even the threat of smearing the OP’s name is a joke. It’s not worth even thinking about it.

  22. Elenna*

    Also, OP, please don’t feel bad for not being able to respond to the email for a few days! Seriously, you had basically the most iron-clad reason ever for taking a few days away from email. Any sensible person would have responded with “Oh, I’m so sorry” rather than “but how DARE you not RESPOND to ME”

    1. Julia*


      It also seems like OP didn’t tell them she would think things through, it sounds like the recruiter made her promise to at least give it a thought, and she agreed to get them off her case. Which makes the complaint about stringing them along even more ridiculous.

  23. Ermintrude*

    Blazing balls of Hanukkah!
    I think I would have channelled the fairly-crude spirit of my own dear, deceased father and told them to eat shit and F off. :/

    1. Ermintrude*

      Also, OP, you’re perfectly justified in not having the werewithal to deal with the recruitment process whilst putting yourself back together, and I am sorry you had to deal with that extra whammy instead of compassion.

  24. EmKay*

    I think I’d forward the recruiter’s email to the hiring manager, with an attached note that says “is this the kind of reprehensible attitude that your company endorses?” and let them chew her out.

    Seriously, eff that recruiter.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Oh, if that recruiter put all of what she said in writing and you still have it I would be sending it to bother her manager and the hiring manager at the company. I’d include a note saying I was not able to take the new job due to the sudden death of my father, and was appalled that the recruiter would then weaponize and threaten me with that very information.

      If she wants to play hardball in writing, well there is a reason lawyers advise being careful about what you put in print.

        1. IV*

          I’d like your permission to use this quote — with full attribution to Librarian of SHIELD naturally. This is genius!

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I didn’t invent it, so you don’t have to attribute it to me. I can’t remember who it was I borrowed it from.

            1. 404UsernameNotFound*

              I googled the second half and it looks like it’s a tweet. Work doesn’t let me onto Twitter so I can’t link it, unfortunately, but googling the second half with quotes (copy and paste verbatim: “email like it will be read out loud in court”) pops up this page and the tweet.

      1. EmKay*

        Absolutely yes. Though, I have less faith in her manager at the recruitment company chewing her out, since most of them value getting that commission above all else, but who knows! Maybe her manager would be appalled by her behaviour.

    2. Observer*

      Oh yes. Please send the emails to both the hiring manager / the hiring company HR, and the recruiting company.

      You don’t need to do much explaining – the emails speak for themselves.

    3. JSPA*

      Send this column with a note saying, “the consensus is that you would want to know how your recruiter is representing you.”

      1. EmKay*

        Haha! “Your recruiter sucks, and this seasoned HR professional (Alison) as well as her vast internet commentariat agree that she sucks.”

  25. Hell in a Teacup*

    I swear the worst thing about being in shitty situations isn’t the situation itself, it’s the people who try to exploit you while you’re in a vulnerable position.

    I’m so sorry for your loss and what the recruiter did was NOT okay.

  26. CatCat*

    This makes me so angry! I am so sorry for your loss, OP, and for having to deal with such terrible behavior on top of it.

  27. SheLooksFamiliar*

    First, OP, my sympathies on your loss. Please be kind to yourself and take care of your family.

    Second, I have fired search firms for less than this, so I would definitely want to know if a recruiter represented herself – and by proxy, me and my company – the way this recruiter did. She was shameless, utterly unprofessional, and beyond manipulative. Your situation changed for a heartbreaking reason, and you explained yourself appropriately. You owe this recruiter nothing, and you did nothing wrong.

    The employer is surely disappointed, but they’ll move forward. If you’re up to it, do them a favor and let them know how this recruiter handled herself.

  28. HONK*

    OP, I’m so sorry that happened. That recruiter behaved extremely poorly and I am straight-up bona fide appalled. If the local recruiter world is so small, as she says, then she should be the one to bear a scarlet letter here.

    I’m going to steal her keys and throw em in the lake.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Something something cheap ass rolls


            Had to work in a real reference somewhere in this thread, couldn’t resist.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              This recruiter is down there with Horse Killer Boss and the boss who interrupted the eulogy at a funeral to ask about work stuff.

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                See also, boss who had to be escorted from the wedding he wasn’t invited to because he needed to ask the bride a real quick work question.

            2. Quill*

              Excuse you? Pleaset brought GOOD Hawaiian rolls!

              How dare you try to take center stage with your cheap ass rolls!

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Seriously, this comment section is my favorite corner of the Internet. Right up there with the Epbot blog and my Harry Potter themed running club.

      1. EmKay*

        OP, if you do decide to report the terrible recruiter and you ever get any feedback, I’m sure Alison and the rest of us would love an update. But only if you are comfortable sharing, of course.

  29. sarmeyer*

    Let her try to tarnish her own name by telling other recruiters.
    If a recruiter told me “Don’t work with her-she didn’t respond to my offer immediately because her dad died and she wasn’t checking emails” they would lose all credibility with me.
    She’s probably just pissed you didn’t help her reach her hiring goal for the month.

