When it comes to hiring, just about every experienced recruiter and talent manager has a story about the great candidate that turned out to be not so great.

You know what I’m talking about: Top notch candidates with incredible resumes who seem too good to be true who ARE too good to be true and actually turn out to be a nightmare.

When you hear people talking about them, it’s generally in the context of “Hey, you can’t believe the one that I was lucky enough to miss!”

Here is one of those stories as told by a Florida attorney by the name of Jonathan Pollard. He is the principal of his own law practice, Pollard LLC in Fort Lauderdale, and his experience is one that should send chills through every recruiter and hiring manager who has ever had a similar thing happen to them.

An interview to remember

Here is Pollard’s experience, taken from his blog on LinkedIn. See if it sounds like something you’ve been through too:

Guy with a Harvard MBA applied to be our operations director. We had a meeting set for noon on Thursday. At 10:30 he emails and says he MIGHT be 10 to 15 minutes late. Around 12:15, my office reaches out to him. No response.

He rolls into the office at 1 pm. The receptionist buzzes me. I’ve got a 1 pm on one of my biggest cases. I go out to the lobby, because I just have to meet this dude. I introduce myself and say, “So it’s 1 pm. What happened?” His response: “I was in a meeting in Miami and couldn’t get out of it.

I’m a bit confused, so I ask what he means. He says, with a tremendous air of self-importance, “Yeah, I was meeting with a company that wants me to be their CEO, run the whole company.”

I’m perfectly calm. I explain that I have a 1 pm on a big case. And I say something like, “You know, you could have just emailed or called if you were going to be an hour late.” The guy gets angry and says, “I’m not going to have you lecture me. I’m here. So either you want to meet or not.”

No, I don’t.

The dude was somewhat shocked. He stood there speechless for a couple seconds. I guess he’s used to people fawning all over him because of his Harvard MBA. No matter how elite someone’s credentials or skill-set, that kind of person is a cancer in any business.”

“An idiot with a Harvard MBA is still an idiot”

Wonder if stories like this resonate with people? Well, Attorney Pollard’s blog post generated 20,609 likes and 1,456 comments — all over the Memorial Day weekend!

The comments from readers were as almost as interesting as the story. Here are a few to give you a sense of how others reacted to this guy:

  • “Best job interview ever!!! Good for you in making a clear, direct and instant decision on what values, behavior and management practices it would take to fit in and succeed on your team, regardless of pedigree, and based on actual situational action.”
  • “If you are smart, remember to be humble; if you are humble, remember to be smart; if you are neither humble or smart? Good luck, you are pretty much a roadblock for success!!”
  • An idiot with a Harvard MBA is still an idiot — he just happens to be potentially a more dangerous idiot.”

Anyone who has done much recruiting or hiring at all probably has a story of a “can’t miss” candidate that turned south abruptly and unexpectedly, and in the end, they were glad that it did. That’s because there is probably nothing worse than a top notch “can’t miss” candidate that everybody drools over that somehow takes a wrong turn.

5 hiring takeaways to remember

There are five (5) brief insights you should take away from this cautionary tale:

  1. Stories like this are a reminder of why you put so much into interviewing and examining candidates, because sometimes the ones that have the most incredible resumes and credentials are a surprise when you actually meet them in person.
  2. The interview stage is where you find out whether the candidate has the right values, behavior, and outlook that would fit with your organization’s culture. This is something that is hard to get off a resume.
  3.  You should expect to see people at their very best when you meet them in person. It should tell you something if you don’t, because that’s probably as good as it is going to get with them.
  4. People with a large dose of attitude (aka prima donnas) are hard for co-workers to stomach — even when they are “A” players and immensely talented. Hire them at your own risk.
  5. Here’s the big question you want the interview to answer: Is this person a good fit for this job and this organization?

A few years ago, a savvy CEO that I worked for told me that a great many companies don’t really know what they’re looking for when they hire, so they aren’t in a position to recognize someone who might be perfect even if they’re standing right in front of them.

I’ve thought about that wisdom a lot over the years, and I can’t tell you how many times I have found it to be true.

Maybe Attorney Jonathan Pollard didn’t know exactly what he was looking for in an operations director, but one thing is clear — he knew what he DIDN’T want, and that was someone with a huge attitude who was rude, insensitive, and incredibly impressed with themselves.

He couldn’t have known that until he met this guy. There’s a lesson there that we should all keep in mind.

By John Hollon

John Hollon is managing editor at Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. You can download the research reports in their Global Talent Mobility Best Practice Research series at Fuel50.