HR horror stories to haunt you this Halloween

Would these situations keep you up at night?

HR horror stories to haunt you this Halloween

HR departments will have plenty of experience dealing with annoying inconveniences and issues with an organisation’s employees, from frequent queries about holiday entitlement, sickness and absence, to grievance procedures, to people not following correct processes. But sometimes these issues can have more catastrophic consequences…

This Halloween, we share some of our big HR Horror Stories and the problems departments can face, offering advice to overcome these issues and avoid tricky situations.

  1. The dangers of blood sucking scammers –

We’ve all experienced the frustration of spam or dodgy emails filling our inboxes. The problem is, scammers have become more sophisticated and it is getting harder to tell when an email is fake. There are usually two ways your employees can be affected.

One is that an email is sent to someone in your organisation, which looks legitimate, but is actually filled with a virus. When opened, it can shut down computers, copy files and corrupt your systems. This could lead to personal data breaches, or ransom notes to get your systems back online. This scenario was well-publicised by the WannaCry Randomware attack which targeted the NHS and other high profile systems, refusing to allow access until payment was made. It affected front line services and caused significant disruption for days.

The other scenario is an employee within the accounts department, for example, is sent an email with an invoice or a request from a director, asking for funds to be transferred. These requests are often written in a way that matches the sender’s way of writing, becoming an easy trap to enter. Thousands of pounds can be lost through the payment of these scam requests. This type of trickery can affect HR, marketing and sales departments too by asking for personal information on employees or customers. This type of breach can cause serious damage to an organisation’s reputation and individuals could also be held liable.

To avoid both these types of scams, HR departments need to work with IT and security departments to ensure all employees are aware of proper email etiquette. Training or spot checks may be required to ensure employees are following these rules to avoid the chance of hacking. This is particularly important with the introduction of GDPR, as companies can be fined thousands for data breaches and the release of personal information.

The Ransomware attack highlighted how outdated NHS systems were, which contributed to the scale of the attack. In collaboration with IT teams, HR need to ensure that IT and security systems are updated and protected from attack, staying up to date with the latest compliance. Whilst HR are not often seen as the technology experts, they are responsible for people data, and so it is important they become well-versed in understanding how to protect their organisations from such fraudsters.

  1. Keeping the werewolf candidate out –

When a job is advertised at your company, sometimes tens or hundreds of CVs can be sent in, with a variety of promising candidates hoping for success. The problem is, can you always tell which candidates are telling the truth, and which are sheep in wolves clothing?

A small white lie on a CV is something many people are guilty of, and overselling certain experience or skills in an interview may be common when candidates are desperately trying to impress. If you hire someone who has not been 100% truthful, it’s not usually a huge issue and the only headache is some extra training to help them settle into the role.

However, what happens when someone applies for a skilled job and has lied about their references or experience. What if someone attends an interview, and isn’t who they declare to be? In recent months, a case was sent to tribunal where a pilot had included a fake reference named after a Star Wars character, and it hadn’t been checked properly by the hiring team. Once discovered the company fired the employee and was then taken to tribunal accused of breaching employee rights. Luckily, they won the case but it could easily have gone the other way.

The recruitment process can be a major headache for HR teams with the demands on time and admin involved. However, it is crucial to ensure that stringent processes are in place during recruitment to protect organisations from potential fraud. Whilst references may often feel like a formality, it is important that they are thoroughly checked to ensure the information and experience is accurate, especially for highly skilled roles. References may look legitimate, but no one wants to be responsible for hiring a surgeon or engineer who can’t perform.

To avoid identity fraud, HR teams may choose to ask for passports during the interview stage, to confirm the candidate’s identity before any potential job offer is given. It is also crucial when employing non-British candidates that all the relevant Right to Work documents are collected and checked for accuracy before a role is agreed.

These simple checks can help to avoid spending a fortune on repeat recruitment a few months down the line when the candidate’s true identity is revealed.

  1. Getting haunted by ghosts

Ghosting is a term most often used in the dating scene – you go on a date, you think it’s going well, and then you never hear from them again. Now, this phenomenon is entering the workplace. There has been an increase in instances where candidates accept interviews, or even a job offer, and then disappear without another word. No matter how you try to reach them, you get no response. This can be detrimental in the recruitment process and cause huge delays in replacing roles within your organisation, as well as wasting time and resources.

The reason for this has been blamed on the experience candidates have faced in the past. One of the largest complaints candidates have about the recruitment process is the lack of feedback from employers when they apply for a job. For years, candidates have completed lengthy applications and jumped through multiple hoops, to hear nothing back. Now it seems the tables have turned and it is organisations who are being haunted by these sudden silences.

HR teams can help to combat this by ensuring that their organisation’s recruitment process is as efficient as possible, Many candidates want to complete the process in as little as a week, and the majority think more than two weeks is too long so it is important to keep processes as short as possible, whilst keeping candidates up to date during each step.

Thank them for applying for the role, set out timescales so they know what to expect, and offer key information to help them prepare. Communication is vital to ensure your candidate feels their time has been appreciated, making them less likely to drop off the radar. And if they haven’t been successful, offer some feedback. This will ensure your company leaves candidates with a positive image of your organisation, which will ultimately help with future recruitment and the overall company reputation. With social media, there’s nowhere to hide…


One final piece of HR horror that might be keeping you up at night? GDPR… enough said. Although if this is continuing to haunt you, read our series of helpful blogs about how to keep on top of GDPR requirements.


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