  30. Gazebo Slayer*

    WOW. A large percentage of recruiters are slime, and she is the slimiest of all. Any reaction up to and including screaming cursing rage would have been acceptable as far as I am concerned.

    Report her to her bosses, and her bosses’ bosses. Write scathing reviews of the company online, including this trash person’s full name and phone number if possible. She deserves to be permanently driven out of the recruiting industry.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Hagfish slime is useful and serves a purpose. This recruiter doesn’t.

        (All sauces are useful slime, but not all slime is useful sauce. Or is it?)

  31. learnedthehardway*

    People like that give the recruiting industry a bad name.

    If you complain to anyone about the way you were treated – and I suggest that you do so – tell the hiring manager / hiring company about your experience. They will NOT want to be represented by a person who pulls that kind of behaviour with a candidate – it would damage their ability to hire people. You can also explain to them at the same time about the circumstances, and make sure they understand the truth (as opposed to getting the recruiter’s version that you cavalierly rejected the offer). I can confidently say that the company that was making an offer to you will understand your situation – or they should. (If they don’t, then you dodged a bullet.)

    Please do not worry that you will be at all blacklisted by recruiters – that’s complete and utter nonsense and won’t be a factor at all.

    1. Random IT person*

      Might even work to OPs advantage.

      as in “we`re sorry, we had no idea. But we were serious about the job offer, so should you be willing to consider it again, please come talk with us directly about it”.. ?

      (ah, one can dream)

  32. Nina Bee*

    I had a recruiter act this way once.. I freelance and normally recruiters call mid week to ask if you’d be interested in getting put forward for a job for the following week. By Thursday or latest Friday you get another call to see if it’s still ok (if company wants you) then confirmation of booking if you’re still available. She called Tuesday, I said I was interested. Heard nothing and assumed nothing came of it. Got another call Thursday from a different recruiter, and ok’d/confirmation of booking Friday morning. Checked email at 7pm Friday, to see an email Recruiter #1 sent after hours at 6:45pm ‘confirming’ I was booked and details of where to go Monday (she didn’t call to see if I was still available). There was no number to contact her in her email and everyone had already left her office. I panicked and tried to get in contact (email and voice message at her office) … when she finally read my reply after 8pm saying I got booked on Fri morning, she did the same thing.. going off, yelling and calling me unprofessional etc. Clearly these people were angry at not getting the result they want and take it out on others. Projecting much?

    1. Nina Bee*

      Same recruiter also made a mistake on one of my contracts (the day rate had a nominally higher sum, like £5 more) and after months of invoicing without any issues they noticed the error and tried to guilt trip and emotionally blackmail me into changing my invoice amount for that period (even though it was in the contract we both signed). I told them we could sign a new contract with correct sum.. but didn’t wait much longer for the third strike before I left them and took a perm position at the company I was freelancing at. You can bet when I went back to freelancing years later I stayed clear of them.

    2. James*

      My question is, what’s that supposed to do? I mean, who in their right mind listens to such a tirade and says “Hm, you know, that’s a good point–I should accept this offer”?! The only possible outcome is that the interviewee becomes more convinced that they made the right choice, and likely refuses to do business with you moving forward. This is “cut the branch you’re sitting on out from under yourself” levels of insane.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        This recruiter sounds like a bully. Bullies are used to being aggressive and getting their own way. Maybe this bullying tactic works in other areas of the recruiter’s life? That’s the only thing I can think of.

      2. Julia*

        I don’t know. It took me a while to find my last job, and when a recruiter lectured me on the phone for being haughty (I said I did not want to go back to being a secretary after getting my master’s), I listened for way too long and thought maybe he had a point. Some of us were brought up to think we’re arrogant and wrong when we want things like professional jobs that don’t get looked down on, or not being shoehorned into “female” careers, so it took me a while to see how awful that guy was.

  33. Batgirl*

    OP, I think you took really good care of yourself under very trying circumstances. You took time away from email or voicemail when you needed to, you made the least-conflict-yet-truthful responses possible to rid yourself of an absolute shark of a person who was clearly never going to go back under her rock quietly. Your instincts and prioritization skills are great and your professionalism is rock solid.
    You sidestepped a total ambush with grace. Though it’s satisfying to make withering in-the-moment comments when using the hindsight time machine, the job of grieving is so much more important than this persons bottom line or desire for conflict.

  34. BTDT*

    Are most recruiters as bad as the ones I read about here? They need their own bad Recruiter of the Year contest. Sorry for the traumatic loss of your dad.

    1. EmKay*

      A large percentage of recruiters don’t actually care to get you the “right” job. They want you to take whatever job is available “right now” so that they can collect their commission. Whenever I have dealings with those kinds of recruiters, I give them the same consideration they give me – none.

  35. Seri*

    I’m not even surprised. Recruiters can be so, so shady. I’ve been insulted by them so many times when I didn’t behave exactly as they wanted me to so they could claim their commission. The first time, I asked to back out of an interview (with plenty of advance notice) because I didn’t think I’d want to do that kind of work after all, I was told that I’d never get an opportunity like this again/never work in that industry (which was proven false!). It just showed that the recruiter didn’t care if I matched with the opportunity, they just wanted to make money off me. Another time, I received a job offer from my top choice so I asked to cancel the second interview with another company. The independent recruiter for that job was upset with me that I hadn’t told him I was so far along in the process for another job (he also had never asked if I was interviewing with other companies) and called me unprofessional in a truly unnecessary rant. All he had to say was “I’m sorry it didn’t work out here but I wish you well.” Instead he lectured me.

  36. Nanani*

    Oh hey, we have a good answer to that “worst thing that ever happened to you” interview horror question.

  37. Laura H.*

    X-ing the “not an ‘ask for the manager’ person but YES tell their manager/ TPTB! (It’s been suggested enough that I’m unsure of the sequence hence the ‘X’.)

    Also adding to the condolences pile.

    And that recruiter was ick. Even if that WAS what your dad would have wanted, pressuring someone using a tactic like that shouldn’t be rewarded.

  38. Observer*

    I wasn’t checking any email or voicemail for a few days and I know it’s my fault for not getting back to her immediately.

    Uh, NO it was NOT “your fault”. Any sane and reasonable human being would realize that this is much like having landed in the hospital or the like. Sometimes you really, really, really are going to be out of touch. That’s ok!

    The recruiter sounds like she’s throwing a toddler level tantrum – the logic is about the same. The difference is that we don’t really expect toddlers to understand any of the pieces here. But a supposedly functioning adult?

  39. LGC*

    That’s offensive, and an incredibly self-centered and jerky cruel thing for that recruiter to say.

    Normally, I try not to proofread Alison’s answers, but I figured I’d edit it for accuracy.

    Like…I read this letter, and I’m just so boggled by the recruiter’s reaction I’m still trying to make sense of it. She threatened to ruin your reputation because your dad died and you didn’t get back to her as fast as she’d have liked? When she gave you the offer, she tried to manipulate you into accepting by saying that it’s what your dad would have wanted?! I can imagine the recruiter being under immense pressure to fill the position, but also – this is so far afield of decent human behavior I’m struggling to comprehend it.

    And I suspect that’s what LW is going through themselves. Sometimes, when someone does something stunningly cruel and outside of the social contract, it causes the target to question whether they did anything to deserve it. (Spoilers, LW: You did not. I’m not even going to caveat it, because no reasonable person would have found your behavior “unprofessional.” Or cared much about your professionalism at that time.)

    Anyway, I’m not going to answer your questions in detail because everyone else (including Alison) has, but: yes there’s something you can do, I would tell both the recruiting company and the hiring company, and OH MY GOD NO. I hear the point about recruiting companies being boiler rooms, but also…maybe I have way too much faith in humanity, but I can’t imagine any company being okay with this recruiter’s tactics.

  40. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I am very sorry for your loss.
    Losing a parent is a portal in life we suddenly become aware of time passing and we become aware that we have just hit a moment in life that we will ALWAYS remember. These are moments that shape us, shape who we are and what we stand for.

    I lost my last parent, my father, at age 34. It’s been 26 years. I still remember every single thing (or close to it). I hope you are not a younger person or female because I think that I got pushed around because of my age and gender. So I tend to worry if this describes your setting.

    You can decide to do nothing or do something, it’s really whatever seems to be the best idea to you. However, do hold on to the fact that this recruiter is lower than dirt. It’s really important to me that you know you did NOTHING wrong here.

    I hope you are surrounded by people who do understand and they are doing supportive things to help you. For every rotten apple there are dozens of decent people. I hope you find all those good people. I am very sorry this happened to you.

  41. 404UsernameNotFound*

    This is horrific.
    I am so sorry for your loss, and agree with Alison and the commenters – this recruiter is the worst. Please know that on no sane planet ever were you the one in the wrong. The recruiter is being yucky.
    (Not pictured: all the swearing I did as I read this letter. I recommend the hiring manager fire them on the spot – preferably from a cannon, into the sun.)

  42. sequitur*

    This is kind of a siderail but my dad died six years ago, and before his death he worked with a consultant I’d recommended that my company had used. My company recently used that consultant again, and as I was reading his report I was super surprised to find the line, “As [sequitur]’s late father would have said, ‘[quote from my dad]’.”

    I had a very contentious relationship with my dad that I don’t really talk about in professional contexts – fortunately I found the reference funny and a bit weird rather than distressing, but in general I would encourage people not to invoke anyone’s dead parents in the workplace.

  43. Amethystmoon*

    I am so sorry to hear this. That’s just…ugh. Some people just don’t think when they say things. I am sorry you had to go through that, and I hope you find a job where they actually do think before speaking.

  44. OP*

    OP here – thank you all so much for the advice. I’m going to reach out to both the hiring manager and the recruiting agency using some of the language in the comments. My brain has been too frazzled to put my thoughts into words so you have all been a huge help!

Comments are closed.